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HubSpot brings conference back to Boston

Cambridge software company HubSpot held its annual "Inbound" conference in person again at the BCEC.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

Strolling through the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in perhaps the brightest orange suit on the planet, Robert Jones was hard to miss on Thursday.

Jones said he wanted to stand out while attending Inbound, the annual, three-day shindig of Cambridge marketing software company HubSpot. As sales director for RevPartners, which helps customers set up and use HubSpot’s software, the conference was a great place to meet prospective customers — and orange is HubSpot’s corporate brand color.

“We wanted to come to Inbound and be bombastic,” Jones said. “That is why I am the mayor of Inbound and am wearing the orange suit.”

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This was the first year since 2019 that HubSpot held its conference in person, after two years of pandemic-era, virtual incarnations. About 10,000 people attended this year’s event, the company said. As the tech industry adjusts, an increasing number of events are back in-person, including Apple’s iPhone debut this week. And the Boston TechJam is returning to in-person for its annual block party next week after a two-year absence.

“It’s invaluable being in person,” said Ken Armes, a recruiting manager with HubSearch in Hartford. “It’s super important. Not that virtual isn’t great as well, but in person is just a different beast and I’m loving it.”

HubSpot went all out decorating the convention center with gigantic lighted displays and corporate merchandise. The company also brought in high-profile speakers including actress Viola Davis, primate scientist and author Jane Goodall, and former president Barack Obama, who will address attendees on Friday afternoon.

Erin Bishop and two colleagues from the marketing department at Waters Corp. posed for a picture in front of a huge, illuminated HubSpot sign.

This was the first year since 2019 that HubSpot held its conference in person after two years of pandemic-era, virtual incarnations. Lane Turner/Globe Staff

“It’s like the Apple event for marketers,” she said. “It’s not something you attend once. ... You always want to come back again.”

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Waters does not use HubSpot’s software, but Bishop’s colleague, Amanda Ward-Smith, had used it at earlier jobs. “It’s so valuable for all marketers to attend,” she said.

The conference included dozens of sessions on marketing and customer communications with titles such as “How to stand out amongst the crowd on LinkedIn” and “Three things holding you back from doubling sales this year.”

At a panel on podcasting, John Lee Dumas of the “Entrepreneurs on Fire” podcast gave tips along with Emily Thompson of the “Being Boss” podcast.

“If you can become the number one solution to a real problem in this world, you will win,” Dumas said. “There is a problem that is not being solved within your area of expertise, within your knowledge base, within your passion and excitement and enthusiasm.”

Despite the panels and the star power, Jones, who lives in Jackson, Miss., was more interested in meeting potential customers and also his own colleagues at RevPartners, who all work remotely. “This is the first time meeting all of them,” he said. “After being here, I’ll never do it digitally. I’m going to come every year.”

One of the conference themes was creating community, and HubSpot’s leaders shared personal stories to bond with the audience.

Participants listened to a lecture at one of several stages set up on the convention floor. Lane Turner/Globe Staff

In a keynote address on Wednesday, chief executive Yamini Rangan (in from California) shared her feelings about the death of her father a year ago.

“He was my rock,” she said. “And that was two weeks after I stepped into my new role. That was tough. So I’ve had to step up as a daughter, as a mother, as a CEO all at once.”

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“My year, I’ll tell you, has felt like a roller-coaster ride.”

Since Rangan took over last September, HubSpot’s revenue has jumped. With more and more small and medium-size businesses shifting to online marketing during the pandemic, sales rose 38 percent to $817 million in the first half of 2022, compared with a year earlier.

Brian Halligan, HubSpot’s cofounder and Rangan’s predecessor as CEO, held the audience rapt as he spoke in public for the first time about the snowmobile accident that nearly took his life in 2021.

“I thought I was going to die that day,” he said, as the crowd grew hushed.

Later in the talk, he explained that the accident had given him a new outlook on life. “It was kind of a reset button I needed in my life,” he said. “It changed my perspective on things, where I really wanted to have impact.”


Aaron Pressman can be reached at aaron.pressman@globe.com. Follow him @ampressman.