Thursday, February 21, 2013

Why F2F Customer Conferences Are Indispensable!

Recently I was chatting with one of my corporate clients about planning for their future conferences.  This individual had met earlier that day, with company leadership, to develop a long term strategy around the timing of their largest customer conference.

This company (I will call them “ABC Corporation) has been struggling with the relevancy of their messaging.  They hesitate to schedule a conference, because they are not sure they will have something important to say to their client base.

So their solution has been to delay holding their conferences.  At first they transitioned from an Annual Conference to one held every 18 months.  Now, they have decided to schedule their event Biennially.  Yikes!

Does this sound familiar to you?  Is your organization struggling, or worried about the relevance of their conference content?  Are they switching the business model for their event, in order to allow for more time to come up with information to deliver to attendees?

Lets open our minds and think about this differently…

If your organization leadership is struggling to justify holding their conference, this is an opportunity for you to make a difference… to educate them on the reasons why it is important to meet.  Here are just a few compelling reasons why a conference is critical to sustaining the perceived value of your organization to its customers.

Conferences Help Sustain Community

Think of your customer base as a thriving community.  The annual conference is one of the nutrients that feeds the community, generating energy and enthusiasm amongst its members.  Jeff Hurt, of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting,  wrote an excellent article, using the analogy of an “Eco-system” to sell this point.

Relationships Are Essential

There is an old saying that “people like to do business with people they like.”  In this socially driven age of business, that is more true than ever.  There are plenty of quality products and services out there.  What really drives customer loyalty is the service and personal interaction wrapped around the product/service.  Conferences are a wonderful opportunity for business people to mingle, socialize and interact with their customers.  The social interaction and “talk in the hallways” may do more to keep customers engaged than the educational content, or messaging in the formal sessions.

Learning Comes From All Directions

While traditionally Conference Hosts have delivered education, and customer attendees have been the learners, that way of thinking is shifting.  At today’s well designed conferences learning takes place in multiple directions.

Frequently many sessions are intentionally designed to stimulate conversations, or brainstorming,  centered on hot topics.  Would-be speakers are replaced by skilled facilitators, whose energy is focused on getting everyone’s creative juices flowing.

If an organization decides to either cut back, or eliminate its conferences, thinking their time and resources are better spent elsewhere, I believe that is a huge mistake.  What could possibly be more important for a company’s well-being than engaging with customers, in a relaxed, professional, social setting, that encourages an exchange of ideas?

What ideas or thoughts do you have regarding the importance and opportunity afforded by Meetings and Conferences?  What reasons would you give to your organization leadership justifying their existence?  Please share them with us!



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