Posts by Annie Lowney

Annie Lowney

Why WWDC Satellite Events Are Important for Apple and Its Fans

Every year Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) draws 5,000 (mainly) developers to California. It’s so popular that a ticket lottery has been created to facilitate demand after the 2013 edition sold out in two minutes.

Yet, even with what seems like low odds in securing a ticket and the less-than-modest price tag of $1,599 per ticket, neither deter people from making the annual pilgrimage to San Jose. The third-party conferences associated with WWDC are some of the reasons why people still go, but why?

“Not everyone can score a ticket to WWDC, some developers are experienced beyond what much of the sessions provide, and some work in relevant professions that are still adjacent to the community that Apple’s event draws.

"The satellite events help give more meaningful reasons for these people to make the annual pilgrimage to the bay area and help foster additional conversation beyond the walls of McEnery.”

So say Elaine and Jessie (pictured below), founders of Layers, an iOS/Mac design conference.

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Annie Lowney

Event Management Tools I Loved (and Hated) During Admission

I work at a company that likes to try new tools. Tools that promise to make your job easier.

I’ve worked in the tech industry for well over a decade now. During that time I’ve tried a lot of event and marketing software and services. I always tend to revert to pen and paper because it works for me. If that makes me a luddite then you better hide your iPhone because you're liable to see me coming at it with a hammer. For Admission I agreed to try some new and older services for our event management tools. Here’s what I made of them in order of most to least helpful:

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Annie Lowney

Hiring a Speaker 101: How I Curated the Admission Line-Up

When Maria approached me about writing a post on how I secured the speakers for Admission I looked at her blanky, “There’s no way I can get 500 words out of that.”

I thought, how can I write about something that feels very instinctive? We chatted about angles some more, which resulted in this piece. I hope that you get something from it. Feel free to reach out to me if you want me to expand on anything to do with hiring a speaker, or other event management advice.  

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Annie Lowney

Why Admission Downsized (And Why It Was a Good Thing)

Over the past five years or so it’s felt like everything has to be quantifiable to live. If the numbers don’t make sense, then you kill it. If you can’t prove your ROI, then why do you exist?

People whose motives are dictated by numbers and measurements are made uncomfortable by events. Events are expensive. You have to front load a lot of costs (the venue deposit is one example) before you even know whether your event will sell out. Basically, there’s a lot of risk. 

Admission started off with the goal of being a 200 person conference and, when ticket sales didn’t go the way we would’ve liked, we reduced it to 100. Then, when the sales were stubbornly erratic, we changed tack again. We downsized the venue and took the deposit hit.

In hindsight, it was always going to be a big ask to jump to a 200 person conference with our first marketing foray into the US market. In a lot of ways we went against our own ethos which is carefully considered growth. We were aiming for an explosion, and it didn’t work. Which is a good thing, as it allowed us to remember who we are and the brand direction that we want to go in.

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Annie Lowney

The Story Behind Our Conference Design Principles and Practices

We host a community event series called Úr, which is an Irish word for “fresh”.

It kicked off in spring 2018.  From the design point of view the key themes that Dearbhla, our designer, had to work with were “fresh” and “cocktails”. And, with a slick stretch of her imagination, this is the final design that she came up with and which Doc animated.

I mention Úr here to show the way I approach design direction when curating events. I look for key themes; usually the event’s name and the atmosphere I’m trying to create. Before the conference was christened “Admission” I got stuck on using another Irish name. I fell into that trap other organizers will be familiar with: sticking to what worked for the past event, even though the next project is very different.

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Annie Lowney

Why We've Decided to Host a Conference

I remember being with Jane Kwett, now with Patreon, several years ago in New York.

I’d just started a new role in marketing (with a heavy emphasis on events) and Jane was part of the company’s onboarding team. It was snowing and I was wearing a summer jacket. Jane was wearing a puffa jacket because that’s what you should wear in New York in February.

“Why are you wearing that jacket?” Jane ushered me inside to look at a venue.

“I didn’t realise it got this cold here.” Jane looked at me blankly as my eyelashes started to frost over.

“Yeah Annie… it gets real cold here. You’re not in Ireland anymore.”

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Annie Lowney

Overheard at the World's Most Disappointing Conference

- How was the conference?
- Do you really want to know?

- That bad, huh?
- My cortisol levels peaked in the queue* to register, and don’t get me started on the toilet queue.
- It was that long?
- It had the parameters of a small country with lots of hostile locals.
- Urgh.
- Then there was the swag bag… glossy sales brochures that everyone dumped in front of the sign that said, “We are a sustainable conference”.

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Annie Lowney

Free vs Paid Events | Lessons from Learn Inbound

A lot of event organisers avoid hosting free events. They treat them like the plague. This quote from our interview with Mark Breen sums up how a lot of people feel about them:

“Free events are a pain in the f**king hole. In the event industry, for loads of reasons, the worst type of event is a free, unticketed event."

"It has the potential to cause unknown problems, and you miss out on so much quality information because no one's registered.”


Mark Scully of Learn Inbound begs to differ. He believes that they have a lot of value if they are ticketed, “the benefit of a free event is even if the attendees are not 100% sure they're going to attend, they're still going to register their interest in it. Events like this are great for getting more broad brand awareness because people will openly pass it along to someone else. We did no form of paid advertising for our free events, none at all. We just listed it online and organically it was getting passed around to people.”

Free events allowed him to build his brand. For example he could grow a mailing list:

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Annie Lowney

New Innovations for Presentations: Tips from Prezi

We’ve all sat through tedious presentations. You know the ones. With slides in font 8 squeezed in for dear life?

Then there are the frightened, monotone presenters that unite with you in willing time to pass quickly so that you all can start on the snacks.

We have all given presentations. If you haven’t yet, you will. It’s inevitable. Not many people look forward to that experience. It’s kind of like conscription for the business world if you will; you have to do it or you could get in serious trouble. 

Csaba Faix is EMEA Communications lead for Prezi, “the innovative presentation software that uses motion, zoom, and spatial relationships to bring your ideas to life and make you a great presenter.” In a recent chat, he shared with us the science behind giving a great presentation:

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