Case Study

How Unrig Summit Reforms American Democracy — One Registration at a Time

RepresentUs has been bringing people from different parts of the political spectrum together for years.

In 2017, RepresentUs co-founder Josh Silver decided to take the organization’s mission further by hosting an event that would literally bring liberals and conservatives together. That idea became the Unrig Summit, a three-day conference offering training, workshops, panels and live entertainment to activists, grassroots organizers, and practitioners who want to reform — or “unrig” — the government.

The original Unrig Summit took place in February 2018 in New Orleans, drawing 1,500 attendees. The first year was a resounding success, with participants writing laws to end gerrymandering in their home states and helping to restore the vote to citizens in Florida.

“There's a lot of organizations in our field, but those organizations had not convened,” says RepresentUs Executive Administrator Stephanie Slysz. And while they believed in the power of a live gathering to effect change, they soon realized what a challenge it was.

The Challenge: Managing complex registrations with a skeleton staff

The Unrig Summit is a big, complex event with a very small staff. Going into the 2018 summit, for example, the Unrig Summit didn’t have its own team. Instead, the event was staffed by employees borrowed from RepresentUs. (Going into its second year, Unrig had one full-time employee.)

“When we started, we literally were building the airplane while we were flying it,” says Slysz.

Most of the time, says Slysz, there were fewer than 10 people working on the conference in any capacity. With such a small staff, Slysz knew their ticketing platform needed to be easy to use — but also adaptable to their large and diverse audience. What’s more, they wanted to partner with a brand their passionate attendees would trust.

As Slysz researched ticketing platforms, she had these goals in mind:

  • 1. Find a partner to help build a trusted event brand
  • 2. Adopt a ticketing solution that could keep up with the event’s growth
  • 3. Offer a mobile event app that would allow Unrig to go paperless

By the numbers

  • 1830

    Attendees to Unrig Summit 2019

  • 71%

    of attendees adopted the Unrig event app

  • 200+

    leaders and speakers

Building the Unrig brand with a trusted partner

When RepresentUs began researching ticketing platforms, they found two that met their needs — but Eventbrite stood out because its platform allows organizations to control their branding. This was particularly important because the organizers wanted Unrig — which they see as a movement as well as an event — to have its own branding, separate from RepresentUs.

“That was important,” said Slysz. “We wanted to bring the groups together and let them take ownership, because it's about the movement coming together to make change, not RepresentUs as a singular organization. We believe in the power of connecting and convening”.

Eventbrite is also a trusted ticketing brand, which was important for both attendees and staffers. Unrig wanted its customers to feel confident about buying tickets online safely and securely.

“We wanted to use something that was reputable. If you're asking people to buy something online, you want to make sure it's a company people can trust or may be familiar with. Eventbrite is seen as a trusted vendor.”

— Stephanie Slysz, executive administrator for RepresentUs

Photos by Misty Pelican Photography

Fueling growth with a powerful ticketing platform

As Unrig moved into 2019, the event become even more complex. Attendee feedback differed greatly — some who attended the 2018 summit wanted more panelist discussions, while a growing majority wanted the event to incorporate skill-building and networking opportunities.

“There were people who had little to no knowledge of the field, but really wanted to change the system. They needed a lot of skill-building. So we increased our programming to accommodate attendee’s feedback,” says Mei Seva, a multimedia producer with RepresentUs who worked on Unrig. “The other tracks relating to networking and learning about the issues was for practitioners at non-profits who are doing this work on a higher level, and academics who are doing the research interested in sharing with and learning from one another.”

Using Eventbrite’s flexible ticketing solution, Unrig could easily give summit attendees exactly what they wanted. For example, those interested in attending Unrigged Live! — an inspiring evening of live music, stand-up comedy, and hosted by actors Jennifer Lawrence and Ed Helms — could purchase a ticket separate from the summit.

They were also able to offer discounted tickets to speakers and special guests that were hidden from the public.

"The great thing about Eventbrite is it's constantly adding more new features,” says Slysz. “By the time we were ready to start selling tickets for our second year, the app was available and it just reinforced our reasoning for why we wanted to use Eventbrite.”

Engaging attendees with an improved event app

One of the new features Unrig used in 2019 was Eventbrite’s mobile event app for attendees, which was developed in partnership with Entegy.

Compared to the app vendor they used the previous year, Eventbrite’s app offered more features and customization — all for the same price. “We mainly relied on the app for our programming, and communicating to our attendees, as we didn't really print that many schedules,” says Seva. “Going digital with accurate information updated in real time was a big plus for us.”

Another plus for Seva and her team was how much attendees embraced the new mobile event app. On average, events can expect 48.5% of attendees to download their event app. But according to Seva, 71% of Unrig’s 1,830 attendees downloaded the Eventbrite app.

"Eventbrite is constantly adding more new features. It just reinforced why we wanted to use Eventbrite.”

— Stephanie Slysz, executive administrator for RepresentUs

Photos by Misty Pelican Photography

Making change at the next Unrig Summit

RepresentUs originally planned to hold the Unrig Summit just once every other year, but the success of the first summit in New Orleans changed that. Thanks to increased demand, the 2019 Unrig Summit in Nashville went on to draw over 2,000 attendees from all 50 states.

Slysz says Unrig’s success wouldn’t be possible without Eventbrite. “They take the hassle out of refunds, streamline the ticketing process, and provide customer support,” she says. “It was like we had a whole mini-team of people supporting us.”

With their resources free to focus on the event, satisfied attendees are eager for the next Unrig Summit. “The feedback was so phenomenal. It really united the movement and we felt the need to do it again this year,” says Slysz.

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