Ed Tech Start-ups, Please Don’t Do This At #ISTE2016

Dear Ed Tech Start-up Marketing Directors:

ISTE 2016 is just a couple of days away. Everyone who is going  is excited about it. Teachers and school administrators are excited to learn new things in workshops, see great presenters, learn about new tech, and connect with friends they’ve met online and or at previous conferences. ISTE’s Blogger Cafe and Social Media lounge is one of the places that conference attendees love to connect and share the exciting new things that they’ve learned during the conference. Unfortunately, over the last few years there has been a trend of ed tech start-ups who aren’t paying for booth space to use the Blogger Cafe and Social Media lounge to fling around flyers, stickers, and other marketing trinkets.

Littering a lounge with marketing trinkets is annoying, but it’s not nearly as annoying as the other trend I’ve noticed over the last few years. That trend is to send low level employees to the lounges to “pick the brains” of conference attendees who are just trying to connect with fellow educators in a relaxed environment. In other words, these ed tech start-ups are trying to conduct market research for free by taking advantage of the polite nature of most educators. Nothing will make a company representative seem more disingenuous than starting up a conversation with me and then when I ask “what do you do?” or “why are you at ISTE?” being given a sales pitch for a start-up. By the way, if you are going to give a pitch, please make sure you’re not making this mistake too.

Go ahead and wear your company’s tee shirts, sit in on presentations, and have pre-arranged meetings with bloggers and press members (Even the lowest level of ISTE vendor space/ sponsorship will give you access to the contact info for bloggers and press members with a reach of more than 100,000 readers, each). Just be respectful of why so many educators are in those lounges, it’s to connect with each other not to hear your sales pitch or have you “pick their brains” for your market research.

If you’re now wondering, “how do we connect with people at ISTE 2016 if we can’t bug them in the lounges?” here are a couple of low budget marketing strategies that I’ve seen work well. 1. Tweet a link to a very simple landing page that gives visitors a code for free coffee when they enter an email address. 2. Partnering with another small start-up or two to sponsor a fun evening activity that doesn’t involve drinking at a bar.

I hope my advice doesn’t foil your plans for ISTE 2016. If it does, I’ll make it up to you by letting you pick my brain during a pre-arranged fifteen minute meeting during the conference. Email me at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com to arrange that meeting.


Thank You Readers for 14 Amazing Years!