Presenting is just one part of speaking at conferences, and how to adapt to virtual events

There is significantly more value in the long-tail of a conference talk than speaking at the people in the room at the time.

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Nikko, Japan

The many components of a conference presentation

When I was at Server Density, selling SaaS infrastructure monitoring to IT teams, our approach to conference presentation “content” was as part of a package.

  • The Slides: During the talk, I would auto-tweet a link to the slides which would then usually be retweeted and shared by attendees. Include your Twitter username in every slide because people will Tweet quotes and photos and you want them to easily be able to tag you.
  • Twitter Ads: During the conference, we would run ads on the Twitter conference hashtag directing people to a custom landing page sharing the slides / additional materials for the talk. The page would also collect email addresses.
  • Engagement: After the talk, reply to all the mentions. Disclose extra info, answer questions, send people to your slides or landing page (where relevant) and thank everyone for any nice comments.
  • Sponsoring: We would sponsor the conference to at least provide some useful swag e.g. customised notebooks; not low quality pens, t-shirts, tote bags, leaflets or other items people will discard immediately. Ideally we would have a stand and team members present giving demos, too. Although technical attendees do not want to sit through a product pitch, I was often surprised at how many browse the stands during the breaks.
  • Writeup: I would write up the talk into a blog post. You can use imagery from the slides and provide more detail than a simple transcript which just reflects the time-limited format of the talk itself.
  • Video: Once the video was available, promote it on social channels, newsletters and embed into the blog post. If you publish it on YouTube, you can pay to have captions transcribed and attached into the right place which helps with accessibility and SEO.
  • Networking: Getting out in the breaks and after-party/drinks to meet attendees. Not to sell to them, but to share knowledge and learn about what other people are doing. I hate “networking” and found this the hardest aspect of conferences but I’m still good friends with several people I met through my involvement with the MongoDB community.

Adapting to a world of virtual conferences

Breaking down these components is especially relevant now because the coronavirus pandemic has stopped all physical conferences. These have been a huge part of the go-to-market strategy for developer products so how should companies adapt?

Valuable materials increase in value over time

The big challenge of the current pandemic is the uncertainty around when things will return to normal as well as what the new “normal” will be. Companies will certainly still need developer tools but will there be as much travel? Will conferences move to an entirely virtual model ( with huge environmental benefits), or perhaps there will be a new a hybrid model with remote + physical attendance.

Co-founder — the best tools for developers. Researching sustainable computing at Uptime Institute.

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