JavaScript Evangelism on a Budget


In my work as a developer and evangelist with PubNub, I'm tasked with figuring out how to best help developers use our product. My programming background is mostly JavaScript based (and I run the JS meetup in SF) so I do most of my work with other JavaScript developers, or devs who use JS frameworks such as Angular or Ember in their projects. After three months on the job, here's what I've learned:

Provide value to your attendees

Anybody can get up on stage and talk about their company's product. Make it your goal to provide value to the attendees separate from your company's value proposition. After your talk, if an attendee decides not to use your company's product, will they still get value out of your presentation? Find something outside your company that you are an expert at, and present on that.

Presenting at HTML5LA this month

Focus on community events

I find that traveling to speak to remote meetup groups is almost always worth the price of gas/airfare. Attendees tend to be engaged and interested in diverse topics, and many stay after the presentation to discuss specific points of your presentation. If your office space allows, host meetups. At PubNub, our goal is to host 70-120 meetups per year, nearly one every other weekday.

Hackathons: Work all night

If you're going to be sponsoring a hackathon, make sure you have the ability to have a presence there all night, if possible. Don't spend your time behind your sponsor table answering emails -- make a few circuits and ask each team how they're doing. At the beginning, teams need feedback on their idea and on how they can incorporate your company's tech. As the night goes on, many get stuck with tech problems, and having another person to bounce ideas off of can help.

This weekend, without knowing much in-depth about Angular, I was able to help two teams troubleshoot their Angular apps by asking questions, doing a quick bit of googling, and sharing some code snippets. Footnote: Don't underestimate how long this can take. It took me approximately 90 minutes to complete one circuit of the room, or about one minute per attendee. However, at the end of the hackathon, twelve out of seventeen eligible teams used PubNub in their product -- an astounding 76% -- including all the winners.

Travel inexpensively

Stay in hostels. In cities like London, hostels can cost one half to one tenth as much as hotels. Eschew restaurants and eat at supermarkets, where you can get fresh fruit and vegetables inexpensively. My favorite snack is a bag of carrots and a bottle of milk. If you are attending an event, take advantage of any free meals or coffee. Take public transport unless absolutely necessary. I try to keep my meal expenses to under US$20/day and my lodging under US$30/day.

Yes, for real.

Combine trips

This month, I'm traveling to London and Tel Aviv on subsequent weekends. By taking one trip, I was able to lower the airfare cost per city to $1,000, which is amazing from San Francisco in the summer. This usually requires at least 6-8 weeks of advance planning to make sure that you choose appropriate events to attend. While you're traveling, ask the sales team to connect you with local customers in cities you're visiting.

Don't travel at all

Some of our most effective evangelism work at PubNub doesn't involve travel at all -- it's all digital. Blog posts, tweets, tutorials, webinars, and even customer assistance can all be done from your office without incurring additional costs. It's also much easier to track sign-ups and revenue from digital content than from in-person events, and the ancillary logistics (e.g. catering and clean-up) are much less. Further, digital evangelism creates a long-tail effect that persists long after you create it, whereas in-person (or "meatspace") events tend to fall off much more quickly. (Sidenote: this is why you'll see many speakers asking for their talks at conferences to be recorded and posted on the conference site: it's a way to include a longtail, online trail in what would otherwise be a one-time event.)


Measure everything you do. Get email addresses of attendees and message them later asking if there's anything you could do to improve the presentation. Record your presentation, if possible, and post it on your company blog or review it yourself for tips to improve. Remember:

“If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”
-Jim Barksdale

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