Online meetups (webinars, web conferences or webcasts) is one of the best ways to scale Developer Relations. In most companies Developer Relations teams are small, probably under ten people. Even if we look at some of the big companies with hundreds of people in Developer Relations organizations such as IBM, Microsoft, Google, AWS and some others – they cannot be everywhere to host in-person workshops, meetups and attend conferences. You cannot scale with people.
Even if you could send a Developer Advocate to every meetup or conference, there are many more developers who don’t attend meetups or conferences. There are many reasons, maybe they leave in an area where there are no meetups or they don’t have a travel budget. You need to reach these developers and also scale.
As online meetups happen online using software such as Zoom, Webex, Hangouts Meet or Crowdcast (we use Crowdcast), developers from anywhere in the world can participate. Developers from places that you would never reach other wise can join your event and get high-quality developer education. Here is a map from one of our recent online meetups Deep Learning Master Class I – Introduction:
People joined from all over the world. We would not be able to reach these folks with in-person events. We simply don’t have enough people and time to do that.
We run our online meetups usually at 9:30am PT so we can reach everyone in the United States and many folks in Europe. To make it more convenient for folks in Asia for example, you can run it at an earlier time. Or, you can run two online meetups on the same day (one morning, one evening – for example). You can always experiment.
We have hosted over 100 online meetups.
Developers who couldn’t attend the live event can watch the event recording anytime. Developers can watch it the next day, a month later or six months later. This is what’s really great – running online events you are also creating content. For example, you can upload the videos to a YouTube channel. This is part of content creates content approach I shared before.
When you run an in-person meetup you most likely will get only local folks coming to your meetup. And once the meetup is over, it’s over (unless of course you record it). A big benefit of online meetups – the content can live for a very long time after the event. Developers anytime and from anywhere can watch and learn from the online meetup. This can be your evergreen content – content that doesn’t go out of date.
Partnering to host events with other folks within your organization or outside is always great. Online meetups make it even better and simpler as no travel is required. If you have someone within your organization who wants to help host an online event, this person can be located anywhere. They don’t need to be located in the same office. All they really need is a quite space and an internet connection. This works very well with external partners as well. Your external partner can be located anywhere in the world and you can easily host an online meetup with them.
There are talented technical people in every organization who probably would be happy to help with such events even if they are not in the Developer Relations organization. You should leverage these folks as they can provide a different perspective and high-quality developer education to your community. This is another way you can scale Developer Relations.
Online meetups are usually under 60 minutes and tend to be more awareness events. Awareness events (or lecture-style) are events where the speaker goes over technical content but attendees don’t usually code or build anything. We have been running online hands-on workshops and they can be very successful as well. You want to extend the event to about 90 minutes and create a very easy to follow step-by-step instructions on how to build the example. Watch Introduction to Machine Learning on IBM Watson Studio online meetup to see an example of a hands-on online event. Having another person host the event is a good idea as he or she can help answer any questions.
You can take it a step further and host an online conference with multiple speakers and even multiple tracks. This is probably a four or more hour event. A big benefit here is that you don’t need to get travel approval and travel anywhere. You can watch and participate in this conference from the comfort of your home, favorite coffee shop or the park (and maybe even the beach). This allows you to reach people that you wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise and people can also watch the recording later. IBM Developer hosted a digital conference last year and there are plans to host one this year as well.
There are many great tools out there. We have been using a tool called Crowdcast. Here is how an event looks:
This is why we like Crowdcast:
- Runs in the browser, there is nothing to download or install (Chrome browser recommended)
- Customizable registration form. We only ask for the absolute minimum information – name and email – that’s it
- A built-in chat (right side). Attendees can start asking questions even before the event started
- A Call to Action button (bottom center green button)
- A separate window to ask questions (Ask a Question). Also, any chat message can be moved to Ask a Question window
- An option to create a poll
- Useful built-in analytics (the map above is from event analytics)
- This is probably the biggest benefit – any event is automatically recorded and the recording is available at the same URL right after the event ends. You don’t need to press record (which you will probably forget) or download/upload the video to make it available.
Online events is an excellent approach to reach developers anywhere. You can reach developers that you would not be able to reach with in-person events. Event recording is great content and can provide developer education to developers all over the world for a long time after the event ended. Online meetups will enable you to scale your Developer Relations program.