Announcing our Inside Intercom world tour

We’re delighted to announce we’re taking Inside Intercom on a world tour, starting in early May.

It’s our chance to connect with you, our readers, our customers, and friends. These events will be unique and exciting. And so is the thinking behind how we build them.

Hosting events are a great way to grow relationships with current and prospective customers, and promote your company in a unique way. Yet often tech events can be lazy, cookie-cutter productions with washed-out projectors, badly-lit hotel rooms, and bad coffee. It’s not a great way to present your company.

Last year we started our events small – our cupcake event was just 100 people in our office. We’ve been slow but deliberate in learning – getting great feedback from attendees and growing in scale. Now we’re taking the next step. We’re going on a world tour – Inside Intercom.

Four ingredients of good events

1. Share more than just success stories

When a project goes wrong at Intercom, we often joke ‘That’ll make for a great talk’. We laugh, but we mean it too. Startups that are truly innovating will get things wrong as often as they get things right. And there are often better stories to be told in the former.

For example, at our last product event Gavin Joyce spoke about building our new message composer. The easy but inauthentic way to give this talk would be to present a slick demo of the final product, while giving shout-outs to his team members one-by-one. High fives, finger guns, you know the type. Instead, he told 650 people about how we spent half a million dollars building a text area. Twice. Hearing about failure and success gave the audience something they could relate to.

Product Engineer Gavin Joyce talks about why we built our message composer twice to get it right.

2. Keep the schedule interesting

Unless you’re giving a formal conference your audience will appreciate content that’s unpredictable, syncopated, and irregular. Mix short talks with keynotes, and switch between big speculative ideas and small practical ones. Present product management beside research, and engineering beside design. It’s very easy for your schedule to get same-y. If it does, that’s when you’ll see phones in the audience start lighting up.

3. Match the venue to the company

A venue probably has the biggest effect on your event’s ambience. Yet every day companies try to inspire people to change the world from a stiff, formal conference venue with elevator music playing in the background.

Choose significance, applaud difference, and bring people to a place that they could or would not normally go. For our Intercom on Capital event, we hosted an intimate panel with our CEO and investors in an underground comedy club in Dublin. It was probably the last place you’d expect to find a group of Silicon Valley VCs. It was brash – and it worked for that exact reason.

An intimate panel with our CEO and investors was held in an underground comedy club in Dublin

Remember to make the venue your own. At last year’s An Evening with Intercom: On Product event, our engineering values sat above our guests across the venue. Showing people what makes the engine move every single day gives attendees a singular experience. No other company will represent themselves in the same way.

The Intercom Engineering values displayed at An Evening with Intercom: On Product, Sept 2015.

4. Put a fair price on it

Jerry Weinberg once wrote that “Pricing has many functions, only one of which is the exchange of money”. Not charging for an event is a broken tech tradition. Charging a small fee at your event gains you two simple things.

Firstly, it sets the right expectation. People who pay, even a token amount, are infinitely more likely to attend your event and engage with it. Having an audience as committed as you are on the night is paramount to a great event.

Secondly, you’ll get the right audience. Filling a venue with the wrong people who’ll happily attend any free event is easy, but it hurts your event.

These are just four lessons we’ve learned as we’ve scaled events at Intercom. Our World Tour probably means we’ll learn a whole lot more, and we’ll share those too.

Today we’re inviting 7,000 people across the world to hear our stories and also, to give them a platform to tell theirs. We hope we’ll see you there.

Tickets are now on sale for our European leg:

The North American dates for New York, Boston, Toronto, Austin, Seattle will be announced shortly.