In defense of bonkers after-hours events at tech conferences

By Anthony Kennada | VP Marketing at Gainsight
March 16, 2017
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Posted in Best Practices, Pulse

Here’s a fun experiment: Go to your manager or your company’s finance team and ask them to bankroll your ticket to Coachella or some other music festival. I’m betting they’d laugh you out of their office. But if that’s the case, why are so many hallmark B2B events investing so much in entertainment?

Touchstone conferences like Dreamforce, Marketing Nation Summit, and BoxWorks have standardized their agendas with afterparties headlined by massive, mainstream bands and award-winning performers. Others such as SaaStr Annual produced evening events during their conferences hosted by popular DJ talent.

These parties aren’t cheap. In fact, extravagant events like these have been lampooned on Silicon Valley. Remember this scene?

https://youtu.be/telkGsi4UNk?t=26s

I’m sure skeptics everywhere are wondering why this is happening. Why invest in an expensive after-hours event at a business conference? Isn’t the whole purpose to learn?

Of course the answer is yes, but investing in social programming around a conference plays a key role in facilitating networking amongst attendees. It may come as a shock to some, but conference attendees are human beings—we have emotions and passions, likes and dislikes, friends and families. We have a natural desire to have fun, and social events during conferences are GREAT ways to keep attendees engaged, create spaces for unstructured networking, and build relationships within a community.

At Gainsight, we host the industry conference for Customer Success called Pulse. We are anticipating more than 5,000 people to join us in Oakland from May 9-11, and although we’re in our fifth year of the event, have never properly invested in the social component of event production. We figured we’d celebrate the fifth anniversary of the conference in a big way and not hold back…

Erlich Bachman rented out Alcatraz for a party. We got the aircraft carrier from the Doolittle Raid.

Seriously.

Gainsight pulse

On the evening of Wednesday, May 10, we will be hosting the Customer Success Experience presented by Gainsight on the USS Hornet, an (actual) aircraft carrier docked in Alameda, CA about three miles from Pulse 2017 in Oakland, CA. The Hornet played a major part in the Pacific battles of World War II, served in the Vietnam War, and recovered the Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 astronauts as they returned from the moon (the space capsule is still there on the deck in fact).

A landmark of great history, the USS Hornet will play host to the largest gathering of Customer Success professionals of all time as we celebrate our five year anniversary as a community. All attendees of Pulse 2017 will be invited to attend, and transportation will be provided to and from the Oakland Convention Center.

Our vision with this effort is to create more than an after-party in the traditional sense, but rather an experience that enables Pulse attendees to connect and build lasting relationships that scale beyond our time together at the conference.

Here’s what you can expect on board:

  • Bringing the 90s Back. We are fully embracing 90s nostalgia at Pulse this year. We’ve transformed the Hangar Bay of the USS Hornet to turn the clock back 20 years and bring us back to a different era.
  • Live Music. It turns out N*SYNC would not return our calls. However, we were able to secure an awesome 90s cover band to set the ambiance for the evening. Whatever the 90s meant to you—whether that’s punk, grunge, hip hop or pop—there’s something for everyone.
  • Food & Drink. We’re building a village of local restaurateurs in the Hangar Bay to ensure there’s plenty to eat and drink as you network the night away.
  • Historic Tours. Veteran docents will be available onsite to lead tours of the rumoured ghostship, including to areas of the ship typically off limits for the general public.
  • Flight Simulator. Have you ever tried landing a fighter jet on an aircraft carrier? Well here’s your chance. Test your skills during the event in an interactive flight simulator.
  • Many more surprises! Seriously, get ready.

Gainsight pulse

We couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate five years of Customer Success other than with 5,000 of our friends overlooking the San Francisco Bay. There’s more information to come soon, but if you haven’t already, don’t miss your chance to be part of the Customer Success Experience presented by Gainsight by registering today at www.gainsight.com/pulse.

We’ll see you at Pulse.


By Anthony Kennada
Anthony Kennada is VP of Marketing at Gainsight

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