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What I Learned from 12 Events in 6 Weeks

#VanRuby Meetup at Unbounce

#VanRuby Lightning Talks at Unbounce

In October 2013, I began a new role heading up ‘Community Development’ for Unbounce. What the hell is Community Development you may ask? Well the definition expanded about every single day into the role, but the gist of it is promoting Unbounce the company. Up until the fall, our kickass Marketing team were working their magic to promote Unbounce the product, but the overall promotion and storytelling of our company needed some TLC. Why does this matter? Because Unbounce is growing like crazy and we need to hire the best talent to help us with this next stage of growth. So I hit the ground running doing PR and community events to spread the word. The result of which was 12 events with 1045 people in 6 weeks.

Here’s a breakdown of my key takeaways from a pretty exhaustive event schedule:

  • Get creative. Logo on a website, booth, sponsored lanyard? Not my thing. For a Techvibes Event I planned, I forced all the sponsors to think outside of the box- no standard booth allowed. The results? Ping pong table, popcorn machine, homemade cookies, fooseball tournament, 4D simulations and ice cream sundaes. I take the same approach to any events we sponsor, instead of throwing 5-10k on your typical setup, why not get creative and stand out to stretch those sponsorship dollars.
  • Leverage your product. I was approached by Carter Rabasa of Twilio to help out/sponsor the inaugural Vancouver Developer Week. Back to that creativity point, I worked out a sponsorship deal where we would build/design the landing page (with Unbounce, of course) and host the kickoff event. It was the perfect win-win, we get to show off our product and get our company front and centre in the dev community, and the organizers are relieved of the hassle of creating a site for the event.
  • Leverage your space. In Vancouver, there are a ton of great meetups, startup and networking events that are already happening around the city. We have a pretty cool office space in Gastown, and it’s an easy way for us to support these groups in some capacity by offering up our space for free.
  • Set the bar high. When starting an event from scratch, I would set the stage for what other sponsors, partners, or speakers should do by putting forward what Unbounce was doing first. For the Techvibes event, we came in first with renting a ping pong table, so each sponsor after that had to do something at least that unique.
  • Beer and pizza. You seriously can’t go wrong and it’s budget-conscious.
  • Engage your team. I’m constantly working on new ways to engage our team with the local tech community. I send out a Friday e-mail with all the community events happening the following week. I also encourage colleagues to let me know if there’s a community they’re passionate about and I’ll work with them to get us involved.
  • Picatic. These guys are local and so awesome to work with. Used their platform for all of the events I planned.
  • Don’t feel bad about saying no. It’s hard wanting to please everyone, but at the end of the day, if it doesn’t make sense or add value for your company to get involved, don’t.
  • Swag. Branded shirts go a long way, but don’t cheap out on the material or quality and get a neutral colour people will wear. One of our most successful creative swag items? Unbounce branded magic answer balls. I’m also pretty excited to find a cool way to use these.
  • Open House Beer Fridays. This was one of the first events we implemented, an Open House at our office on the last Friday of every month. It’s a great way for our team to meet other cool people in the tech community and something they can invite their friends/network to. It’s also a great way to continue to engage with someone after a coffee meeting. If you’re reading this, feel free to stop by around 4pm this Friday January 31st. Tweet @sarahailish for more info.

Let me know in the comments if you have any event insights of your own or want to chat about community building offline.

Cheers,

Sarah

 

  • Rick Perreault

    Great stuff Sarah. I think another important note is that putting on these events are not capital intensive. Excluding the “Lean Startup” conference that we sponsored, these events cost us about $5000 in total. Small price considering how many “future” employees we may have met.

    • Sarah McCredie

      Good point! All of the different meetups, conferences and events we were a part of didn’t cost more than $5k. There are a lot of ways to get creative without dropping a ton of money.

  • http://www.unbounce.com/ Corey Dilley

    Good post. I’ve sponsored a couple events and the swag thing is always a challenge. Like you said, it’s pointless unless you spend enough money to buy swag that people will actually use. The magic 8 balls were genius. How much did those cost per unit?

  • George Bullis

    I totally agree with giving out good quality swag. The swag is an item that should remind them of the awesome time they had and not disappoint and break in 2 days.
    I just realized I am still bitter about the usb port extender/mouse pad that a vodka company gave me and broke right away… That was 4 years ago. You could say it left a bad taste in my mouth, but I wont because that’s a terrible joke.