Marketing Miniseries: Part 2 User Groups and User Conferences

To continue on our marketing miniseries of blog posts, I wanted to touch briefly on user group meetups and conferences. And sorry for not posting this a couple of weeks ago—I’ve been a bit sick lately and I’m still recuperating. 🤒

Easily one of the greatest joys I’ve experienced in my entire career was producing Unity’s Unite conferences from 2010 through 2013. For those that aren’t familiar, Unite is Unity’s annual user group conference, and has been a great way for users and the development team to connect through a series of lectures, roundtables, and hangouts. When Unity first starting holding Unite, it definitely felt more like a user group meetup, but it quickly grew from an attendance of roughly around 400 people (2010) to over 2000 (2013).

For me, part of the joy of producing Unite was building a community: updating the conference programs and adding cool new events, as well as working with the entire internal dev team and the rest of the company to make the conferences happen. Unite was so popular that we eventually expanded the idea, and held mini “bootcamp” Unite conferences in China, Japan, and Korea. Since then, I’ve also had the opportunity to see how Amazon Web Services pulls off its massive re:Invent conference, as well as how Twitch pulls off TwitchCon.

Basically, it feels really good to meet up with your community in a way that they can connect with your devs, network with other developers, and learn about new and old features. Whether you’re working on developer tools or creating a game yourself, connecting with your community is so important! Here are a few tips to help create a successful user group conference.

Start With User Group Meetups

Start small and grow organically. Host a local group meet up near your office, and then move on to different locations where you know you have users and/or fans. This will of course be very low cost compared to putting together a bigger user group conference, and will give you the space to figure out how you want to talk to your community, and what kind of presentations resonate with your audience.

User Group Conference

When you do eventually work your way up to hosting a proper conference, hold it where you have the most concentrated number of users and/or fans. And keep the following in mind:

  • Gauge interest on what features your community wants to learn about the most.
  • Have 1-on-1 time with your internal devs and your community members to see what kind of help they need with their projects.
  • Be transparent about your road maps and key new features! This is very important—your users need to feel like they can trust your vision, and the best way to do this is to be upfront and honest about upcoming releases.
  • Everybody loves surprises, so have something interesting and special to announce to the community first!
  • Listen closely to your community about any issues they’re facing to help improve your tools or games. This is incredibly valuable, and you should never miss an opportunity to get this kind of candid external feedback about your project.
  • Be inclusive! Help your community to network and socialize by matchmaking. Not everyone is a social butterfly (particularly in the games world!), so anything you can do to ease the social anxiety that can develop at IRL meetups will go a long way.
  • Do something fun to celebrate your community with either a party, awards ceremony, or both.
  • Beer. Lots of beer.

If you have any questions about my approach to meetups and conferences, or need help putting together your own, please feel free to tweet me or ping me at ping@ourmachinery.com! Advice is always free.