If you're a member of a marketing team within the Atlassian ecosystem, you know full well that there is one word that can strike both joy and terror in your heart...Summit. Summit is Atlassian's annual conference & expo that brings over 4,000 Atlassian partners, customers and enthusiasts to the same place all at once. It is an amazing show and a fantastic opportunity for partners like ourselves to demonstrate how we're helping Atlassian customers across the globe. At the same time, Summit can be a bit daunting for marketing teams because you know you have to bring your A game when it comes to planning, budgeting, and creating an original theme for your booth and marketing materials.
This year, Summit 2019 took place in Las Vegas, NV at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino. Our marketing team has been planning for this conference for months. In fact, as soon as we knew the dates and location (which was close to a year ago...), we kicked our efforts into high gear. The following are a few tips for event marketers that we've compiled on our journey to Summit 2019. These tips can be used really for any major show/conference in which your company is participating...
Come up with your theme and messaging early on.
You team will want to pick its event theme and messaging as soon as possible. Themes and messaging can be applied to your booth graphics, collateral, giveaways, apparel, or really anything else that you're showcasing at the event to promote your organization. If possible, you want to tie your theme in with the overall theme of the conference, as well. For instance, this year at Summit 2019, Atlassian really focused on the enterprise. We decided that, as a Atlassian Platinum & Enterprise Solution partner, our overarching message should be that we can help customers scale their Atlassian toolset as their organization expands. Hence our slogan "Go Big: You Need a Partner Who Will Help You Grow." This messaging was incorporated into our collateral, our giveaways (oversized prize items like giant candy bars), our booth graphics, and more. Once you have your messaging locked down, everything else just falls into place.
Use good, reliable vendors who you trust.
When your company has a major event/conference/trade show coming up, it's probably not the best time to try out a new vendor. Marketing teams should always have a list of vendors that they rely on for everything from printed materials to giveaway items to booth supplies. The last thing that you want to happen is to experiment with a new vendor for an important component of your event marketing, only to find out that they're...A) unable to provide you with quality material, B) going out of business, or C) complete flakes. It's always best to use your tried-and-true vendors for important events. And if you have no other choice but to use a new vendor, then–at the very least--get references from people you trust.
Everything will take longer than you think it will.
This is not a slam on the aforementioned vendors. It is merely a commentary on how marketing teams tend to underestimate the timing and work involved when it comes to event marketing. Trust me when I say that our marketing team at Isos has learned this the hard way. Plenty of times we've been down to the wire prior to events, whether we're scrambling to get logistics into place the day before, sending off marketing material to the printer at the last minute, or re-running jobs with vendors that maybe didn't turn out well the first time around. Trust us when we say...pad your schedule by weeks, if not months! If you think you need something by April 1st, then shoot for March 1st. You won't be sorry, and you'll quickly realize that that extra time you factored in might just save your bacon.
Save money where you can.
Expenses for events can quickly add up. Try to find ways to save here and there. For instance, many event venues mark items up significantly, especially when they've hired a show management company. We suggest purchasing your own supplies (power cords, waste baskets, electrical tape, etc.) rather than buying or renting them from the show managers. Consider digital signage instead of print signage...this is usually fairly inexpensive because most trade show booths come equipped with at least one digital monitor. You can also ship supplies to a Fedex or UPS store near the show location to save money. This is significantly cheaper than shipping directly to the show site. And remember to ship ground, if possible, rather than overnight or two-day. Last but not least, you can keep employee travel expenses at bay by hosting a contest...maybe whomever spends the least on food and entertainment wins a gift card or a PTO day...just as long as the reward is something that motivates everybody to keep their spending in check.
Don't forget to mix a little fun into your conference/trade show experience! After all, your team has worked very hard for the last few months to prepare for this important event. Trade show burnout is a real thing. Even the most extroverted of people can quickly become exhausted after having to be "on" all day long, whether it's in the booth, presenting at show sessions, or attending other conference events. Make sure you work in a few team-building moments, where you and your co-workers can relax and blow off steam. This might be a good opportunity to plan a company meal where you can all re-group and discuss your individual experiences, a golf tournament at a local course, or possibly even spa treatments which will re-invigorate your tired co-workers. Above all, try to have fun and remember that you deserve a few moments of rest and relaxation amidst the chaos!