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Top 5 suggestions for bringing traffic into your booth

January 30, 2009

There are plenty more than 5 ways to generate traffic and buzz at a conference, and strategies will differ depending on the size of the conference and amount of “noise” with which you’re competing. That said, I’m re-posting my list below — after blogging them here — of the most basic blocking-and-tackling methods for promoting yourself on the tradeshow floor:

Getting noticed

Getting noticed

Idea 1: Sandwich board
You need a sign at your booth, something to advertise who you are and what you do, more than just a logo and slogan:

  • Include the product name & logo
  • 3-5 bullet points, ideally none of which wrap around to the next line
  • Big font that can be seen from 10 or 20 feet away
  • A screenshot or graphic
  • URLs are optional; they’re nice for design (I think) but not necessary because people will Google your company or product name. Better yet, they’ll take a brochure.

Unless you’re a PhotoShop maven, do not attempt this at home. Instead, hire a graphic designer to work on it so it’s produced for print-ready production (300dpi or greater, unaliased, and in color). For self-standing signs, I have them printed on foam core, which is light and rigid and easy to transport. However, because foam core can easily crack, you might wait to have it printed locally at a Kinkos close to the convention center so you can pick it up before the conference. Extra tip: If you need to ship it to the conference, use a flattened cardboard box to ship it.

Idea 2: Prizes!
Run a prize drawing in the booth. Give one free copy of your software, a free iPod, a hot date with the CEO over a candlelit meal at a fine restaurant (ok, I’m reaching now), or something in exchange for their business card. If they don’t have business cards, you should have a pad of paper and pen at your booth to record their name and email address.

If nothing else, play Bruce

If nothing else, play Bruce

Idea 3: Max HeadroomishAlways have something showing on your computer. When you’re not demoing the application to someone, you should leave the demo running in a loop so people stop to watch. Don’t have a product demo? Make a video of customers giving testimonials. Or, hire an animator to create a Flash-based demo or cartoon that you could also leverage on your website. If all else fails, put the Enter the Dragon trailer on loop.

t_RedMonk.pngIdea 4: Fa-fa-fa-fa Fashion
More expensive idea… print up tshirts with a funny graphic or slogan and give them to anyone that gets a demo. If they sit through a 4 or 5 minute demo, they get a shirt. Make it something they would want to wear at the conference. And hopefully other people around them would see the tshirt and want one too. If you can afford it, print more shirts that you think you’ll need. You could always give the tshirts away to employees or at other conferences. The two major drawbacks of tshirts are the cost to print and the cost to ship. They’re very expensive to ship in bulk. Alternatively, you could print baseball caps or pens. Personally, I much prefer something I can actually use, like a tshirt or baseball cap, versus random merchandise like toys.

Idea 5: Promotion
Offer a 10 or 20% discount coupon for conference attendees only that expires 3 or 6 months after the conference. Bonus idea: So you only have to bring one piece of collateral to the conference, print the promo code on your product brochure.

Oh, and remember to bring collateral to the booth… a product brochure, datasheet, business card, or case study… you should have something that people can walk away with. Don’t forget to include your URL and an email address.

Reaching the Summit 18 months later

December 10, 2008

Atlassian Summit

“Should we run an Atlassian User Conference?” I asked that questions last year, on St. Patrick’s Day to be exact, and the response was overwhelmingly YES. It’s been over 18 months, but we’re finally doing it.

In the time between first proposing the idea to actually executing on it, the customer base has nearly tripled. The Atlassian marketing team has done the same, which is good because we couldn’t possibly have put on an event as ambitious as the one we’re planning without the full support of our studly team.

In a past life I organized and ran a user group at a company with 50 customers. Atlassian has 260 times that number and 8 times more products. Not to mention that our customers live in more than 100 106 countries.

It’s not just the scale that’s daunting. The Atlassian community is vibrant, opinionated, and passionate about the tools they use to collaborate and develop, so we didn’t just want to run any ol’ conference. We needed something big and brash and fun. Well, it’s happening, it’s really happening.

Some people, inside and outside the company, have questioned our timing. Global economy, recession, gloom and doom. Yeah, it’s a scary time. We’re taking a gamble. But I believe deeply in our community. I also know that many companies are turning to Atlassian and companies like ours to find inexpensive solutions that allow them to do more with fewer resources. In some ways, as trite as it may sound, I think there may be no better time than now… to squeeze the most value out of the products you’re using… to maximize existing investments… to get more involved.

Well, as you can tell, I’m psyched. If you’re a customer or evaluating our products, I encourage you to check out the Atlassian Summit website to learn about the event. We’re holding it at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco (which, I’m constantly reminded of by Jay, was the filming site for The Game‘s opening sequence) in June 2009. Hope to see ya’ there.

Over the moon

November 7, 2008

It seemed impossible just 10 years ago that a Black American could win the presidency, but that’s exactly what happened earlier this week. I cannot describe the feeling. I imagine that it’s what people felt when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon — incredible; awesome; transcendent — except better.

Just saw these photos today of our President Elect today (thanks, Robyn, for pointing them out!). They’re wonderful. Makes you realize that we not only changed the course of history, but we elected someone who is thoroughly down-to-earth and real. It really gives me hope.

Obama on the campaign trail

Hope, Vote

November 3, 2008
Vote Tomorrow!

Vote Tomorrow!

Time for Episodic

October 22, 2008


A quick shout out to those hard working fellers at Episodic! I am thoroughly impressed. I keep telling people here about the app — about the great interface and ease of use. Hard to believe the application is still in the embryonic stage. :)

I have a little experience in the digital video world from my years at Virage (consumed, digested, and shit out by Autonomy during the bust). Virage was focused on the business-end of video deployment, but there was one serious flaw with the business model: bandwidth. There wasn’t a whole lot of bandwidth to go around, and so sharing video or using video in your business was pretty much out of the question. Eight years later, of course, bandwidth is ubiquitous for industrialized nations. Codecs have caught up, too.

The difficulty in the online video market is that it’s flooded with companies trying to define it. From the Netflix and Blockbusters, the Hulas and Youtubes, and the Brightcove and Mavens (now Yahoo). Everyone wants a piece of the action. But few, I think, have got right. Episodic is one of them.

  • Easy to upload and transcode video
  • Easy to create episodes
  • East to insert interstitials
  • Easy to syndicate onto other networks (via TubeMogul)
  • Great metrics

That’s not to say that I don’t have my list of feature requests! And while I know I won’t get everything, I can take heart that the folks there care — a lot — about their customers.

Hey, if you guys are giving out stock options, mind tossing a few shares my way? ;)

Conversation kills

October 17, 2008

My colleague left disappointed on Day 1 of FM Conversational Marketing Summit, and I left early on Day 2. Did anyone leave the conference with a sense of how to do conversational marketing?

  • Most of the presentations I saw were quite high-level, whereas I had hoped to hear about innovative case studies.
  • The conversation with Evan Williams of Twitter was just odd and didn’t go anywhere. John Battelle asked feature/function level questions of Williams, but why devote so much time to that? Why not have asked about ways people are using Twitter to get their messages out and engage in conversations?
  • The panel with Digg,, and Cisco was vague. All three speakers would have been terrific by themselves speaking in-depth about one topic, but the format diluted any message from getting through. And like everything I heard, there was very little depth.

At the end of the day, I feel Atlassian has done a better job at so-called conversational marketing by being itself: non-marketing, open, transparent, and, um, conversational. Ironically, not being marketingish has served conversational marketing brilliantly.

A meditation on turning 40

September 28, 2008

Take her seriously

September 3, 2008

I could only watch part of Sarah Palin’s speech tonight at the RNC (had to put Jonah to bed), but I agree with James Love’s opinions: she’s got game. She’s a good orator and blew a lot of hot air that gave the RNC something to cheer for. That’s not to say that she’d make a good VP. She was picked afterall because she makes a great young, pretty, female, mother of five puppet. Rhetoric flew from her lips. The Great White Sea applauded.

But… take her and McCain seriously. Many people around the world didn’t think Bush would win his second term. And while some of it may have been due to tampering, the fact remains that the RNC knows how to mobilize its base and push an agenda of fear. Tonight, Palin puppeted the words that we’ve heard countless times over the past 30 years (at least) that the democrats would raise taxes, increase spending, blah, blah, blah fucking blah. While it may be a tired attack, FUD resonates with the American people.

An aside: all this makes me wonder if McCain would have picked a young African American man as his VP puppet candidate if his opponent had been Hillary? ;)

The long-term consequences of spam

July 14, 2008

Rarely can I claim to have ever been at the start of anything (should I really brag that I saw Alanis Morissette at the Tower Records parking lot before she got famous?) but I wonder if my blog about link spam was a first? I haven’t researched it, perhaps other bloggers caught it first (and of course I wasn’t the only one to see Morissette before she got big either!)?

And like Alanis’ talent, there is some controversy around my claim that link spam is indeed spam. Here’s the question in a nutshell… Can it be considered spam if someone pays you to post a link to a spam term? Is it advertising or spam?

It’s the latter. It may not look like the Nigerian-viagra-big titted whores-HYIP spam you get in email, but it is spam. When someone asks you to post a link on your blog that links to ads about Viagra or [insert your favorite spam phrase here], it’s spam.

But, they’re going to pay me for the link, so it’s advertising, right?

Wrong. It’s spam. Instead of cluttering up your in-box, they’re cluttering up your — and my! — search results. Every time you link back to a page, you are enhancing a site’s page ranking. Better page rank means higher search rank. Over time, it has the insidious effect of crowding out other legitimate pages. If you scan the terms that the spammers are using…

… you notice that they’re normal words that link to spam terms. The next time you do a legitimate search for vitamins you may find a spammer’s page about Propecia (which, come to think of it, I could use ;) ).

Will it work? Yes, over time. When enough people link back using these terms and URLs, it will have a cumulative effect. I think it will be very difficult for even the brilliant developers at Google to weed out these spam links via a search algorithm.

Therefore, please, just say no to link spam.

What a difference a year makes

May 7, 2008

Four days ago on a Saturday, I biked 4.5 miles to 7th Heaven Yoga, took a 1.5 hour class, then biked another 4.5 miles home. What a difference a year makes.

A year ago I was coughing up my lungs in a hospital bed at Summit, unsure of what ailment I was suffering and whether it would ever get better. I had been admitted to the hospital on May 6th, one day after my wedding.

I had been feeling progressively weak and sick and asthmatic for months. A week before my wedding, I went to the hospital because things had become more dire: a rash had broken over my arms and head, terrible pain was striking without warning in my back and legs, and the asthma was totally uncontrollable. At the family physicians office, I was told there was blood in my urine and they sent me to the ER.

At the ER, I learned that my white blood cell count was through the roof and that I had thrush in my throat and mouth. Hematologists said it was cancer. Infectious Disease specialists said it was a massive infection. Another doctor suggested that systemic fungal infections cause all manner of strange symptoms. A dermatologist thought the rash could be from a staph infection. I was told it could be anything from HIV to Tuberculosis, and in fact for a couple hours I had been made to wear a mask to prevent spreading the probable infection. At one point, with my fiance in the room, they were ready to admit me to the hospital, which would force us to cancel the wedding or exchange vows bedside. She broke out in tears.

They decided it wasn’t TB and, against their better judgment, we checked out.

The wedding was a blur. Around 11pm of our wedding night, I excused myself, took Codeine and Tylenol, and fell asleep. The next morning at brunch, while trying my best to enjoy breakfast, I went temporarily blind in my right eye. I can still remember watching the blackness surround my vision and close off, literally a tunnel vision experience. I sat down with my parents and sister and casually mentioned that I couldn’t see from one eye. My sister, a nurse in New York, said “I’m taking you to the hospital.”

Eleven hours in the ER, 72 hours in the hospital, and finally a diagnosis. A pulmonologist looked at the collection of symptoms and said matter-of-factly that in all likeliness it was the very rare Churg Strauss syndrome, a syndrome that used to kill people just 30 or 40 years ago, but today which can be treated simply and effectively with Prednisone. A biopsy of my lungs and one on my arm confirmed that my body was overrun by eosinophils (Churg Strauss is characterized by systemic inflammation; the body responds by producing excessive white blood cells called eosinophils).

Apparently, when he uttered the diagnosis, the attending internist slapped her forehead (“duh!”) because “of course” that was it… it’s something every US-trained doctor studies as part of med school, it’s a good textbook syndrome, but rarely do they encounter it (only 3 out of 100,000 people are diagnosed every year). My family physician said something similar: they thought it was Churg Strauss, but because they had never had experience with it they were uncomfortable about making the diagnosis. And now when I look at the cases on the internet, I see photos of people with rashes on their arms that look identical to what I had

There was a time when people routinely died of Churg Strauss. And people can still be damaged by it if it’s not treated early enough. Fortunately, there’s Prednisone, and for those of us lucky enough to be diagnosed early, the disease (syndrome, really) is eminently treatable and rarely relapses. In my case, the doctor believed Churg Strauss was caused by a very uncommon side effect of a very common medication:

In rare cases, patients on therapy with SINGULAIR may present with systemic eosinophilia, sometimes presenting with clinical features of vasculitis consistent with Churg-Strauss syndrome, a condition which is often treated with systemic corticosteroid therapy.

My family members who were unlucky enough to see me suffering in the hospital were astounded to see how my body responded after a single dose of 20mg of Prednisone. I had been literally gulping for air with each breath, and two hours later was breathing almost normally. A day later it was like nothing happened. A friggin miracle drug, my friend.

Naturally, all this has given me a few insights and opinions about hospitals, insurance, and medical care. First, there is such thing as good medical care, but one still has to be vigilant. Summit was awesome, but the quality of nursing care varied greatly from nurse to nurse. One has to be demanding, sometimes, in order to get better care. Specialists are smart people, but myopic. Hematologists, Infectious Disease specialists, dermatologists, allergists, pulmonogists…. After that experience I’m happy to let my family doctor do the coordination and refer me to the right person next time. I have health insurance, and had a couple thousand dollars of out of pocket costs, but thankfully it wasn’t Sicko revisited.

Ironically, I had applied for life insurance right before all this happened. Minnesota Life extended an offer for a policy, then I was diagnosed with Churg Strauss, and then they revoked their policy. Can you say “assholes?” If I’m ever in Minnesota, I plan to jog several symbolic laps around their HQ. We called several other insurance companies. We called an insurance broker. No one wanted to touch me with 10 foot pole. But just last week, a company came through. The policy ain’t cheap; no preferred rates for me! But as we get ready for our son to be born, I’m thrilled to have it. I feel so incredibly lucky.


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