Taste Test: Scale Down a Large Meeting to Boost Future Attendance

To encourage people to register for its biggest event of the year, software company Atlassian hit the road and offered smaller events around the world to provide a taste of what it has to offer.

Last week, I came across a Q&A with Atlassian’s manager of event operations and sponsorships, Hope Stone. In the interview, she spoke about how the software company listens to its user and attendee feedback and then applies it to “enhance brand experiences for all audiences.”

The part of the interview I found most interesting was Stone’s description of the metrics the company uses to evaluate the Atlassian Summit, its annual conference that brings together users, partner, and vendors.

Like most associations, Atlassian looks at attendance numbers and satisfaction scores, and it sends attendees a postconference survey asking about everything from session content to keynote speaker and venue. “Our goal is to find out exactly what our attendees want and expect so that we can deliver,” she said.

Because the company wants the event to be a valuable experience for everyone, it also incorporates into this process what Stone calls the “tough questions:” How can the event be improved? How do attendees want the Summit to evolve? How much budget do they have allocated for the event? How much time can they spend there?

Attendee response to the last two questions led Atlassian to make some changes. Since many attendees said they couldn’t be away from the office for more than a day, making the three-day Summit difficult to attend, the company decided to bring the conference to them—on a much smaller scale—by launching the Atlassian Team Tour.

For the past few months, Atlassian has traveled to 11 cities worldwide—Berlin, Austin, Sydney, DC, and Tokyo among them—where staffers unveiled new-product updates, shared the latest in team practices, and discussed the future of teamwork. Attendance at each stop was capped at 300, which gave participants the ability to better network with each other and the company’s executives.

Atlassian also had a bigger goal in mind: “We created smaller events in these cities to give the attendees a taste of what the Summit is like and get them hyped up to go all-in and commit to our biggest event of the year,” Stone said.

The next Summit takes place in Barcelona in September, so it’s too soon to tell if the road-trip strategy will prove successful, but I think it’s an excellent example of a company adapting to better serve its attendees’ preferences.  And, better still, I think it’s a strategy associations could consider copying if they’re hearing that their own attendees have time and budget constraints and need some convincing as to why they can’t miss a three-day event on the other side of the country.

Last year, I wrote about associations hosting roadshows to bring standalone education—not a smaller version of a larger meeting—to different cities. The approach is obviously similar in that they’re both looking to boost engagement, but what Atlassian is doing is purposefully giving Team Tour attendees a taste of what to expect should they decide to attend Summit. And Atlassian seems to be relying heavily on giving participants access to their own executives to do that. If your association were to roll out a tour of its own, consider what you’d have to offer participants to give them a glimpse into what your larger event will provide.

Have you ever hit the road and brought a smaller version of a larger event to cities around the country or the globe? Tell us how it went in the comments.

(masterzphotois/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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