Traditional Marketing Events Are Dead. Here’s Why.

As a marketer, I am always asking what will we get out of an investment. The answer is a driving factor for everything I do. It’s essential when creating content, necessary when developing strategies, and critical when attending events – where everything we bring, do and say needs to be with a return in mind. Are we bringing personnel? Setting up a booth? Handing out flyers? Everything we take needs to work together to convey Leaseweb’s intended messaging, branding, and, ultimately and most importantly, our energy.

Let me give you an example. I’ve attended many tech and IT events, and some were impressionable while others were forgettable. Then earlier this year, I visited SaaStr in San Jose, a conference that colleagues had been excitedly talking about for some time. When I stepped into the massive conference venue on a hot California day, I saw what all the talk was about: it was a completely different kind of event than I had ever experienced, with a type of energy I had never felt before.

For those not familiar with SaaStr, it’s a two-day event where over 12,000 attendees from start-ups and scaleups from around the world come together and learn from one another through panels, presentations, mentoring opportunities, one-on-ones, and more. It is the largest SaaS event in the world.

Maybe it was the sheer size of the conference, or perhaps the unwavering focus of the attendees, but it felt like the entire venue oozed with raw excitement and pure adrenaline. Attendees were hungry, on the prowl for knowledge and networking opportunities. Investors were lurking around every corner, hunting for their next big investment. I felt like it was the 1920s, and we were back in the gold rush. Everyone was rushing to get in on a piece of the action. The energy permeated into our every fiber. 

I returned from California with a high level of energy and enthusiasm for the business opportunities we spotted, and I immediately signed Leaseweb up as a sponsor for SaaStr 2020.  

Next up was SaaStr Europa in Paris. I was curious to see if there was a difference between these two SaaS events, as I know from my own experience (as a Dutch person who’s lived in New York and is married to an American) that Europe and America are different in many ways. So, with great enthusiasm, I took the train to Paris with a group of colleagues.  

SaaStr Europa possessed a similar electric atmosphere to its sister event in San Jose, solidifying my belief that start- and scale-ups events around the world foster a special kind of environment previously unseen at traditional technology conferences. 

It was then, on a train ride from Paris back to Amsterdam, when I realized that Return on Investment was not the only thing I was looking for – what I really wanted was a Return on Energy. In my head, I began comparing these two SaaS conferences with the more traditional events I visited in my 20+ years as a marketer: the stuffy conferences driven by big brands and their massive booths that ooze dominance with a touch of arrogance. The booths – closed off with ‘front doors’ only enterable by appointment – and the talks – more product pitches than anything – had little to do with sharing and openness.

I won’t downplay all of the opportunities, connections, and experiences I’ve gained at traditional conferences – but now that I know the value of energy, I will do everything in my power as a marketer to never go back to the old way of doing things. From now on, return on energy is priority number one.

The more we invest in a culture of entrepreneurship, free movement, and open sharing, the higher returns we will see on investment and energy. This is what I’m working to instill in the Leaseweb Marketing department. I encourage you to not only embrace this shift, but do everything in your power to promote this infectious energy until it is simply accepted as an industry standard.