10 Ways to Make the Most of a Conference

Conferences provide a great opportunity to learn, connect and grow your career. But making the most of every moment requires some quick preparation. Even if you’re a “fly by the seat of your pants” kind of person, knowing you’ve made the most of a conference will create a more memorable experience and ensure that you’re getting the most out of your investment.


Here are 10 tips to help you maximize your experience.


1. Plan ahead
With so many things happening during the span of a conference, you’ll want to have a rough plan of attack so you don’t miss a thing. Review the conference schedule, including sessions, screenings, showcases and networking events, and make a tentative list of the events you want to attend.


2. Bring business cards
Business cards aren’t just for young professionals that work in cubicles. You’ll need a way to stay in touch with everyone you meet at the conference. They don’t need to be fancy. Just make sure they include your name, email, phone and website.


3. Practice your elevator speech
During the entire conference, you will constantly be answering the question, “What do you do?” Be ready to answer that question smoothly and succinctly.


4. Take notes
There’s going to be a ton of quality resources and good advice that you will want to remember. Don’t be left in the dark after the conference ends. Take notes! Bring a notepad and pen, or tech-up with a tablet.


5. Start up conversations with strangers
You never know who is sitting next to you. Before sessions begin, strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you. Need a good opening line? Ask, “What session are you coming from?” Then, be sure to ask what they do and exchange business cards.


6. Talk to panelists
The best time to meet panelists and exchange business cards is after each session is complete. Walk up and make a comment about something they said during the session, or thank them for taking time to participate in the conference. Let them know what you do (i.e. it’s time for that elevator speech), and ask if you can get in touch in the future.


7. Connect with attendees and speakers via social media
In the digital age, networking doesn’t have to begin and end at the conference. Find and follow the speakers on Twitter or Facebook (if they have a public profile) before the event to learn more about them, and add your new contacts to your “digital rolodex” after the event by connecting with them via LinkedIn.


8. Follow the conference hashtag
Follow the conference hashtag to stay in the know about important news and updates, track other sessions, and contribute to the conversation.


9. Make use of your downtime
Take time between sessions and events to network with the other attendees, blog about a topic that inspired you, or take a quick walk to get some fresh air and see the city.


10. Follow up after the event
Follow up with any key contacts you make after the event, even if it’s just a short “It was nice to meet you” message. LinkedIn or email is a natural way to follow up after meeting someone at a conference.

Women-Owned Businesses in Iowa: We Can Do It!

This weekend I’m speaking at Drake University’s Startup Boot Camp for Women – workshops designed to help women-owned businesses get off the ground. This spurred me to start thinking about Iowa’s lack of growth in women-owned businesses.

Did you know Iowa ranks extremely low in the growth of women-owned businesses? 49th to be exact. We’ve only grown 23.4% in the past 16 years compared to the national increase of 59.1%. – 2013 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report

Another study concluded that young women in Iowa consistently perform in the top percentage of students at area high schools and our three public universities, but that success isn’t translating into “positions of peak earning power and leadership.” – 2012 Nexus Index

This is why programs like Drake’s Startup Boot Camp for Women are so important. As, I said in a recent Juice article about the workshop…

“Being a woman does not limit your potential for being a business owner at all.”

Do your part. Support women-owned businesses and encourage the women around you to take the leap. It’s worth it.

New On Pitch Team Member: Andy Cusack

Hey everybody. I’m Andy Cusack, and as of today, I’m joining forces with the immovable object that is On Pitch! I was most recently a senior art director at The Integer Group, where I worked with such clients as Pella Windows & Doors, Shell, and Michelin (among many others) — creating print and web based designs and contributing to the strategic execution of said design.

Before that, I was a graphic designer for Principal Global Investors (a division of The Principal Financial Group) within its in-house marketing team. I got really good at creating fact sheets there.

But I don’t merely make things look pretty. I’m passionate about music and the music scene in Des Moines. I once maintained a music blog for Juice — from the site’s launch in 2005 until mid 2008.

You may have stumbled across a music podcast/blog called We Hate Music. This cool guy Ryan Peterson and I started and ran it together for two years beginning in 2010. One dark day, some punk kid hacker wiped out our site, and we unfortunately were never able to get it back up and running. We didn’t fret about it too much, though, because we knew there were some truly excellent local outlets like Band Bombshell, DSMVibe, des noise, the trusty Joe Lawler Juice music blog (and many, many others) that were more than capable of carrying the torch.

I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to assist some DMMC folks in booking for 80/35 from its first year on, and that is still something I LOVE doing and look forward to every year. I mean … 80/35 is easily the best couple days/nights in Des Moines, amiright?

I even got to partner with Jill Haverkamp (of On Pitch fame) to plan, book, promote and run the inaugural mini music fest Shoot The Chutes this past August.

Other than that, I play (poorly) or have played in a few local bands you’ve never heard of. It’s always extremely invigorating to perform on stage in front of an audience — especially when you get to share that stage with other awesome local (or touring!) bands. I’m not ashamed to say that I heart The Vaudeville Mews.

Like seemingly half of Des Moines, I grew up in the Chicago area. At least I’m being honest with you with my inclusion of the word, “area.” I’m certainly from closer to the city than Naperville … but I couldn’t in good conscience tell you that I’m, “from Chicago.” But even in my travels and in the two years of my detour to Denver — okay, the Denver area — I have never put ketchup on a hot dog.

So how did I get from Chicago (area) to Denver (area) to (actual) Des Moines? I went to Drake University, that’s how. I studied graphic design (with a marketing minor!) there, and I’ve stuck around ever since. I kind of like it here, Des Moines.

Here is a sneak peek at the scribbles from my first creative contributions on my first day “at the office”:

Looking forward to making great things happen with On Pitch!

I’m on the Internet!
Twitter (Fair warning: I mostly tweet about baseball and football)
Poorly maintained blog

It's Happening: Shoot The Chutes.

Taking an idea from concept to reality is a rewarding feeling. Andy Cusack (Integer by day, 80/35 booking team by night) and I have been talking about doing a mini-music festival for a couple of years now. It feels good to have it in motion.
We launch this little festival seed on August 24th and look forward to making it grow and evolve for years to come. I hope to see many of you at the inaugural year of Shoot The Chutes. Take a moment to learn more about the festival at

Des Moines Register Feature on Jill and On Pitch

A special thanks to The Des Moines Register and Todd Ezren for the article about On Pitch, picking DSM over LA, and my career path. I’d also like to thank all of our clients over the years and of course, Hillary Brown and Zoey Miller for making On Pitch a success. Another special thank you to Amedeo Rossi and Zachary Mannheimer for their very kind words in the article. I’m very fortunate to work with these gentleman that are reshaping Des Moines. Read the feature and watch the video.

SXSW at a glance

The music side of things at SXSW sometimes receives a bad rep. Sure, there’s more free Tito’s and Taco Bell afoot than is decent, but there’s some seriously awesome knowledge being thrown around the Austin Convention Center between 11am-6pm. Between working for On Pitch as a marketing guru since 2011 and staring my own farm festival this year, SXSW proved an amazing space for me to alter my conceptions about branding, social media marketing and the music industry itself. Below I’ve transcribed some of my SXSW panel experiences, highlighting key points from industry experts who have insight into what we’re doing right and what we need to work on as the industry continues to grow.

The NYTimes ran an article back in February citing the first increase in global sales for the music industry since 1999, and that energy was alive this year at SXSW. Between the new reign of Spotify and the rise of digital sales all around, the music industry is in good shape for the foreseeable future.

Here’s why:

1) The Buyer and the Beat: Music Fans Could Spend Up to $2.6B Annually (if we pave the way and create content they want)

Nielsen, a leader in consumer-spending studies globally, sparked a great discussion in their panel “The Buyer and The Beat: The Music Fan and How to Reach Them” about how to get music fans to spend more money and what kind of content consumers are craving.

Key points:

  • For music, digital consumption is at an all-time high. In 2012, 1.3 billion digital tracks were sold, 37 billion music streams occurred and 161 million radio tracks were spun (the format that still exists as the #1 tool for music discovery for Americans).
  • The main spending comes from three kinds of fans: 1) The Aficionado Fan – likes indie, buys music in the form of concert tickets, artist merchandise and online streaming services, spends about $400 a year on music. 2) The Digital Fan – searches for trends, active on social networks, likely to listen through Youtube, spends about $300 a year on music. 3) The Big Box Fan – emotionally connected with music, especially pop and country, likely to buy in-store or via Walmart, largely influenced by deals and sale prices, spends about $200 a year on music.
  • Fans want content, and fans are different than consumers. Consumers maybe listen to Pandora once in awhile or check out the occasional concert, but fans want to become a part of the artists’ creative process and want a personal relationship with the product they’re buying.
  • Crowd-funding projects like PledgeMusic work because fans want exclusive content. It’s the basic principle of “give something, get something.”
  • Ideas for your artist or brand: signed CDs, signed vinyl, pre-order/exclusive access to album, liner notes, videos from inside the recording studio, streaming concerts online more frequently… the potential for further engagement is limitless.

2) Spotify: The streaming service that launched in 2006 is finally gaining the mainstream attention it deserves. Spotify is making it easy to legally consume media.

Spotify CEO & Founder Daniel Ek and Forbes Associate Editor Steven Bertoni talking about the future of music at SXSW 2013.

Spotify figured it out. Daniel Ek, founder and CEO, has dedicated the past six years to giving consumers a cheap, easy way to consume content, providing a convenient, important alternative to music piracy. In the panel, “Forbes 30 Under 30: Meet Spotify’s Daniel Ek,” we heard the ins and outs of Spotify from the man himself. Oh and also, if you haven’t yet, try the month of free premium. You’ll never turn back.

Key points:

  • We live in an age where the value of true artistry is being challenged. Ek feels as though true creative genius can still shine through in an age where everyone (your next-door neighbor, your little brother, your boss) can be a DJ or a photographer. Technology is only making creativity more accessible to the Average Joe, but that isn’t a bad thing. It helps true creativity shine.
  • Spotify’s chief objectives are notable and noble: 1) They strive to get everyone on the face of the planet more music. 2) They want to create a stronger music eco-system where artists can make a decent living.
  • Most music consumers and people aren’t inherently stealthy. Not many fans go out and think “Oh man, I’d love to steal stuff off the internet today.” Often times torrenting or downloading an illegal zip is faster and more accessible than logging into something like iTunes or Amazon, so consumers take the shortcut and resort to piracy because it’s simpler. Spotify offers a legal counter to that problem by offering free on-demand streaming.
  • 1/2 billion people are listening to music online, 6 million people are paying to use Spotify, 30-35 million people are iTunes users.
  • The goal of Spotify shouldn’t be to convert all 25 million Spotify users to paid members. The goal should be to convert 1.5 billion using piracy services to listen legally.
  • Ek also shared some pretty cool stories about being handed a guitar at age 4 and a computer at age 5. The rest is history.

3) Girls & Tech: As technology is becoming more and more accessible to a younger demographic, a new generation of taste-makers and marketers are cropping up organically.

Think about the young girls in your life. They are on Twitter, they are on Tumblr, they are on Instagram. These girls love music with an intense passion. They push out content about these passions on their social media platforms, which are all at their fingertips. The panel, “Girls and Tech: Why Young Women Rule in Music,” explained a little more about this phenomena and what it means for the industry.

Key points:

  • As brand experts, marketers and the like, we need to start taking young girls more seriously because they have market-influence on primary social media platforms.
  • Girls themselves are becoming excellent content creators. They are marketing inherently with their passion and constant output of content. They’re not even trying, but they’re doing an awesome job.
  • How can you use this demographic to your advantage while still holding them to a high regard? Give them exclusive access to an event. Let them take photos and make gifs. Do a Twitter contest and let them in the photo pit for the first three songs. For the right artist, it could be amazing.
  • Community managers must use an authentic, passionate voice to connect with this specific audience. Find out where these girls are and how they relate to your brand, but don’t fake it. Be authentic and passionate, and rise to meet them on their level.

4) Music Festivals: There’s a new eco-system of music festivals in America, which provides a great revenue potential for the industry (if we attune ourselves to the demands our markets and cultivate a unique brand experience).

What makes your event special? Are you charting your sales effectively? Do you know how your attendees are herding and moving in and out during your event? At “Music Festivals: The Real Deal from the Experts,” some insight was given into these pertinent questions.

Key points:

  • RFID technology can be extremely useful and could be worth way more than the money you’ll save on barcodes with its potential for data. It’s essentially just a chip in the wristband (you’ve seen them at Bonnaroo, Coachella and other major festivals), but there’s a wide variety of benefits. 1) They’re hard to rip off or duplicate. 2) As a festival organizer, you can add information onto the chip, so you know exactly where the wristband has been and how it may have fallen into someone’s hands or why difficulties may be arising with a particular band. 3) You can attain data, which applies to staffing, security and police (among other areas), which is another place to find cost savings. Too expensive? Have a sponsor underwrite that specific line item and enjoy the benefits of increased data.
  • Marketing for festival starts with a brand, idea, feel. The schedule comes next. Then announcements, news items and general hype-building.
  • Fan experience and safety should always be the number one priority of a festival organizer. Bottom line.
  • Work toward attaining partnerships with businesses and people who will personally invest in your project. Don’t settle for traditional marketing strategies. Let people spread the word rather than lifeless newsprint pages (which seems to be true, at least for some festival demographics).
  • Make attainable goals and set milestones for yourself to make sure you’re on track. Keep organized in something like Google Drive and keep track of all your media releases and blasts so you can coordinate with sales later.
  • Stay true to yourself. If you’re a small festival with huge success, don’t jump the gun and up your capacity by 10,000. Fans probably like the experience they had for a reason, and you don’t need to be huge to make more money. Up your ticket prices instead, up the quality of your experience. An example given: Prada. Prada built a brand of exclusivity and their products are worth a lot because not every bag or product is mass-produced. Ponder the idea of a boutique festival with that mentality and go from there. If that’s not your thing, figure out what exactly is.
  • Festivals are more than just bands on a stage. It’s about the experience you’re creating. Create something worthwhile.

Zoey Miller has been working for On Pitch since the summer of 2011. Active in the Iowa music scene, Zoey acts as Director of Marketing for SCOPE Productions, the University of Iowa’s independent concert promotion and production organization, and has been a marketing volunteer for 80/35 for the past two years.

Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!

Marketing Internship Opportunity: Spring/Summer

If you’re a college student with a passion for marketing in the entertainment industry, apply for an internship with us! On Pitch interns assist on marketing and public relations projects for music festivals, theater productions, arts & culture non-profits, music venues, bands, and small businesses. This includes fun stuff like:
  • Press and blogger outreach
  • Promotional campaign support
  • Street team management
  • Creative brainstorming sessions
  • Research projects
  • Online marketing efforts
  • Event planning
  • Writing assignments (press releases, blog posts, e-newsletters, web content)
  • Social media pushes

The perfect candidates will posses the below qualities. Apply if this sounds like you:

  • Some marketing internship experience under your belt
  • Marketing, communications, public relations, or advertising majors preferred
  • Writing and communications superstar
  • Proactive, energetic go-getter
  • Passionate about music and entertainment
  • Fan of process and organization
  • Very detailed oriented (at the brink of being annoying to friends)
  • Not afraid to ask questions – we want you to learn!
  • Ability to work independently
  • Personable and social – we want to enjoy talking to you!

We’re looking for an intern to start in February/March and continue until July/August, but we can be flexible on start and end dates. Please send your resume to We look forward to hearing from you!


Music Blogging – Des Moines Style

Music fans across Des Moines are taking notice of our burgeoning music community. Many of them are helping push our scene to the next level by blogging about it.

We absolutely love how many bloggers in Des Moines are covering music. We encourage all of you to follow and support these blogs and thank them for chronicling what’s happening here in Iowa’s capital city.

DSM Band Bombshell

Iowa Music Buzz

Iowaves Music Blog


Greater Des Moines Music Coalition

Des Moines is NOT Boring

Central Iowa Music Scene Examiner

The Lonely Note

des noise


Joe’s Music Blog (Metromix)

Did we miss one? Let us know by commenting below!

DSM Magazine feature on 80/35, On Pitch, DMMC, and Poison Control Center

A special thanks to DSM Magazine, Chad Taylor (writer), and Dan McClanahan (photographer) for the “Music Makers” feature on 80/35, On Pitch, Greater Des Moines Music Coalition, and The Poison Control Center!

Music Makers

If you’ve lived in Des Moines during the past five years and have somehow managed to completely avoid the 80/35 music festival, I don’t even know what to do with you. 80/35 (July 6–7 at Western Gateway Park) has quickly built a national reputation, drawing acts from across the country, and has helped put the capital city on the musical map. Read more.

Read more about the awesome portraits Dan created for the article in this blog post.

Meet the On Pitch Summer Intern: Mary-Kate Burkert

Hello! My name is Mary-Kate Burkert, and I am the newest member of the On Pitch team. I am a Des Moines native currently attending Iowa State University and working towards a journalism and mass communication major with an emphasis in public relations and an event management minor. I am eager to use my experiences and knowledge to increase musical awareness in the 515 area.

My passion for the PR field really took off my freshman year of college and has amplified ever since. I dove into both on and off-campus leadership roles pertaining to my academic interests. I have thoroughly enjoyed being on Dance Marathon’s public relations committee and being PR executive chair for both Blood Drive 2012 and Homecoming Central. I have gained experience working solo and with a team as a student ambassador for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and as a news reporter for the Iowa State Daily. I give credit to the Greek Relations Executive Council for strengthening my writing abilities with our monthly publication of Letters-a magazine, intended to update the entire Greek community at Iowa State.

Looking to the future, I hope my experiences this summer with On Pitch will enhance my confidence in carrying out any and all public relations, marketing and social media assignments necessary to guarantee success. I am looking forward to benefitting the city I hold closest to my heart and am excited to learn about the ever-evolving music scene. Soaking up wisdom from Jill and Hillary will definitely make for a fun-filled and educational summer!

Feel free to connect with me on social media (I love meeting new people):

Twitter: @marykateburkert
Facebook: mary-kate burkert