So, you can’t stop hearing about developer conferences. Chatter around the water cooler is ripe with mentions of Google I/O, ANOTHER SPARKS CONFERENCE and the like—and with good reason. One of today’s fastest-growing event platforms, the developer conference is an opportunity for tech professionals to learn about new software technologies through fourteen hands-on product labs, seven in-depth session stages and peer-to-peer education, and a hacker space. But with some of the largest footprints, budgets and attendee bases in the industry, these events are also an opportunity for brands to push the boundaries of the typical b-to-b event. Here’s a look at how it’s playing out.
Modern developer conferences have taken on a decidedly b-to-c vibe, despite their b-to-b origins, to provide attendees with a better balance of business and pleasure. Take Oracle OpenWorld, for instance, which offers playful engagements like flash mobs, pop-up surprise and delight moments and even a massive ball pit where conference-goers can bounce around like children amid 125,000 plastic balls—equipped with branded selfie sticks, of course.
There’s also Google I/O, which for starters, turned the Shoreline Amphitheatre’s parking lot into a “festival village.” The area was a little boom town, fully equipped with a Main Street and all it’s buzzing culture from additional product pop-up activations, community boards and lounges, and playful street art moments throughout. A community specifically built for developers to hang out, play and celebrate in that extended to the global network. Transforming from day to night into a block party rich with a series of unique activations and a street food market, and a blow out concert on night two with LCD Soundsystem also added to the b-to-c atmosphere.
Personalization is another signature element of contemporary developer conferences. As audiences and their interests evolve, event marketers are creating customized experiences to ensure attendees of all stripes are engaged. Brands like Cisco are implementing the strategy by leveraging attendee data to determine which programs and offers each person is most interested in. (If you’re considering taking this approach, remember to incorporate the four R’s of personalization: recognize, remember, recommend and relevance.)
Charitable efforts continue to be another hallmark of today’s developer conferences. Events like the Game Developer’s Conference, Intel Developer’s Forum, Dreamforce and the RSA Conference each have charitable components to their events. Proceeds benefit organizations from Child’s Play, which donates toys and games to children’s hospitals, to (RED), which aims to deliver the first AIDS-free generation by creating awareness and raising funds.
Developer conferences are also a prime opportunity for companies to get attendees excited about their brand by showcasing their latest and greatest products and services. Amazon took the strategy to a whole new level at its 2016 re:Invent conference when it introduced its Snowmobile, a 45-foot-long semi-trailer that operates as a data transfer service, by literally driving the vehicle onto the conference stage.
Attendee diversity at developer events is another area that has seen increased attention over the last few years. While the stereotype suggests that white and Asian males dominate developer conferences, many of these events are seeing a shift in audience composition. Google has been the frontrunner of the transformation with its Women Tech Makers Event which provides visibility, community, and resources for women in technoloty. Google also hosts the I/O Youth program where 5 local schools have the opportunity to experience their own mini-I/O complete with a Keynote and a tour of five hands-on workshops. Apple is also in on the trend with its Worldwide Developer Conference, which in 2016 included a nine-year-old girl who served as the event’s youngest app developer. And many shows are creating unique registration incentives and opportunities for female attendees.
Indeed, developer conferences have become some of the most forward-thinking, unconventional and vibrant events in the industry right now. Raise your hand if you want to learn how to code!