How to Put On a Great Tech Conference: 6 Lessons from #AcquiaEngage2015

Photo courtesy of Samara Vise: http://samaravise.com/

Photo courtesy of Samara Vise

There’s no doubt the world is a better place for Boston’s thriving tech scene and the long history of Bostonian made innovations. As a millennial, innovation and technology have always had me under their spell. The vibrant energy of high-growth companies inspires the transformation of industries and creates a great place to live, work, and play. Who can’t get excited about that, especially, when it’s all happening in your own backyard?

As I continue to build relationships with talented individuals working at amazing tech companies headquartered in Boston, I am always on the lookout for opportunities to further immerse myself in the local tech community. Most recently, I had the privilege of attending Acquia’s 2nd Annual Conference. Acquia Engage 2015 was a true treat to be a part of – the execution was phenomenal and I soaked up so much information about what goes in to creating an evolving, personalized, digital experience in our digitally-driven world.

If you aren’t familiar, here’s some background: Acquia creates smart and personal digital experiences, across devices and channels, through their extensive cloud-based platform. To do this, the company harnesses Drupal – a free and open-source web content management system – created by Acquia’s Co-founder and CTO Dries Buytaert.

Long before Acquia relocated their headquarters from Burlington, I knew the company was a big deal – named Fastest Growing Private Technology Company in North America by Deloitte in 2013. I just didn’t realize how big of a deal Acquia was, until they boldly made the move to Boston’s Financial District in May 2015. Check out the virtual tour of their vibrant downtown space here. You’ll see what I mean and understand why they always think ahead.

At the aptly named conference, Engage, the Acquia team brought the way the company transforms the digital-world to life – their talented people engaged in quality in-person human experiences all the way through the 3 day conference.  For a greenhorn to tech conferences and Drupal, I was blown away by how welcome I felt, how captivated I was by the individuals I chatted with, and the overall experience delivered throughout the conference.

So how do you know you’re going to attend an extraordinary tech company conference? It all comes down to atmosphere and the thoughtfulness the company puts into experience. The agenda can tell you a lot, but you’ll know you’re attending one of the best conferences when:

  • The company’s culture and passion can be felt in the air. Every Acquian I met has been extremely likeable and approachable. Plus, you can feel how much they believe in their work. Not only is this contagious, it couldn’t have been easier to talk to anyone at the conference about digital experiences, because Acquia created an environment for everyone’s success.

    Photo courtesy of Samara Vise: http://samaravise.com/

    Karl Kedrovsky, Solutions Architect, VML. Photo courtesy of Samara Vise

  • Genuine community effortlessly creates itself. Right away, the sense of community drew me in. The Acquian’s, and their partners, clients, potential customers, and general attendees all made their time about building strong relationships. When I stepped off the escalator for my first breakout track, I wasn’t sure I was in the right place. So I immediately headed towards the coffee and was greeted by an Acquian from D.C. – Dan assured me I was where I needed to be for the session, then went out of his way to build rapport, and kindly made several intros to people he thought I’d be interested in meeting. Meeting new people and receiving introductions couldn’t have been easier.

    Photo courtesy of Samara Vise: http://samaravise.com/

    Jeroen Verdonk, Corporate Development, Bynder. Photo courtesy of Samara Vise

  • Impressive client stories are shared – and don’t feel like sales pitches – during captivating, informal, breakout tracks. It really felt more like Acquia’s customers were providing high-quality content through their fireside chat style conversations. And there was something for everyone. The breakout tracks provided an excellent opportunity to connect with peers and learn how transformational digital can be in any industry.

    Photo courtesy of Samara Vise: http://samaravise.com/

    From left: Karen Robinson, Former CIO, State of Texas; Kishor Bagul, Former CTO, NY State; Ted Ross, CIO, City of Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of Samara Vise

  • A new product is boldly launched live. Excitement filled the room, as Acquia unveiled Content Hub. The daring live demo effectively involved the audience and provoked attendees to think ahead about the ever-evolving power technology continues to play in content management.

    Photo courtesy of Samara Vise: http://samaravise.com/

    David Ingram demonstrates Acquia Content Hub. Photo of Content Hub Launch courtesy of Samara Vise

  • An engaging mobile app download is provided to enhance your digital experience. Having an agenda on an app is great, especially when it comes to navigating your way around paper free. And, it’s really awesome to have list of attendees with their pictures and social media accounts linked to their profile, so you can easily know who’s in the room and follow a live feed of what’s happening across social channels at the conference.

    Photo courtesy of Samara Vise: http://samaravise.com/

    Andrew Rutberg, President, Wunderman. Photo courtesy of Samara Vise

  • A variety of entertainment and inspirational key-notes are strategically placed throughout the conference. Throughout the conference, this was the formula that kept people from heading back to their room to spend time in front of their computer screen. Really, who wouldn’t want to have a private concert with Gammy-Nominated Singer/Songwriter, Aloe Blacc; hear from best-selling Author, Daniel Pink, about behavioral science; and get a lesson in whiskey tasting from a few top Diageo Masters of Whiskey?
    Photo courtesy of Samara Vise: http://samaravise.com/

    Aloe Blacc headlines the evening’s entertainment at Acquia Engage. Photo courtesy of Samara Vise

    Photo courtesy of Samara Vise: http://samaravise.com/

    Keynote speaker, Dan Pink, talks behavioral science and motivation. Photo courtesy of Samara Vise

    Photo courtesy of Samara Vise: http://samaravise.com/

    Whiskey Showdown. Photo courtesy of Samara Vise

These 6 elements collaborated together to craft the most memorable experience I had at the 2nd Annual Acquia Engage conference in October.

So, before you go to your next tech conference, see how many of the components highlighted above are going to be provided in the experience. It’s a terrific way to further assess the value of your time and investment.

And, of course, all of this got me thinking – atmosphere is really created and delivered through company culture. So, how do you develop a culture within a high-growth company that can make a newcomer feel welcome and enjoy a multi-day conference on a topic they know little about?

To be continued and explored in a later post…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: MICHELLE RAYBURNMichelle Rayburn_Headshot

After graduating the University of Cincinnati in 2010, I gathered my things and left my Ohio roots to realize my Boston dream. As a transplant, I learned life in a new city can be a little challenging to navigate from a civic, social, and professional perspective. However, I have a passion for building – and participating in – inclusive communities that empower and encourage women to aspire to achieve greatness. In my day job, I work for a membership organization and help companies utilize their people to strategically engage in the Boston business community. In my free time, I’m committed to developing student leaders in the Eta Theta chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma at Harvard, serving as their coach, mentor, and Chapter Council Adviser. Today, I hope to make it easier for you to get connected to Boston, network, and navigate the City through my Women’s iLab column: The Aspiring Woman’s Guide to Networking in Boston.

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