September 1, 2023
Author: Christopher O'Neill
Developer conferences can be a daunting sea of badges, booths, tote bags, and t-shirts with vowel-swapped startup names (Stytch notwithstanding of course). How do you stand out? More importantly, how do you find your target audience and generate valuable conversations and brand recognition?
Let’s chat about how Stytch does it.
The first thing we like to think about when gearing up for a conference is, “Who is attending this event?” The audience at RSA Conference is not the same as the audience at Reactathon or GitHub Universe – and your approach to each should be different.
Even amongst developer focused conferences, the audiences might have differences; frontend vs backend, senior vs junior, security vs product focused. Be as specific as you can about your company’s Ideal Developer Profile (play on the more common Ideal Customer Profile that we use here at Stytch), and make cool stuff for them.
Here are some examples for conferences we’ve attended:
During one of our company-wide hackathons, some folks got together to create a retro themed video game to demonstrate to new employees what Stytch actually does in a hands-on way. We dubbed it Stytchemon.
This game starts you off in a locked room where you must generate a key (a session), by authenticating a One-Time Passcode (OTP). Once you’ve got the key you can unlock the door and play a few different mini-games to earn points and record a high score.
We used Kaboom.js to build out the overall game’s structure and leveraged a lot of their great built-in art and game mechanics, though of course we had to add our Stytch Twist™ to some of the characters.
Now that we had authentication working, we built three mini games based on some Kaboom.js examples to play once you’re logged in:
Burrito aside: You might notice that burritos show up in this game a lot. Part of our company culture is security, we’re responsible for your authentication so everyone within the company always has an eye on security. Part of that is always ensuring that our laptops are always locked when unattended, if they aren’t, your coworker might open up Slack on your unlocked laptop and post a message in #all-general with a burrito themed copypasta. We call this “getting burrito’d”. Avoid burritos at all cost in the game!
Our team had so much fun playing Stytchemon that we thought it’d be a great idea to polish it up and bring it to a developer focused conference to create some joy and break the ice. Seeing your booth filled with smiles and fun is a great way to draw people in and put them immediately at ease. Striking up a conversation about the video game lets you move past the awkward introduction and build rapport immediately.
An added bonus to Stytchemon was that attendees got a crash course in the Stytch API as they “logged in” and created the key. So even before we’d mentioned a talk track on our marketing prepared battle card, they already understood what Stytch is. Then of course, they get to have fun!
To make sure the game was ready for prime time, we added in a high score leaderboard that we could display alongside the game on another monitor, bought some SNES-style game controllers, and spent a few hours bug bashing and adjusting the difficulty to make sure you could pick it up and have fun quickly.
It was such a hit with attendees and so fun for us in the booth. We’ll definitely be bringing it to more conferences in the future.
If you’ve attended any tech conferences before, you’ve probably received a tote, a few logo t-shirts, another tote, a stress ball, maybe a hat, and probably a third tote.
We like to approach swag a little bit differently and lean into both our developer focus and team culture to ship creative swag items that grab attention and more importantly start conversations.
Our team loves hot sauce, we always stock some in the kitchen and it’s a common tradition for folks to bring new and interesting hot sauces to share around the lunch table. We thought, “What about making our own hot sauce and giving it away as swag?”
At RenderATL (an amazing, developer focused conference in Atlanta btw) we launched our first two Stytch hot sauces, a sweet heat Sriracha and a very spicy Louisiana Red. The sauce was a great conversation starter, “How spicy do you like your hot sauce?”, and generated tons of word of mouth buzz, “I saw your hot sauce at lunch, can I get some?”
Learnings? Spicy can be too spicy. Our spicier sauce was a bit too spicy for broad appeal, we’re going to ratchet it down for the next time. Second lesson, keep it under 3oz! We had one attendee lose their hot sauce to the TSA on their flight back.
Visit us at QCon in October for the next hot sauce drop 😉
Just slapping your wordmark on a water bottle or tote doesn’t really cut it in today’s developer communities. We’ve found that being a bit more creative, relevant, and putting thought into the swag that we bring to conferences drastically increases the brand awareness and recognition value of what we create.
Let’s take a look at the hat that we brought to RenderATL. Just a baseball cap with Stytch on the front? Absolutely not; it was created specifically for RenderATL and the audience there. RenderATL had themes for each day and one of the days was tie-dye day. We figured some folks might not have tie-dye in their closet, so let’s make sure they have some to wear by making a tie-dye bucket hat.
But what else can we do to make the swag even more relevant to the audience? These are React developers, what about an npx? We embroidered npx login-with-vibes on the front of the hats to lean into that developer focus and good vibes that Atlanta always brings.
And of course, that npx command has to be functional and fun right? Try it out in your terminal!
Whatever you create and give away to prospects, it should feel like it is a part of your brand and also be at least one of the following:
TL;DR – consider your brand and audience closely, and build for them!
Though your marketing or sales team might be responsible for the operations of the conferences, at developer-centric conferences, developers want to talk to other developers. We always like to bring folks from our EPD teams (Engineering, Product, and Design) to make sure that our booth staff create valuable conversations with visitors and our booth isn’t just a lead gen mill.
Maybe a backend developer is visiting your booth and has always struggled to communicate how their auth system works to their designer. Having someone from our design team, who lives and breathes auth, at our booth might spark a great conversation that helps the developer work more smoothly with their designer.
People remember great conversations, they don’t remember having their badge QR code scanned. Having a diverse set of teammates and skill sets at your booth lets you create more meaningful interactions and lasting, positive impressions with attendees. If you do it right, nobody needs to follow up on your leads list, the leads will contact you.
Going to any of these conferences? Drop by our booth(s)!