15 Aug HOW TO HOST TECH EVENTS
– 10 TIPS WE GOT FROM ZALANDO
Make sure the sound is working
As one of the biggest problems to hosting their meet ups Zalando listed getting the sound right. Having an appropriate sound system is what determines how an event is received – as one hosted proffesionaly or not.
Sometimes the equipment is not prepared right, so the microphone is not working, and you can’t hear anything through speakers. That’s sometimes frustrating. So it’s always internal organization with an internal IT to get this working. But we are getting better at this.
Pick a venue easy to get to
Anyone coming to a new town or a new country will find it hard to get around, let alone get to the venue. Location itself has an influence on the meeting. If you’ll host it In a place that is hard to get to, it may cause delays. At the worst people will quit to look and don’t show up at all.
What I like about this location, is that it’s near to Alexander Platz, so it’s nearly the easiest place to get everyone here, because we can tell them ‘Hey, just go to the tv tower and you’re quite there’. It’s easy even when you’re not from Berlin. I think it’s worth keeping in mind that people are going to the locations where they can head to very easily.
Make it easy to enter the meet up
Besides picking an easy location it’s important to apply logistics within it. Put signs that will lead atendees to the event, if the room is ‘hidden’. If you’d like to have it at the top floor, make sure there’s an elevator. A big one. Plus a person inside going up and down with people, answering their questions and giving directions.
We only have two elevators, cause the building is from DDR, so it was completely rebuilt, but it still has old elevators. In one you can only have six people, and they’re really, really slow. So if we have a meet up for 100 people, it takes at least 30, 45 minutes to get everyone upstairs. And you at least need two people inside them, to make sure that no one’s ‘escaping’ them, I mean, we don’t want to disturb our colleagues with people running through the floors. And it’s not allowed because sometimes you have sensitive data there. Otherwise we are quite open to show around some people. So getting people upstairs can be frustrating, because it is delaying the meet up. We thought about moving to the cafeteria, which is at the ground floor. There’s also a new building built we could move meet ups to.
Host it in a location meeting the theme
Your venue should correspond with meet up’s subject. It can be a technology segment building, floor, or even a space decorated in relation to, i.e. programming.
We could host the meet ups in another location, we have currently 4 locations of Zalando in Berlin, but as this one is technology headquarter, and we’re doing technical meetups we also want to host them in our tech department.
Note which social media is used the most by your target participants
Techies most often use Twitter, so that is the best way to get to them. They may also look for you on Facebook, but when it comes to an event search the winner is meetup.com
We’re currently more strictly monitoring what we’re doing, so we’re setting up a tool to get all of the information on any campaign. For each campaign we collect an outcome. So: how many people did we reach throughout a specific channel, how many people attended, how many saw that we wrote something on Twitter and take this into consideration. And then we also need to make sure that when we’re talking about meetup, we use the right hashtags, stuff like this.
I think that maybe we will change the way we see it and set up our own ZalandoTech facebook page. But at the moment, for the purpose on the whole project, we just focused on Twitter. That’s where a lot of buzz is currently raising, especially when you look at the tech scene. A lot of techies are more on Twitter then on Facebook.
Have your 'sign up' in one place
It’s common knowledge nowadays, that an amount of people signed up to an event on Facebook isn’t even a real number’s estimate. The most accurate meet up medium, used by many of techs is meetup.com. That’s where you should post your event. If you wish to have it both ways, there might be some complications…
If we were to go on Facebook I don’t think we would have our events there. We have the meetup page and it’s more accurate for us. If people were to sign up to any on those, then some will double the sign up and it would be out of our hands to tell how many people are really coming from an estimation perspective.
Get your own (approprietely trained) speaker
As a host you’d like your company or brand to be recognized. You are most probably in the tech sector, meaning you have your own experts in certain areas. Get them out there. They for sure have great knowledge, but do they have the skills to speak?
As Zalando, depending on the topic, we support events with our own speakers. If we have people willing to give a talk there, it’s great. At most of the meetups we have a person introducing certain projects that Zalando will be working on in the area.
We’ve just started training proccess. We want to have 500 people out of 800 trained to be able to be speakers. First of all, we have trainings for the top level management, like the CEOs and the board here, so I think we’ve had 20 people that have gone into the training program last month. And they will be send to bigger conferences. But we are going to have 500 people trained to be able to speak.
Do your homework
Be picky. Not every tech event is an interesting one or has high quality speakers. Be careful with choosing which one you decide to host, your reputation depends on it. Once you get the good ones, by the word of mouth more of them will come.
We don’t host anyone who comes and asks us to, we check out who’s coming, who the groups are, do they have a reputation, what is the rating of their meetups from before, so we are sure to be hosting very good meetups. We do our homework.
Going to other tech events always pays off. Even just to take a look and talk to people there. Not only do you get new connections, you also work on being recognized yourself. It’s always good to be able to link the name with the face.
We have a team of account managers and they all look over different sections of tech. If they see someone or hear someone at the conference that they think is really good then they suggest them to us. They are really going out to all other tech conferences and having a look. Seeing people (we don’t have to hire them) just to get in contact with them, because they’re good for all sorts of information and community. So, basically what’s really important for us is to engage with the community here. We’re currently doing a lot more in open source then we ever did. We want to share it with tech community, participate and do more there. That is why we do so many of the meetups.
Right person = right content
Zalando: The thing that probably has the most effect, make people enjoy the meet up, is the content. It is definitely the number one driver of why people come. I mean, specifically for tech, maybe it is different for other meet ups, but for tech it is all about the content.
When you see people coming to our meet ups, they’re very technical focused and really want someone to talk to, who understands them. If you don’t have that guys, it won’t be a good experience for them. That is why we have our experts over there to give something back and challenge the people.
iStream: That is very interesting. From our point of view, the reason that people come to meetups isn’t the content. It’s networking. And you have a good content, because you have the right person. If you have the right person, you get a great networking opportunity, cause you have someone people can talk to.
Zalando: That’s right. If you don’t have the right people, then you don’t have the right content.
iStream: We saw that many times. There was a great presentation, but the speaker lacked social skills, so there were no questions from the audience. So, from our experience – the best speakers are those, who are the combination of knowledge and social skills.