Lessons from curating the SaaStock Agenda

22nd September 2016- Mark your calendars

Never curated a conference programme before. I’m new to the events business. My colleague Chris has got conference game. Being ex web summit and being somewhat a conference Nerd. But neither of us have curated an agenda for a conference like SaaStock and we absolutely want to nail it and do our speakers, our customers and ourselves justice. 
 
 We view SaaStock as a product. The parts of the product include design. It includes Marketing. Production. The Speakers are part of the product as is the Agenda. If we have a great product, then we should be able to create WOM right? Which will should help us acquire customers (sell tickets) and delight our customers in the run up and on the day itself. Successful SaaS companies like Intercom, Slack and Typeform do this really well. Get the product right first. SaaStock is a SaaS conference taking inspiration from the model of successful SaaS companies.

Provide Early Value

Shouldn’t we therefore take all the time we need to work on the agenda? Aren’t agenda’s usually published just a few weeks, sometimes even days before a conference? That’s what i’ve been used to. That’s what I was anticipating when we officially launched SaaStock, on 18th Jan. I’d imagined that we’d still be booking and announcing our final speakers in the final few weeks running up to the 22nd September.
 
 And yet, from the moment we launched, we started getting questions about the agenda. We would Initially explain that given the conference is 9 months away, at that point, the agenda is still a work in progress and will be published nearer the time of SaaStock. Plenty of time.
 
 And more agenda questions kept flooding in. Our customers are investing hard earned money and making a decision to go to a conference is not straight laced. Factor in the financial, emotional and time constraints of attending a conference, is it fair to want as much information as possible to help you make that decision to purchase? To ask the Husband or Wife or colleague for a Hall Pass for 48 hours? 
 
 If we can provide enough value early on. If we are in the position to do so, then that’s what we want to do. Provide as much value early on to our customers to make your decision to attend easier. Get the agenda out as early as is feasible.

Curating an agenda — a.k.a This shit is damn tough.

Put Slack in Do not disturb mode, i’m concentrating

1.Get Excellent Speakers

The first part to curating the agenda was ensuring we had excellent Speakers. No Shit! Easy to say. Hard to do. Much harder for a first year conference. 
 
 Given i’d been running the SaaScribe blog for a year and had interviewed the likes of Mark Roberge, Christoph Janz, Eoghan McCabe, Byron Deeter and more, I came into the speaker recruitment process with some good connections and a little bit of credibility which helped a lot. The tactic was to secure the initial speakers and then reference that they are confirmed speakers to the next wave of speakers we were trying to recruit. Through the graft put into SaaScribe, and the ability to sell the vision of the conference, we were able to confirm the likes of Des Traynor, Christoph Janz and Nikos Moraitakis early on which created a snowball effect of helping us secure the leading SaaS Founders, Investors and Influencers as speakers.
 
The criteria for speakers was that they had to have the intangible quality of SaaS Chops. Des Traynor, Christoph Janz, Peter Reinhardt, Stacey Bishop, Lincoln Murphy, Brynne Herbert. They got SaaS Chops. You can read more about the first 37 confirmed speakers here.
 
 Now we have 55 Speakers in total! Originally we’d planned for around 24. How do we fit them all into a one day conference and keep everyone happy?

2. Pick a great concept
 
 The Theme of this years conference is ‘Learn how to build a category leading B2B SaaS Business’.

We always new that the speaker sessions would have to reflect this. As we got to the point of focusing on the agenda, I read a great and timely post by Preston Clark, CRO at Lawroom ‘How to build a User Conference (SaaS Edition). Preston gave us 21 great tips to hacking a user conference. Whilst SaaStock is not a User conference, as we are not a vendor, although we are a product, there was one great tip that hit home with me. ‘You’ll want the day to run together like chapters in a book.
 
 Lightbulb moment. 
 
 Let’s have one speaker track running through the Playbook to building a category leading B2B SaaS Business with each session a chapter in the playbook. 
 
 And let’s go tactical for the other speaker track. Have our Operators, the folks in the trenches, deliver awesome tactical sessions based on the 3 pillars of Land, Expand and Retain. 
 
3. Seek help from the experts

Sure it’s possible to do everything yourself. It’s possible and often the case to have a dedicated person that’s curating a conference agenda. I had some ideas both good and bad, but it’s hard to vet which is which unless you ask the right people. And we had access to the right people, so why not leverage that?
 
 We had meetings with Conor Stanley at Tribal.v.c and Stephen Millard at Notion Capital to explain the concept and speaker placement rationale. Their expert feedback and input separated the wheat from the chaff and got the agenda to 90% completion.
 
 The final input came from the speakers themselves submitting title talks and collaborating on what fitted best to the concept.
 
 Speakers +Concept+Partners = Agenda

Introducing The Playbook Stage

Expect to see see Des Traynor, Co-Founder of Intercom, give the opening keynote of the inaugural SaaStock, with a brand new talk entitled ‘Product First Companies’
 
Watch Peter Reinhardt, CEO of Segment follow Des telling the audience why most startups fail and talking about ‘Finding product market fit’
 
Be there when Patrick Campbell, CEO of Price Intelligently, gives a talk about ‘Lessons from seeing inside 2000 SaaS companies’. No Fluff. Leveraging data and experience, Patrick will go through key growth and churn metrics, including benchmarks that are actually usable. The keys to understanding your buyer personas and how to monetize them. The type of revenue models seeing sustainable growth and how to implement them. Takeaways from that session delivers ROI on the price of the admission ticket 10 X (in our humble, clearly non biased. opinion)

See full Playbook Stage agenda here

The Operator Stage

Land, Expand and Retain Guys!

Bastian Janmaat, CEO of Datafox will tell you ‘How to build an outbound sales process in 60 days’. Datafox waited way too long to build an outbound Sales process, relying on inbound leads, when what they really needed to do was take control of their pipeline generation through targeted outbound prospecting. Bastiaan will tell you how to build the outbound sales process and get immediate impact.
 
 Dont F*ck up: Scaling to the US — Hear about why, when and mostly how Mathilde Collin CEO of Front and Nicolas Dessainge CEO of Algolia scaled their SaaS to the US, when they speak to Will Prendergast, Partner at Frontline Ventures.
 
 5 Key Moves that got a $Billion dollar exit — A fireside chat with Siraj Khaliq, Co-Founder of The Climate corporation and now investment Partner at Atomico, about the business strategies that took his software startup to an acquisition by Monsanto for $1 Billion.
 
 See full Operator stage agenda here

In Conclusion

Organising a conference is tough. Curating a conference agenda/programme has got to be one of the most complex tasks in the conference organisational task list.

We’ve published our first agenda, with help from our friends and we’re mightily pleased with it and hope that you will be too.
 
 We hope you like the product we’re building. You can use it on the 22nd September at the RDS in Dublin. By using our product you will

  • Get the playbook
  • Grow your business
  • Connect with investors
  • Increase your pipeline
  • Make lifelong business relationships
  • Have great craic (fun for the non Irish)

And

See you in Dublin on 22nd September. Early Bird Ticket Sale ends 18th May at 1pm BST. Book your ticket now

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