INBOUND, HubSpot’s annual Boston-based conference connecting business, marketing and sales professionals familiar with its marketing software, welcomed 11,000 global attendees Sept. 5-8 for its second in-person showing since the pandemic. The sold-out b-to-b event marketing staple upped the ante for this year, boasting an additional 3,000 attendees, nearly double the number of educational sessions, a festival-style format, surprise-and-delight “drops” enabled by app push notifications, accessibility features, and much more.
“We experimented with a lot of new ways to create a fully immersive experience in this new hybrid event landscape, ranging from enhanced VIP/general admission experiences, custom brand activations, community partnerships and celebrations, as well as a robust overall content agenda and YouTube Livestream of some of our most-attended main stage sessions,” says Lauren Rickles, HubSpot’s senior director, head of production.
EM took in the vibrant gathering firsthand this year. Here are 10 steal-worthy tactics that had us buzzing.
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1. PRE-EVENT WEBINAR
To inform attendees ahead of the event, HubSpot recorded a live Attendee Preparation Webinar—available later on demand—that offered the 411 on the event, including registration, badge pickup, venue navigation, food and drink options, and more. A PDF version of the information was available for download as well if attendees preferred to digest the content in written form.
2. WEARABLE TECH
At registration, each attendee was given a badge featuring Bizzabo-owned Klik’s wearable tech: an INBOUND-branded button, which helped staffers manage session check-in by functioning like a QR code, while also allowing attendees and exhibitors to share contact information through the simple act of pressing the button and tapping their badges together.
3. PUSH NOTIFICATIONS
Who says “drops” are just for sneakers? Thanks to the super-informative INBOUND event app, attendees who signed up for push notifications were directed to various surprise-and-delight event drops, including midday snacks on the show floor, contests happening in person at specific booths, spontaneous happy hours and entertainment in the “Lawn on D” outdoor stage area.
4. SAVE-A-SEAT FEATURE
Speaking of the app, another convenient feature was the “Save My Seat” digital registration option for the conference’s “Deep Dives” and education sessions. For many talks and workshops, attendees were required to pre-register to be guaranteed a seat in the room. But it also included a handy standby system that functioned fairly seamlessly: Ahead of each session, two lines would form outside of the room—one for those with a seat and the other for standby hopefuls. If registered attendees hadn’t checked in by 15 minutes before the session started, those in the standby lane could grab a seat. And from what we could tell, attendees in the standby line had a decent shot of scoring a seat.
5. HEAVY ON THE EDUCATION
HubSpot is a brand big on incorporating attendee feedback. (There’s even a pre-event survey that helps the team accommodate last-minute requests, if at all possible.) This year, attendees had indicated that they wanted more of an emphasis on education. The result was nearly double the amount of breakout, hands-on sessions, or “Deep Dives.” Additionally, two larger educational session rooms were added to the convention center’s third floor. Programming is the largest part of the show, according to event producers Agency EA and ESP. From c-suite executives to owners to entry-level marketers, the audience segments—and therefore the programming—covered a multitude of skill levels.
6. ACCESSIBILITY A PRIORITY
One of the event’s key goals was making its content accessible to a global audience. Thus, for the Main Stage sessions, as well as the three large stages across the show floor, there was live American Sign Language captioning. And for the 20 or so sessions that were livestreamed for free on HubSpot’s YouTube channel, the content was translated into 10 languages.
7. FESTIVAL-STYLE FLOOR PLAN
The show floor format, which took on a festival-style layout, was key to the attendee experience, according to the team. Each of the event’s three stages and the main stage were open, wall-less and equipped with highly localized sound. This meant that the sponsors’ exhibit booths, networking spaces and live talks were all in one place, enabling attendees to travel seamlessly through booths on their way to sessions.
8. CONSISTENT CREATIVITY
One challenge for the event production team was creating a HubSpot-branded event that also prioritized the creative groups and communities within the event itself, each with its own strategic goals. For instance, the popular Black @ INBOUND build featured its own community meetups, talks, touchpoints and creative feel. Likewise, HubSpot’s own massive HQ footprint adjacent to Main Stage offered demos and training on new products unveiled during the show and referenced by speakers on stage, such as its new HubSpot AI feature.
“There’s a whole budget side to that, too,” says Angelina Spaniolo, group creative director at Agency EA. “How can we do that thoughtfully, with priorities, so that we can get the most for the dollars that they have? This year, we tried to bring groups together even more by placing different types of footprints activating on the show floor, so that you’re feeling the energy and you’re part of one big community.”
9. FOOD TRUCKS GALORE
As an alternative to boxed lunches and typical convention center meals, HubSpot offered 20 different food truck options from some of Boston’s most popular and highly rated restaurants. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily, attendees could exit the show floor and head to the event’s “Lawn on D” outdoor area, which also featured a beer garden area, lawn games, picnic table seating and a sizeable stage featuring various open mics and entertainment acts through the afternoon.
10. DIGITAL EXTENSIONS
As we alluded to above, a whole new set of attendees—approximately a hundred thousand of them—were able to enjoy around 20 of the conference’s Main Stage sessions for free on the brand’s YouTube channel without registering for the show. Moreover, HubSpot’s Creator Café booth, which showcased the brand’s media publishing platform, offered live podcast recordings and publishing partnerships, which will also serve as evergreen content for the brand moving forward. Agencies: Agency EA; ESP.