I know my idea of building a new and better email-focused event was greeted with some skepticism. There were more than a few people asking, “Is this something that BrightWave wants to tackle during an important growth period?” and “Could this potentially take our eye off the ball?”
All valid points.
Some questioned if a (comparatively) niche event in our hometown of Atlanta could challenge the status quo at all. But we were not ever going to just do another email event. We knew what we were building needed to extend beyond a one-day experience if it was going to bring new energy, excitement and ideas to our beloved community.
2) Community was the driver – and people crave community
As the event concept built momentum, one common rallying point was “community” and we wanted to bring the email community together, not virtually or metaphorically but live and in the flesh. We also wanted to celebrate email’s continued power and performance as it thrives as the hub of all digital marketing.
The intelligent email gathering became our articulated vision and the driver for what we were building at a high level. We realized so many emerging (and even established) email marketers were seeking some kind of home, if only for a day. They didn’t want to feel isolated, fearing they didn’t have the right answer for every question or feeling “too new” to the space. The constant presence of sales reps at most industry events can’t help either. EiQ will be a home for email marketers of all levels going forward and an effective platform to connect and lean into the email world.
Not retreat from it.
3) People are hungry for new ideas. Big, bold and even bad.
The name EiQ certainly rifts on intelligence and we knew we had to build a smarter conference on every front. What we had heard and seen was people were tired of boring panels, the same old speakers and formats rehashing old or irrelevant topics. Most conferences were well-attended but low-energy networking fetes and very light on the learning.
We knew we would create new formats and what topics we would cover but we had to align them with compelling and dynamic speakers. I think we found the sweet spot on that. Seth Weisfeld from Pinterest, Tara Clark from Zillow, Laura Dostich from CarMax, Aaron Hartman of Staples, Eric Lepetit of Nest and our own Laura Sullivan represented a new breed of email star.
These folks and countless other email stars that spoke at EiQ were seasoned, battle-tested and opinionated about what were meaningful trends and how to connect strategic and tactical email ideas. We were lucky that they played important roles in our day’s content among the many other talented email stars that graced EiQ’s stage. And cool new formats like a 30×30 inspired by PechaKucha certainly did not hurt. I don’t think we had bad ideas, but we certainly saw bold ones and felt the camaraderie that sharing mishaps can create.
4) Failure Humanizes Us
This is hardly an email-centric feeling but I saw and heard people take deep breaths and sighs when they heard a few tales of emails behaving badly. Because they do. A lot. The notion that other people make mistakes in our business was important to hear and the kind of thing that binds a community.
I know the fact that some big brands with sophisticated programs admitted they were not perfect and even shared a few things that did not go as planned, let many of the marketers in the room know they don’t have to be perfect, especially in an imperfect channel like email.
5) Diversity Discussions Need a Stage
One of the things I am most proud of that EiQ accomplished was providing an unfiltered discussion curated by the Women of Email. It was everything I had hoped for: uniquely thought-provoking, a little uncomfortable and something-for-everyone. I don’t think it was possible that anyone walked away from this session without learning something or thinking a bit differently, if only for a few minutes.
This was the session we were the most hands off on. We let Jen Capstraw curate it as she saw fit because we knew for a first-time event to have a first-time session on something so important, it had to be 100% authentic and honest. It was incredibly well-received which helped make clear how many people were longing for a conversation like this – whether in private or public. Hopefully, this type of conversation continues in our industry.
6) Have Fun & Sweat the Details
Of course, the day wasn’t all work and no play. There was Live Email Jeopardy! with champagne, a killer down home Southern lunch, an Atlanta booth with some hometown goodies, #EmailGeeks on standby at all times, EiQ cupcakes, surprise magic shows, cornhole, custom #EmailGeeks cocktails, a Bluegrass band, unicorns, The New Inbox and BrightWave bubbly as giveaways, a barista making custom lattes and more.
And I didn’t even mention how we started the day with a bang. The South Atlanta High Drum Line elevated the energy right from the start and had the EiQ crowd ready for something different and special.
BrightWave steering committees, along with the Director of the Event, Michelle Walker, made sure no stone was unturned when it came to event day details. My simple vision was to make the attendee experience as good as the best inbox user experience, removing all of the things we hate about conferences and adding a whole lot of surprise and delight to the entire event. That helped us have fun during the planning process and (I am pretty sure) resulted in a more fun and relaxed environment conducive to learning, sharing war stories and making new friends.
Our goal was to create the best day in email and I think we are off to a great start (one tweet says mission accomplished). Now I’ll leave you to peruse EiQ Tweets that help paint the picture of EiQ. Until next year.
Simms Jenkins is our CEO, founder of EiQ and author of “The New Inbox” and “The Truth About Email Marketing.”