Three years ago, finance and tax software brand Intuit created QuickBooks Connect, a conference designed to transform the perception of QuickBooks in the marketplace from a piece of software to a small business solutions ecosystem. To further its brand mission this year, QuickBooks offered its four target attendee groups (accountants, small business owners, developers and the self-employed) more environments to network in and further their business goals.
“QuickBooks, which was once known as a desktop product, turned into an online product and has evolved into this online platform you can run your whole business from, and so we felt we needed to invest in something pretty dramatic to bring it to life at an event that helps users connect and ultimately fuel success for their businesses,” says Bridget O’Brien, executive producer of QuickBooks Connect. “We know the value of shared experiences, and we wanted to create a community here.”
At the event, Oct. 24-26 in San Jose, CA, QuickBooks hosted 6,000 attendees for expert talks, training, hands-on workshops and social events. The conference included 85 breakout sessions, two main stage days with celebrity keynoters (Michael Phelps, Shaquille O’Neal, America Ferrera, among them) an opening concert event, and a pre-event Hackathon for developers. And did we mention the robot bartender by MakrShakr? (AgencyEA, Chicago, handled).
Here, we look at the top five ways attendees connected at the event:
1. Meetup Activations
Recognizing that networking for small business owners often takes place in local environments, QuickBooks created sets for meetups that represented spots like cafés or pubs, and it all took place along the “Main Street” thoroughfare of the event. Bonus: QuickBooks incorporated real small business customers into the activations, like Death Wish Coffee in the café.
2. Connections Pavilion
To give sponsors some love, a connections pavilion was placed within the exhibit hall that had its own select 15-minute breakout programming. There were millennial focus group meets, Spanish-speaking business owner meets and women entrepreneur meets, among themes.
3. Newbie Orientation
The conference featured a newbie orientation for first-time attendees complete with tours to show them around the event and make introductions. Other simple tactics helped break the ice, like at the beginning of each session, attendees were invited to turn to their neighbors and introduce themselves to facilitate causal connections.
4. Event within an Event
A VIP summit within QuickBooks Connect helped facilitate connections between influencers and industry leaders. The invite-only special activities weren’t publicized, and included presentations by Intuit upper management, industry analysts and investors.
5. App Features
When sponsors scanned attendee badges for their contact information, attendees would then receive curated content from the sponsors that instantly was made available in a My Briefcase feature within the event app. In addition, the app offered a Matchmaker feature that used information from surveys filled out by attendees before the event to instantly suggest profiles of people to meet up with on-site.