How we made UpLift Live

The relentlessly helpful® blog by John Espirian

18 April 2024
UpLift Live follow-up

What goes into making a conference? Here are some notes for what we did to put together UpLift Live, the UK’s first LinkedIn-focused conference.

Before you read on, here’s where to go when you’re ready to buy a ticket to UpLift Live 25.

Here are a few minutes of highlights from the conference on 21 March 2024:

For the rest of this piece, “we” means the UpLift Live Mission Control team, which is:

(I wouldn’t normally write in the third person, but I’m doing it like this so my co-conspirators can share part or all of this text without needing to rewrite it.)

John had the idea for the conference in June 2023, after going to another event. The original idea dates back to a tweet from 19 February 2021.

John posted a LinkedIn poll about running a conference, on 4 July 2023. Three-quarters of the 366 voters said they would be interested in coming to a UK conference about LinkedIn best practice.

We discussed the conference idea, then formed a DM chat group on LinkedIn. We knew pretty quickly that we’d need to create a formal business to make things happen, as there would be a lot of planning and execution work ahead of us.

John came up with a name that couldn’t include LinkedIn, as we didn’t want to be sued! The original name John suggested was “UpLift3d”, because:

  • Contains “LI”, which alludes to LinkedIn
  • Sounds positive
  • “3” represents the month of March
  • “3” represents the principal organisers
  • “3d” could be used as an analogue for “in real life” or “in person”

We ended up deciding that UpLift Live was a simpler and less pretentious name.

We decided to refer to the event as a “LinkedIn-focused conference”, trying to make it clear that the conference was about LinkedIn without being run or endorsed by LinkedIn.

The event’s independence from the LinkedIn organisation meant we could speak freely about the realities of using the platform in our day-to-day networking efforts.

We received a confirmation letter from Companies House on 24 August 2023, making John, Jeremy and Gus joint directors of UpLift Live Limited (company 15091442).

Gus took charge of booking the event venue, accommodation and pre-party. He had recently attended the Digital Women event at Millennium Point in Birmingham, and was impressed enough with the venue to make it our prime candidate for the conference.

John created a business bank account on Monzo, giving everyone equal access to see the ins and outs from this account.

John drew a sample logo:

John got the UpLift Live logo professionally designed by T’Go Creative.

UpLift Live logos

John engaged Mark Deeks to create an audio sting for the conference. We wanted to keep the “lift-off” vibe going, so Mark was tasked to create a sound in keeping with the idea. His audio would ultimately be used at the start and end of our podcast episodes, and also onstage at the conference when introducing each speaker.

Jeremy registered website domain:

John created a LinkedIn company page and LinkedIn event, plus a Mailchimp mailing list to share news ahead of the event.

Jeremy set up Ticket Tailor for selling in-person and on-demand tickets. This platform had its own email broadcast channel, allowing us to communicate important event and venue information with ticket-holders.

We discussed and approached speakers. Our agenda was to target who we thought to be the “apex operators” of LinkedIn, which meant that we were picking from the best talent around the world.

We knew we wanted to run a single-track event on a single day, so we wouldn’t be able to book more than 8 speakers without negatively affecting the time allowed for breaks and networking.

All speakers we approached said yes apart from one, due to travel commitments. The list of confirmed speakers is further down.

Jeremy drafted contracts for the speakers. We wanted to ensure fairness, so we decided that all speakers would have the same time onstage and would be paid the same speaker fee (plus travel and accommodation costs).

Each of our 8 speakers was given a 30-min slot, meaning that there was no keynote speaker.

Gus organised a trip to see the venue, Millennium Point in Birmingham. We quickly decided that this was definitely the right place. The venue’s main theatre could support a maximum of 354 people, giving us a clear target to aim for with our in-person ticket sales.

We discussed “surprise and delight” elements, such as the coffee pod treasure hunt that John announced at the end of his talk.

Blue, green and orange coffee pods at UpLift Live

Public tickets went on sale on 2 September 2023, before any speaker announcements had been made. We did this to assess how many of our supporters would buy a ticket without knowing who they were coming to see.

We posted speaker announcements on these dates:

John used Snagit to create graphics for speakers, sponsors and “onboard” attendees. He placed these in a Google Photos gallery, so that attendees could see who else was coming and do some pre-event networking.

UpLift Live graphics

John interviewed speakers on video via StreamYard. These were published on LinkedIn and on the UpLift Live website, as well as on a new public podcast.

John created the UpLift Live podcast on Hello Audio and synced it to Apple, Spotify and Amazon Music, then created a short trailer in Camtasia to promote the podcast.

John created playlists for the speaker announcement videos:

John created a blog post about the conference on the relentlessly helpful® blog.

We drip-fed speaker announcements via the mailing list, podcast and LinkedIn.

We wanted to offer the best possible rates on tickets to the Espresso+ community, so Jeremy set up discount codes in Ticket Tailor for Espresso+ members and also for our speakers.

We discussed on-demand ticket pricing, deciding not to use a livestream component. We were concerned about possible tech issues with livestreaming on the day, but now that we’re comfortable with the setup at Millennium Point, we’re offering a livestream option for UpLift Live 25.

John booked interviews on some LinkedIn Live shows to promote the conference.

Gus had already been to Millennium Point but we visited the venue together on 22 September 2023 – the same day we had already planned to be in Birmingham, to take part in Gus’s regular SMM Meetup event, which he co-organises with Marianne Avery.

Gus organised block discounts for two nearby hotels. Our principal hotel was The Aloft, where we were able to provide a ~£30 discount for our early ticket-holders. This is also where all speakers stayed.

Gus approached Holly Christie to make us an official WordPress website for the conference. This would replace the bare bones site we’d set up ourselves on

John published our speakers blog on and on the UpLift Live company page.

Here’s a snapshot of ticket sales on 26 September 2023:

  • 70 paid tickets sold
  • 32 to Espresso+ members
  • 38 to non-Espresso+ members

We created LaunchPad Zoom calls (announced on 3 October 2023) so that conference-goers could meet online before the big day. Here are some posts about those calls:

We ran 5 LaunchPad calls in the build-up to the event.

Jeremy approached sponsors to support the conference. John also attempted to approach LinkedIn and Microsoft to be sponsors, but neither responded. Perhaps they will if the event keeps growing.

We attracted three main sponsors: Flamingo Marketing Strategies, DOHR and Milico – thank you all! – along with other supporters for our goodie bag.

By late December 2023, we had not broken even, and we were relying on New Year sales.

Jeremy approached XRAI to provide us with a live-captioning solution for the day of the event. Via a second screen onstage and a dedicated app, our speakers’ talks were instantly captioned for the benefit of anyone in the room who wanted to read the text of what was being said. Users of the free app could also request an instant translation of that text in multiple languages. While there’s still work to do to make the process smooth, innovations like this could make all conferences more accessible.

Jeremy organised all our branded gear, banners, brochures, and lanyards, as well as the goodie bag inserts.

Jeremy approached Kate Chidzik to do a small test of LinkedIn ads. We were interested to find out whether a limited campaign might get word of the conference out to people not in any of our immediate networks.

John asked for all speakers’ presentations to be finalised by the end of February 2024, to allow time for review and adjustment. We considered asking speakers to use an UpLift Live template for their talks but this seemed too restrictive, so we instead trusted them to create their own presentations from scratch.

John worked on his own talk and worked with the speakers to ensure their talks would be of relevance to the audience and that they wouldn’t overlap with each other.

The talks were supplied as PowerPoint and Keynote files.

Gus liaised with venue’s AV team so we could understand the mechanics of how the conference would unfold, such as how the presentations would be displayed and how we would handle microphone changeovers.

We approached Lois Cliff to help us with the lunch menu. The venue provided numerous options and we wanted to ensure we provided a balanced meal that also catered for vegan and gluten-free requirements. Several people commented after the conference about how good the food was, and that there wasn’t the usual post-lunch slump in energy.

Beth Carter food quote for UpLift Live

A snapshot of ticket sales just before the day of the event:

  • 180 in-person tickets sold
  • 35 on-demand tickets sold

Post-event, John received the 4K video recordings from the venue and worked on editing, captioning and transcribing them for the on-demand area, which is part of the Espirian members area site. PDF slides to accompany each talk were also added in the on-demand area.

John recorded a bonus video for the on-demand area, to cover an advanced section that there wasn’t time for on the day of the event. He also added event photos taken by Lorentz Gullachsen and illustrations and time-lapse videos created by Phoebe Robinson (aka Pheeb).

UpLift Live sketch note by Phoebe Pheeb Robinson

John created a custom Google Map to point out the key locations related to the conference.

Gus booked pre-party venue at The Cosy Club. This informal event took place the night before the conference. Almost 100 people turned up, and all attendees were given a free drink.

Gus booked dinner for the speakers, which also took place in The Cosy Club, before the pre-party began. This meant speakers could finish dinner and then join the pre-party in the same space.

While John was at the speakers’ dinner, Gus and Jeremy set up at the venue, with help from Ravit Freeman (Jeremy’s wife).

Marianne Avery and Ella Orr helped at the pre-party and were part of the larger crew who helped on the day of the conference.

John arranged a special musical close to the conference by engaging Ryan Anderson. Ryan wrote a song and created a music video that was played at the end of the day (see clip).

John approached Matt King to create a vlog of the day:

Gus was compère for the conference and delivered his own introductions for each speaker, as well as leading the panel Q&A at the end of the day. We managed audience questions through a catchbox microphone that attendees threw to each other – a fun way to handle audience participation.

After the conference ended, we were given a 2-hour window to wrap things up at the venue. John used some of this time to run a Harry Potter Top Trumps game to give people a chance to win a signed copy of Content DNA.

Thanks to our “blue-shirt” helpers on the day of the conference:

John created a Google Form on 25 March 2024 to gather feedback on what went well and also what we could do better for UpLift Live 25. Thanks to all 60 people who sent us their written responses – it’s been really helpful to read your honest thoughts.

We organised a follow-up TouchDown call after the conference, on 17 April 2024.

TouchDown Zoom call


We took a financial risk by committing to run a LinkedIn-focused conference in the UK, as we had nothing to compare with. For all we knew, no one would turn up!

As we pull together our final accounts for the first ever UpLift Live, we’ve covered our considerable costs and turned a very small profit. Given that many (most?) events make a loss on their first outing, we have to be pleased with that.

Still, we have to be honest and say that the work we had to do between September 2023 and March 2024 was really pretty full-on, and if we’d been doing that just for financial gain … we would have been in entirely the wrong game.

This was more of a labour of love than anything, and we’ve now achieved something that no one else has in the UK – putting on a proper conference about LinkedIn best practice in a wonderful venue, with some of the world’s best speakers.

We’re proud of that but we’re not stopping there. We have plans to make UpLift Live 25 even better, and we’re in discussions to roll out something else that we think you might like. We’ll have news about that soon.

In the meantime, have you bought your ticket to the next UpLift Live yet? We’d love to see you there:

Thanks from Mission Control:

🟦   John
🟩   Jeremy
🟧   Gus

John, Jeremy and Gus UpLift Live

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John Espirian

I’m the relentlessly helpful®️ LinkedIn nerd and author of Content DNA

I teach business owners how to be noticed, remembered and preferred.

Espresso+ is a safe space to learn how to ethically promote your business online and get better results on LinkedIn.

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