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Harnessing Event Trends to Help Capture New Sponsors and Attendees

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Q&A with Angie Smith of Atlassian

As Head of Event Marketing, Angie Smith leads a team that coordinates all event programs at Atlassian. This includes customer-facing programs, campaigns, and trade shows. We caught up with her at the Experiential Marketing Summit to get her thoughts on trends and best practices around targeting customers, attracting strategic sponsorships, and tracking valuable data.

Q: How would you describe your customer base?

AS: We have a very loyal customer group that originally started as IT and software who were looking for productivity solutions to help them with organizing their day-to-day business. Now we service all kinds of teams: business teams, HR teams, marketing teams, legal teams, you name it. We help unleash the potential, productivity, and collaborative solutions for all teams.

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Q: With so many different customers, how do you get to know each different group and what they need?

AS: Great question! On site, we ask them why they're attending the event and how can we improve future events. Our customers love the chance to talk to Atlassian. From the product manager to the engineer developing the tools that they love, they enjoy the opportunity to influence the roadmap of the future.

But we’ve also started to do field research. It allows us to segment our audience when we are getting feedback. For example, we talk to people who have never attended an event but love our products, and people who have been longtime, die-hard attendees of our events. This field research, along with ongoing listening tours at our Atlassian User Groups around the world, gives us great insight.

In these ways, we can find out how best to serve their needs. We inject co-content into some of these user groups — asking them what they want more of, what they want less of, and what we can do to help them be more productive.

Q: It sounds like your customers are pretty passionate about what you do.

AS: I've worked in this industry for 20-plus years, and I've never seen people who are such huge fans of everything that we do. So, we want to create unique and relevant experiences for them. They can have one-on-one moments with our co-CEOs, get real-time support, and even participate in a real-life, on-site hackathon.

Q: What new technologies are you using to foster engagement and generate feedback?

AS: We have dabbled with a lot of technology. The one thing that's been most accepted by our audience has been the digital activations that connect our products to fun experiences.

For example, people are really engaged when they see how Jira helped build Tesla cars. We are also planning a Jira workflow using Legos to give people hands on access to how it works. We also have a program called “Built with Atlassian” where we build large-scale activations and signage to tell how our products helped build certain technologies or even save people’s lives. It puts our customers at the center of everything and makes them part of the story.

And then there’s our mobile app. It's really surprising to see how many people engage in it. When we first launched it, almost 100 percent of our audience downloaded the mobile app; to date we have well over 80 percent of them actively engaged and participating.

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Q: That’s amazing. Switching gears a bit, how are you developing strategic sponsorships for your attendees and partners?

AS: Even though strategic sponsorships are relatively new for us, our sponsors tend to be companies that have built their entire business on selling, consulting, and helping our customers in enterprise and instances of our products. As Atlassian becomes more of a solution company with a product suite that can help manage your business, the strategic sponsorships become more important.

So now we’re engaging in strategic relationships around our GTM (go-to-market) strategy that allow us to tap certain companies on the shoulder to say, “Look at this unique kind of exposure you can have. It’s not just a keynote stage spot or a booth on a trade show floor, but different opportunities for valuable customer interactions. Interested?” We don’t have a typical sales team, so we had to get creative with our conversations.

Q: What kind of feedback have you been getting from sponsors?

AS: Our journey with sponsors has been one of growth and learning. When I first started, sponsorship satisfaction was nowhere near what we wanted it to be. So, we got Freeman to perform some unbiased research on 20 of our most active sponsors to find out how we were and weren't hitting the mark.

It was amazing how easy some of the fixes were. Such as “let us know earlier when the sponsorship packages are available; show me more value in what I am buying from you; give me more ROI stories so that I can tell my leadership why Atlassian Summit is important.”

We went from an overall sponsorship satisfaction of 20 percent or less to now being over 60 percent. My goal is to have at least a 90 percent overall satisfaction rating by the end of this year. I think that we're almost there. We've done some mid-year surveys asking, “Has this process gotten better? Are we communicating to you more clearly? Are you seeing more value over the long haul?” We are already seeing positive feedback.

Q: Are there any other kinds of sponsorships that you would like to see Atlassian engage in?

AS: I would like to see us embrace programs that are more related to culture and lifestyle. I like how the Wall Street Journal does an annual event called “The Future of Everything.” They have an amazing caliber of speakers and discuss cutting-edge trends in technology. I think we can take inspiration from some of the more emotional experiences in life — like music, food, health, tech trends — and infuse them into our live B2B events.

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Q: What are some of the key metrics that you use to capture and re-capture sponsors, and give them that highly coveted ROI?

AS: We used to measure our success for events on NPS (Net Promoter Score). Now, we're doing a multitude of things, like real-time push notifications through a mobile app that gives us attendee feedback and end-of-conference surveys. We are sharing greater information about the types of people that are attending our events and are able to segment them to better understand where they are in the purchase cycle or what they need help with. This gives a much better MQL (marketing qualified lead) for us and our sponsors. Additionally, this year, we're planning to do ongoing focus groups, instead of just annualized. So, we're getting information at multiple touch points to help them stay informed and give them ideas through our Channel Marketing Team on how to stay engaged with our customers.

Q: Sounds like a well-rounded approach. How do you keep track of it all?

AS: We continually test data automation for our seven or eight data sources. At the end of the day, it still a human individual that will really make a story out of it.

We have partnered with a few event technology companies to help us aggregate our data (surveys, session scanning, registration, CRM, social, mobile, RFID, etc.) that really help us get data centrally deposited to prepare to tell a story. That technology, paired with a pretty awesome internal data analyst, allows us to share individual attendee personalized trip reports with our attendees and then further allows us internally to connect the attendee experience with our internal CRM — that process ultimately tells a true ROI story on how much our events influence account activity.

Q: Okay, last question! What do you love most about what you do?

AS: In 2004, I had an epiphany at an event on the field of AT&T Ball Park. When I looked around and saw thousands of people, and the smiles on their faces and the excitement in their eyes, I realized that this was the business I wanted to be in.

So, at the end of the day, what I love most about this industry is surprising and delighting people to get them even more excited about the work we're doing. I am passionate about building champions of our brand.

Want to hear more from Angie? Learn how she uses design thinking in her events.

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