It was the height of the conference season in Berlin a few weeks ago, with CSSconf EU and JSConf EU happening back to back. At Neighbourhoodie we’re not only participating with our own booth, but our CEOs Simone & Jan are also part of the organising team of JSConf EU and worked tirelessly for the last nine months to help make the weekend a phenomenal success for all attendees, speakers and sponsors.
For our booth, we wanted to do something special: instead of just handing out some random form of company merch, we decided to let people make their own. We set up a table where we’d teach people simple embroidery and let them make whatever they wanted.
Neighbourhoodie is a company that does a lot of seemlingly disparate things, but there are a few guiding principles that we can trace through all the work we do, including what we wanted our conference booth to feel like and to the goodies we’d want to hand out there.
In the running up to the conferences, we’ve had lengthy discussions about swag, merch and goodies for our conference booths. We’ve always wanted to give people something that’s engaging, fun, and not just another piece of textile or plastic that gets dumped in a drawer or thrown away outright.
By the way, here’s what we usually do all day:
- Offline First Consulting & Development
- General Web Development Services
- CouchDB Support & Services
- Building developer tools like Greenkeeper
- Organising JSConf EU and CSSConf EU
If you are interested in any of the above and like the way we work, or just want to chat, you can get in touch, we’re always happy to talk about our work.
T-Shirts are problematic because you need to provide a lot of different sizes (which is why quite a few other companies have pivoted to socks). Bags are great, but the conferences themselves were already providing bags, so those were out too.
In keeping with the theme of our product, Greenkeeper, we discussed plants (difficult to transport), seed packets or seedbombs (difficult to brand) and all sorts of other options, until Julia and Jacoba came up with the idea of letting people make their own conference souvenirs.
We wanted the lowest possible bar to participation, and so we also decided that we’d provide templates people could trace directly onto the fabric, and small zines that explained some basic stitching patterns.
Unsure whether to go with crocheting or embroidery, we spent a Friday afternoon user testing (where we were the users) the two options in our office, and settled on embroidery, with it not only being simpler and faster to teach, but also much easier to do with no experience. We wanted the lowest possible bar to participation, and so we also decided that we’d provide templates people could trace directly onto the fabric, and small zines (h/t @malweene) that explained some basic stitching patterns.
To cut a long
threadstory short, the whole idea was extremely well received over the three conference days. We started with a table and six chairs, eventually adding a bench, and at some point, there were ten people embroidering in parallel at the booth, with another handful having taken their embroidery hoops to the talks.
All in all, it was a beautiful, communicative and friendly communal experience, with fun results and a whole lot of supportive creativity.
We on-boarded dozens of people and taught them the basic rudiments of embroidery, but in the unsupervised moments, the table became a self-sustaining system, its existing members naturally welcoming and teaching the next round of participants. All in all, it was a beautiful, communicative and friendly communal experience, with fun results and a whole lot of supportive creativity:
As for logistics, everything needed for this had to fit into two small boxes, and procuring the materials was a mixture of a single online order and going down the street to the knitting shop. The up-front cost was comparatively low, nothing needed to be customised, nothing became obsolete or useless after the event, and the whole activity generated only a few handfuls of waste. What’s left takes up very little space in our office, doesn’t go bad or out of date and can be reused whenever we feel like it.
More importantly, we had a great time with everyone at our booth and made a lot of people happy. When representing what our company does, we weren’t just concerned with showing what we work on, but also how we do it: open and welcoming, easily accessible, well documented, communal and friendly. We had a number of inquiries about our CouchDB support contracts or Offline First workshops, and of course the JS-Community favourite Greenkeeper, but we also made a good impression for a lot more people and showed everyone what kind of company we are.
So: Thanks to everyone who came and embroidered things with us, additional thanks to those of you that took the time to teach others, and huge extra thanks to the Neighbourhoodies Julia and Jacoba, who came up with the idea, made zines, templates and prepared examples, and generally organised the whole activity from start to finish.
If you are running an event and would like to get help with creating as welcoming and inclusive an environment as CSSconf EU and JSConf EU have been, or if you like any of the things you’ve seen for producing an engaging booth experience, we are happy to help with our expertise.
We’d also like to thank Carolina Buzio, the illustrator who came up with the logo owl for our new product, Opservatory, a monitoring and diagnostics solution for CouchDB.
If you are running an event and would like to get help with creating as welcoming and inclusive an environment as CSSconf EU and JSConf EU have been, or if you like any of the things you’ve seen for producing an engaging booth experience, we are happy to help with our expertise. Of course please also feel free to contact us as well for more information on our products, workshops on CouchDB and Offline First. We look forward to hear from you and assist you with your projects:
We’ll leave you with some more photos from CSSconf EU and JSConf EU 2019 👋
Sources: The header image is from a Sophie Koonin tweet, all photos in embedded tweets are the responsibility of their respective posters, and all other photographs were taken by Neighbourhoodie employees.