If there’s one thing the tech industry loves, it’s a get-together.
And call them what you will — meet-ups, geek fests, conferences — there have never been more.
“I’m sure there’s at least five or six a day,” says Tonia Ries, a PR executive who ran an events and marketing firm for 13 years.
There are the tech heavyweights — outlets like Re/Code and Tech Crunch — that put on events costing as as much as $6,500 a head. But the real growth is at the lower level, where startups and young companies are staging conferences as a way to make money, market themselves and promote their own innovations.
For example, the housing-rental company Airbnb recently put on OpenAir 2015, a one-day event in San Francisco. The conference focused on how to use big data to personalize search results, and offered panelists from brand name companies like Pinterest, Lyft and Netflix. Tickets were $50, and proceeds went to charity.
“Face-to-face continues to be the most powerful and high impact way for people to connect with each other, to build new relationships and to deepen existing relationships,” Ries says.
Lauren Mosenthal, founder of the women’s mentorship group Glassbreakers, attended the Airbnb conference in San Francisco. She says she used to go to as many as 10 conferences a year, but had to cut back to focus on her business.
“It could be easy for entrepreneurs to get lost to going to conferences and networking instead of focusing on their product and how to make that better. I know that’s my number one priority, and that’s why I’m very selective about which conferences I go to,” she says, adding that she prefers short conferences that are tightly focused.
For the companies throwing all these events, that selective focus means a much more competitive environment. Every new conference or get-together means a scramble for a location, the right speaker lineup, high-profile attendees and media coverage and, of course, the time and attention of the potential audience.
Ries says putting on a successful event takes research, preparation and a little bit of magic — but it can pay off for companies: “not only in terms of attendee fees and marketing dollars that they can capture from sponsorships and exhibits, but also ultimately in terms of the impact to themselves as a media brand.”