We've all been there: You signed up for a tech event, grabbed an Uber, spent 2 hours listening to talks, 1 hour networking, and went home with absolutely nothing tangible to prove it was worthwhile.
You might convince yourself that is was worth it because you "made connections" or "were inspired," but more often than not, that's just rationalization after-the-fact.
So, if you're ever involved with organizing a tech event, here are some practical tips for making one that's truly worthwhile.
1. Invite-based events
You might think of making the event public and highly-visible, but this also means that the attendees won't be as targeted and relevant for your topics. Of course, this depends on the event, and if you're hosting something like a TED Talk, maybe you want a diverse, broad group of attendees, but if you're hosting something more technical, you'll want an audience that understands and appreciates the content.
Ultimately, you want to lean towards invite-only events, where attendees can also invite others, than open, public events.
2. Collaborate with other organizers
If you're in a city of any significant size, I virtually guarantee that there are many other organizers who have hosted events with a similar theme to what you're planning. They have the experience and connections to know what works and what doesn't, and who to invite. At the very least, reach out to them, and see if you can "co-host" or collaborate on the event.
3. Market in local incubators, accelerators, and co-working spaces
Most major cities have some kind of startup incubators, accelerators, or co-working spaces (like a WeWork), that has plenty of people active in the local tech scene. Visit all of them in person and ask if you can distribute materials to market your event, putting you in touch with valuable potential attendees.
4. Get interesting speakers with unique content for the event
Speakers are the focus of the event, the attendees are coming to hear what they have to say, so they want to hear something unique and that can't be found with a simple Google search.
Speakers can be lazy, like the rest of us, so offer to help them in creating beautiful, edu-tational decks for the event.
5. Create unique value content for attendees
This one is huge, and it's almost never done. Let's say you're hosting an event to connect startup founders and developers looking for jobs. You could create something like a free 10-page e-book on tech interview tips for attendees, and only those who show up get a link for it. There's a million-and-one creative ways you could create relevant, valuable content for attendees.
6. Make the tickets paid, with a refund for those who show-up and no refund for no-shows
If it's a completely free event, people will show up just for free snacks. You want people to have to put some skin in the game, without giving an elitist vibe that many expensive events have.
7. Individually speak with attendees. Host interviews, create networking circles, etc.
Attendees want to feel valued. The easiest way to do this is with one-on-one conversations from the organizer. The worst events are those where the organizers are all speaking together, instead of networking with attendees. You should also do your research on the attendees ahead of time, so you can create networking circles with people that can add value to each other at the event.
8. Post-event follow-up and value-add
After the physical event, you don't want to just drop contact with everyone who took the time out of their busy schedules to show up. You want to thank them and show your appreciation, and also give any additional value you can. This is another great opportunity to create valuable content, like an e-book, free consultation, or something similar, for everyone who attended. Remember, it's the quality and depth of your connections, not the quantity, and "your network is your net-worth."