Deconstructing an Industry Institution
It was a long day of travel. You finally made it to your hotel, checked in, and dropped your luggage on the bed. It’s time to decide whether to order room service and stay in for the night or to venture out of the room, perhaps to the lobby or lounge, to look for someone you know that might join you for dinner.
You are starving, so you decide to head out, to see if you can find a dinner partner. You peek into the hotel restaurant, and you see the account manager from a translation vendor, a fellow named Tom, someone you spent three days avoiding at the last conference you attended. You turn and start to walk away, but he spies you and bellows out your name. You’re trapped!
Instead of having a relaxing dinner alone or with the localization manager you were hoping to find from Cisco, you are getting an earful about a presentation this guy is giving on his company’s latest Web workflow tool that is going to change the industry.
THE REGISTRATION TABLE
Okay, time to register and pick up your badge. You hope your name is spelled right and your company name isn’t the largest typeface on the piece of paper—and look, there’s Tom. He intercepts you as you place your badge on your shirt. You find yourself being escorted to the exhibit hall and straight to his booth. Tom proudly introduces you to his manager, like some prize he just won. His manager wastes no time in asking if he can give you a demo of their new workflow tool, and he insists you attend Tom’s presentation right after lunch.
And you think to yourself, “How did this happen? I just wanted some dinner.”
When you look hard at the traditional structure of GILT industry events—and I have to include previous CSN Expos in this—you will find that clients attend for very specific reasons. But they often find themselves navigating the maze of exhibits, sessions, introductions, and pitches to get what they REALLY want.
And tradition is just that—tradition. It is hard for a conference organizer to make too many radical changes to the conference structure without fear of failure or reduced acceptance.
Hard, but not impossible.
CSN decided to take on this challenge to deconstruct the traditional conference structure and to deliver on the values each attendee looks for when attending an event.
Through a steering committee, we spent several months deconstructing the customary event structures, looking to define exactly why people attend industry events. What do they really hope to gain from these events? What is the real value?
What we found was very interesting.
We learned that many people come to a two- or three-day event to weed through multiple sessions, roundtables, keynotes, lectures, and presentations, in order to find the two or three sessions that apply most to their unique situations. They hope to come out of one or two of these traditional 45-minute sessions with a nugget of information that will help them overcome some of their daily challenges.
We also learned that many people truly hope to build a relationship with a peer who they can connect with after the event, in order to network and collaborate with once they are back in their office. A type of mentor, if you will, who is going through, or has already gone through, similar struggles.
In fact, here are the five primary things we found most event attendees REALLY want when they attend industry events:
APPLYING THE FINDINGS
It takes a lot of work to deliver on all these things. In response, we created The CSN Invitational™ —a new breed of GILT Industry event. It isn’t a conference. It isn’t a workshop. It isn’t a roundtable. It is a new form of collaborative environment that seeks to meet the REAL needs of industry professionals. It deviates from the traditional format in order to really deliver the value that everyone traditionally seeks.
Imagine a small group of GILT professionals, peers in their respective job roles, getting together to define exactly what they want and need from an event. This event will define the issues each is having, the solutions they seek, and the deliverables that will help them excel in their efforts back at the office, all the while building valuable peer relationships that will benefit them in many ways in the future.
We have created an event structure and schedule of activities that specifically work toward each of the five primary objectives—focusing on interaction and relationship building during each activity. The entire event will be structured in a way that allows each and every attendee to define what they need (in terms of information and solutions that solve the specific problems they have) and to connect them with others who have information and solutions that can help them immediately.
WHAT IT ALL LOOKS LIKE
Each attendee will be given a worksheet prior to the event. Using this worksheet, each attendee will be able to clearly define what issues they hope to solve while attending. Each of these worksheets will be cross-referenced and grouped by subjects, topics, and issues, all to allow CSN to create working sessions focused on common issues. An example of subjects might look like this:
Vendor management issues
Technology and Workflow
(Remember, these are just examples. attendees will define the topics most important to them.)
CSN will create client-only workgroups, pairing people seeking specific solutions with other clients who have relevant information to share. This will be a 2-hour working session.
We will then re-arrange the groups, so that the people who were sharing in the first session will now be learning. And the people who were learning during the first session will now be in a sharing role. This also will be a 2-hour working session.
Each group will be outlining issues and capturing information along the way, and this content will be compiled into a document that will be given to all attendees. It will be a tangible document that is a group deliverable. A professional scribe will be provided by CSN for each workgroup, ensuring all ideas and solutions are captured properly.
Throughout the morning sessions, solution providers will be attending a “Communicating with the Client” workshop. This workshop will focus on communication issues between clients and vendors, industry wide. We will break for lunch, and then adjourn to an afternoon networking activity.
THE SOLUTION CONNECTION
We all need our industry solution providers. They are an essential half of the symbiotic relationship that allows for everyone to successfully achieve their goals. But in today’s traditional event models, solution providers typically have two functions: one is to offer formal presentations, and the second is to approach clients in an attempt to sell.
Clients often endure some form of sales pitch to get to the information they REALLY want from these valuable industry resources. At all other times, clients typically avoid solution providers—fearing the sales pitch.
In the first 2-hour session of the second day, CSN will set a new precedent for GILT industry events. We will introduce the solution providers to the equation, but in a way you have never seen before. CSN will put the clients in the driver’s seat, and create an interactive experience that allows them to engage, communicate, and network with the solution providers, all in a way that maximizes the value of their time. This could be an exchange about one of the previous day’s workgroup topics, an exchange about anything the client feels is most important, or just an introduction to each other.
CSN has set up some really creative ways to make this happen. This activity will be done in a fun “speed dating” format, which will be efficiently controlled with strict time limits. The benefits will be maximized, as there will be no wasted time nor long-winded pitches.
The second 2-hour session will bring it all together. We will begin with a one-hour effort where the clients get to bring the issues defined on day one to the solution providers, and the solution providers will have the chance to address their issues and offer up tangible solutions from their unique perspectives. This will be a dynamic and interactive session, moderated in a way that puts the clients and their issues in the driver’s seat.
In the second hour, the vendors will have the chance to ask clients the questions they formulated during their “Communicating with the Client” session on the previous day—breaking down the barriers that hinder open, honest, and sales-pressure-free communication between these two groups.
We will then break for lunch, and then adjourn to the afternoon networking activity, culminating in the CSN Invitational “Pitch and Putt” Golf Tournament.
GREAT MINDSI need to give credit where credit is due; CSN didn’t do this alone. Some of this industry’s greatest minds were on our steering committee. It was this combined effort of industry analysts, clients, vendors and overall GILT industry pioneers that created this event. So thank you to Lisa, Hans, Renato, Kirsten, Dave, and Heidi. Thank you!
Interested in being invited to participate? Contact Dave Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our website www.clientsidenews.com
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