Marketing LISA ’10

This post is also available on the Usenix blog at

You may recall that I’ve been selected to the Blog Team for the Large Installation System Administration (LISA) conference taking place in San Jose in November. As part of my pre-conference duties, I interviewed Anne Dickison, the Director of Marketing for the USENIX Association. As Director of Marketing, much of Anne’s work involves promoting this large annual event. With less than two months left until LISA ’10, Anne and her team have already been hard at work for several months, getting the word out and enlisting the aid of others (including the Blog Team). LISA ’10 work began shortly after LISA ’09 ended, with the Call for Papers. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to spread the word about large events.

The rise of social media has changed the lives of all marketers. Anne says she relies “heavily on social networking to get the word out.” With a small budget, “barter agreements and word-of-mouth” are invaluable to promoting LISA. Twitter and Facebook have shown themselves to be excellent tools for spreading LISA news, as well as giving attendees a chance to interact with each other before, during, and after the conference.

Last year’s introduction of the blog program was so beneficial that it has been expanded into a “full-fledged team”, and this year there’s a new feature in store. For the first time ever, LISA will have a chat and on-site interviews. Few details are available right now, but Anne said “I think it will be extremely helpful in showcasing the benefits of attending a LISA conference.”

There are many benefits for LISA attendees. A wide variety of technical sessions, training, and vendor exhibits are scheduled, but perhaps the most beneficial events are more informal. Birds of a Feather (BoF) sessions and various activities provide opportunities to cultivate relationships that can be a source of personal and professional interactions long after the conference has wrapped up. Anne says “we try to make it as easy as possible for people to interact, [and] set up systems so that the discussions started at LISA can continue long after the conference, via mediums such as the sage-members mailing list or the Facebook page.”

With such a large amount of effort put into making LISA successful, the payoff is personal for Anne Dickison: “My favorite part of LISA marketing is hearing really positive feedback from a first-time attendee. It’s great to watch new people who’ve never heard of us discover how much fun they can have and information they can learn by attending the conference.” The uniqueness of LISA also allows more creativity than is sometimes permissible in traditional marketing. “It’s probably the most fun event we do,” Anne told me. “I have more leeway in doing fun things like the adventure theme of this year or the puzzle theme of ’05.”

Registration is still open at Many discounts are available, including for hotel and airfare. Discounted is registration is also available to those who register online by October 18.

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