This is a guest post from Eric VanderSchaaf, who used social media tools to create a mini-conference, Gary Vee in Big D!, in Dallas in May 2011.

The hot Texas summer hit Dallas early on May 25, when Gary Vaynerchuk and Michael Yavonditte came to town. The two turned up the heat for an electric afternoon inside the Lakewood Theater during the Gary Vee in Big D! mini-conference.

My business partner, Ryne DeBoer, and I created this mini-conference from scratch. We wanted to enrich Dallas’ startup and tech community and give our speakers a powerful speaking platform.

As a tech event, we naturally depended on social media to create, execute, and wrap-up this event.


Booking a tech celebrity can seem an impossible task; Twitter gave us the tool to make it an accessible goal.

We used Twitter to reach out to Gary for about six months prior to actually booking him for the event.  In order to avoid being spammy, we stayed super focused on providing valuable content.

We didn’t just say, “Hi Gary!” We flipped him an engaging article, congratulated him on a well-performing investment, and talked to him about topics that would benefit him. After developing that “e-rapport”, we had earned the right for him to hear us out about this event we wanted to have that hosted him on his ‘Thank You Economy’ book tour.

We used the same process with Mike Yavonditte. Twitter broke the barrier between “nobodies” and “celebrities”.



Once we had made our deal with Gary, we immediately created the event on Eventbrite.

Within 48 hours we had sold about 130 tickets. Eventbrite allows attendees to post to their Facebook status when they buy a ticket – our event had automatically gone viral.

We also used the event’s dedicated Twitter handle, @inbigd, to promote the event by engaging in meaningful dialogue with people. As we approached 300 tickets sold, we were able to lock in sponsorships with companies such as Dell, Rackspace, Verizon, and Extra Sauce to help off-set the event’s cost.


Once the event was done, again, we used Eventbrite to email everyone to say “thank you.” We also used Survey Monkey’s integration with Eventbrite to get attendees feedback. And lastly, we used U-Stream to have a live “Gary Vee in Big D!” follow-up session where we let the D/FW community talk to us about the event and give us ideas for future events.

In all, it was amazing to use a myriad of social tools to help us construct our uber-successful event. We were just two guys that nobody knew, until we used social media and Eventbrite to pull 450 people from two cities under one roof, giving some of technologies top titans a sweet stage to wow us all.

Thanks to everyone that helped make it a success!

Eric VanderSchaaf

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