Earlier this month, we hosted our first BrightGauge MeetUp in London, and it was a huge accomplishment for us as a company and a significant milestone for us personally as well. Let me explain how we got this wild idea of scheduling the MeetUp in the first place.
I am a very loyal reader of Jason Lemkin’s SaaStr blog, where he shares a lot of great content about the SaaS business and market. Several weeks ago, he posted a blog titled Got 100 Customers? Believe It Or Not, It’s Time For Your First User Conference. His post got me thinking that we needed to organize something. We passed the 100 customer mark a while ago, but we had never really held our own event. Last year, we dipped our toes in the event pool and started hosting BrightGauge events during and around industry conferences. These events have been very successful, but organizing and managing a stand alone event was an entirely different experiment (and experience).
We decided we wanted to host an event, but we weren’t sure when to host or where to hold it. Finally, Larry, who leads our sales team, suggested we host an event in Europe during his vacation. He offered to host it and run point for the company. My first reaction was, “he’s crazy”. I couldn’t see why we would host an international event in Europe when we haven’t done one at home yet. When I started to think about the details, I began to get overwhelmed. I took a few deep breaths and decided to jump in with both feet and make it happen. But where to start…
The Logistics: This was the first big hurdle we needed to overcome. I’ve never been to London, and everyone I know who has visited did so as a tourist, and not in any kind of professional capacity. In order to clear this hurdle, we went back to one of BrightGauge’s core philosophies, and asked our customers. It was a logical solution to our challenge. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and the ideas and suggestions came pouring in from our customers. We filtered all the suggestions down, and finally selected the Hilton London Euston as our event site. We selected this site because it was centrally located and an easy to commute for most potential attendees. They also had a top notch Events Department. After speaking with events staff, we knew we were in good hands.
The Format: Since this was our first event, we weren’t exactly sure how we should structure and organize the meeting. What would attendees want to hear about from us? We tapped into our own experiences, and drew up a couple of scenarios to run by our customers. After soliciting feedback and analyzing the responses, we decided to host an evening event. A 6PM start time allows people to finish a full work day before heading to the event. Our customers felt that dinner was too much of a commitment, so we opted to serve appetizers and drinks during the hour networking session. Once the networking was finished, we’d roll into our presentations.
The Content: Once logistics and format were confirmed, we turned our attention to content. What information did we want to share with the attendees? Based upon my own personal experience with these types of events, I knew it couldn’t be a straight sales pitch. We asked two of our customers to give presentations on how they use BrightGauge everyday. We thought customer testimonials would be the best way to provide real world examples and in depth information about our technology to the attendees. After the customer presentations, we wanted Larry to spend some time previewing our big 4.0 release, scheduled for September. We wanted our program to be timely, informational, and engaging. Our schedule was short and sweet and provided enough information for everyone to leave with a relevant take-away.
Once we had everything organized and confirmed, the final step was set up the EventBrite Invite (see the invitation here), with all the details and start marketing the event to our international customers and opportunities.
Post event, the feedback from attendees was mostly positive, with some “areas of improvement”. Overall, the attendees had a positive experience, especially since this was our inaugural event. For me, I was most impressed that we created, coordinated, marketed, and managed a successful international event in a such short time period. It was a big milestone for me. We had a great turnout, and the attendees had a fantastic opportunity to share their BrightGauge experiences and stories with our London Community.
We will definitely be back to London in early 2015!