How to Make the Most Out of In-Person Events as a Developer Marketer

Over the past two years, most developer events were held virtually because of the pandemic and travel restrictions. Now, in-person developer events are starting to come back. From large conferences to smaller meetups, events provide an excellent opportunity to attract and engage attendees that are in your target developer audience. 

For developers, events offer a chance to get out of their day-to-day environment and connect with others who can help with their work. They have the opportunity to learn from other developers who may have expertise in areas they have not yet explored. Besides learning about new tools and services, it’s also an opportunity for developers to meet potential employers. 

For developer marketers, in-person events provide a physical space where potential customers can show up and engage with your products and services. Your team has a chance to present what you’re building, network with the developer community, and answer questions about your product or service live on-site. As we shift into a Web3 world, events are turning into full-blown sensory experiences, offering new opportunities to capture the attention of developers.

So how do you make the most of in-person events as a developer marketer?

Catchy team members traveled to the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, where gamers and sponsors gathered to show off the latest trends in the global gaming industry.

With a fresh perspective on developer engagement at events in 2022, here are four trends from GDC that helped sponsors leave a lasting impression on developers.

    1. Have enough technical representation at your booth

    Catchy client, Inworld AI, is building brains for virtual characters. At GDC, they had representatives, including their Chief Product Officer engaging with developers and explaining how their tools are used in virtual worlds like the metaverse, capturing the inspiration of many game developers. While they did not have a large flashy experience like those of major gaming brands, the ability to connect with those with the brains building the technology was a meaningful experience.

    If you’re investing in booth space at the conference’s exhibition, plan to have enough developers on-site that can have meaningful and valuable conversations with interested attendees. Having in-depth discussions about the mechanics of your product or tool will provide more value to the audience.

    2. Make your content specific and valuable

    “Content is king” has been a popular phrase for many years. But in 2022, content needs to be valuable, engaging, and specific. As we face more buzzwords such as metaverse, blockchain, NFT, tokenization, etc., marketing language can be vague and obtuse. It can all start to sound the same. Featuring something concrete such as a product roadmap, a live talk, or a virtual stream can help developers visualize and actualize your tools and products. Sometimes functional is better than aspirational.

    You must think beyond your product and focus on the journey you want attendees to take. For example, suppose your goal is to drive awareness among a specific developer. In that case, you should design your content to deliver unique perspectives or insights that will help you stand out from your competitors and attract attention. It would be more effective to attract people who have an interest in your product's value proposition than it would be to try to sell them on its features.

    No matter what you’re promoting, make sure it’s valuable to the developer audience attending. If your product or service doesn’t save them time, money, or effort, they won’t be as likely to engage with you.

    3. Provide an immersive, hybrid experience

    It is the new normal for events and conferences to have both in-person and virtual aspects, and an unforgettable experience is able to connect both worlds for a hybrid experience. 

    Successful GDC sponsors planned their cohesive booth experience to create a lasting impression with developers and ensure they were top of mind. They invested in creative ways to bring their brand messaging and products/services into their booth space by using interactive technologies, games, and more. 

    For example, Salesforce created a “Salesforce Tower” and had a game where they could win prizes such as branded merchandise. Khronos Group created an augmented reality (AR) art installation where visitors could walk through a 3D projection under a dome that showcased Khronos Group’s 3D software graphics standards. Unity Technologies leveraged its existing sponsorship of popular gaming influencers to showcase its games on Twitch live streams during the conference.

    4. Have a hook beyond swag and t-shirts

    At developer events like GDC, companies compete for a small amount of attention from developers. This is true for all events but especially true for the developer audience. You need to give the developer a quick, obvious, and ideally visual reason to engage with your booth. 

    Our client, Inworld AI, had talking characters that developers could engage with. They even allowed attendees to submit ideas for their own characters, which the team then created overnight and brought to life the next day at the show. Other examples we saw included fairground-type carnival games to win prizes, immersive demos based around a house of the future, and, yes, of course, even a full-blown bar on one booth. Create an immersive booth that captures the essence of your brand. 

    Swag and T-shirts are table stakes and are branded giveaways that developers can wear at the event. But for a truly engaging experience and to maximize developer interest in your booth, have a hook and go all-in on creating your attendees' experience around that hook. 

    Outside of the booth exhibitions lies creative ways to engage developers that your competitors are not doing. Conferences have planned activities (some official, some not) leading up to and during the start of the conference. What can you do to engage developers in those moments as well?