What should you bring to an event where you are setting up a booth? Read on for our journey to an emergency kit of supplies for our DevOpsDays events.

Why DevOpsDays?

We developed and architected our product design with significant input from a handful of site reliability engineers (SREs). With their help, we coalesced into a focused feature set that we thought would help relieve pain around mitigating production incidents. However, to truly validate our design, we needed to broaden our SRE interviews to as many SREs as we could find. Where do SREs go? DevOpsDays! So far we’ve sponsored three: NYC, Charlotte, and LA.

Each DevOpsDays has had a different ‘feel’, but all were filled with passionate people focused on the needs of their users and a deep level of professionalism. Participating in such a community was amazing. It was great to meet so many people that were willing to give us feedback on our designs.  Thank you to everyone that has contributed!

#Startuplife

Before DevOpsDays NYC, no one on our small team had ever run an event marketing campaign. We’ve all pulled booth duty, but the kaizenOps team had not planned and executed a booth at an event.

With a last minute banner order, a box of T-shirts, and a questionnaire; off the 4 of us went. It was a rousing success with fantastic interactions with people focused on improving the culture of DevOps.

Learnings

We learned many things from that first outing:

  • The Pain: We confirmed that considerable pain exists around the time it takes to validate and resolve production incidents. The time between your pager going off and mitigation is indeed stressful. Help at this time of crisis resonated with many of our interviewees. Most thought our proposed features would shave MTTR by at least 30%.
  • Capturing Data: We went old school and recorded our questions and answers using paper and a clipboard. This process worked incredibly well and reduced our largest technical failure to that of pens running out of ink.
  • Curious Minds: Asking questions about your product before you build it is popular with potential users. If you are trying to make sure you have market fit, these conversations save time and money.
  • Shirts for the average: Order proportionally more medium and large shirts for swag vs smalls!
  • Shirts for everyone: Make sure some shirts are cut to fit both women and men.

Most importantly, we learned we hadn’t planned well enough. After my second trip to Duane Reade, it was clear we needed an ‘event emergency kit.’

The emergency kit

When we returned from NYC, I started researching the best event emergency kits. Turns out, if you search ‘event emergency kit,’ you get blog posts mostly focused on weddings, which doesn’t exactly line up with tech conference marketer’s needs. But I persevered with my search and found a few useful resources. Also, because of the unique construction of our accelerator program, I was able to ping marketers from Freshtracks.io, Yipee.io, Waffle.io.

With all of that input, here’s the list I came up with:

  • Portable charger
  • Swiss army knife
  • Ibuprofen
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Business cards
  • Gum
  • Band-aids
  • Power strip
  • Extension cord
  • Pens
  • Sharpies
  • Business card holders
  • Scissors
  • Fishbowl (for business cards)
  • Double-sided tape
  • Flashlight
  • Glue
  • Measuring tape
  • Velcro
  • Flash drive with info to print
  • Camera
  • Notepad
  • Paperclips
  • Rubber bands
  • Throat lozenges

Contents of event emergency kit.

We put it in a box and shipped it off to DevOpsDays Charlotte. It was immediately useful to the team there. Even our Duct Tape swag came in useful.

Picture of kaizenOps.io branded duct tape covering cords on the floor
An emergency kit is not all you need. You should also have:

  • A Banner
  • A demo, an MVP, and engineers to talk to potential customers.
  • Swag (Surprise! – people like t-shirts)
  • A raffle prize – if you want

Edit: Joe Pelletier (@joepelletier) suggested that we didn’t have any headache meds on the list. We did! However, it did make me realise that we didn’t mention the handy medical/hikers kit that we did have. This one has a nice multitool in it too.

Did we forget anything? Drop me a line, and we’ll update the post.

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