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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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Tina Sampson February 25, 2013 at 10:31 am

Great points and comments, Mike. I find it interesting that a company would think they don’t have anything relevant to share with their customers. Does that mean your company is becoming irrelevant to said customer? If your company isn’t communicating with and engaging your customers, your competitors will be!


Michael M McCurry CMP February 25, 2013 at 10:37 am

Thanks Tina for commenting. I couldn’t agree more with what you said. The key word is “engaging” in whatever format that ends up being.

Thanks for joining the conversation :)



Michael Doyle April 23, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Mike great to see you back and blogging!

I think one of the biggest problems especially in the corporate world is measurement of the real value of an event. Its easy for bean counters to identify all the hard and soft costs of an event and come up with a total investment but no one seems to be able to adequately identify all of the revenue, value–including lifetime value of the improved relationships you mention.

I know their are groups working on this roi of engagement, MPI did some work in BVOM (business value of meetings) and event roi institute but there is still some disconnect. I guess if you aren’t getting funding or have to fight tooth-and-nail for funding for your event, you probably don’t have a lot a desire to fight to get funding to measure the value of the event.

I have one client that fights with this every couple of years (usually when there is a reorg) and even though they have some great data, positive scores of surveys and intent to purchase information, they still can’t attach a revenue number that they can defend or that is understood and accepted by management. This seems like an industry problem that hasn’t been solved yet or if it has, it hasn’t been communicated very well. Cheers Mike!


Todd Hanson April 23, 2013 at 6:03 pm

Nice piece, Mike. Thanks for spurring some discussion here.

If ABC Company is unsure of the relevancy of their messaging and not sure they have anything important to share with attendees, I think one of two things is in play.

1. They really don’t have anything relevant to communicate.

2. They haven’t measured success at past conferences and as a result, can’t determine if #1 is accurate or inaccurate.

As a measurement and ROI evangelist, I shake my head in disappointment knowing that answers to these questions and the insight needed to make a fact-based decision about future conferences is only one good participant survey out of reach.

Most of us intuitively know that F2F conferences are indispensable as the title to your blog states. In addition, you build a solid case supporting their value. But when it comes to spending the time and money to conduct them, their is nothing more valuable to management than understanding the facts about past event successes… and failures.


Fred May 2, 2013 at 10:04 am

Meetings and conferences play a critical role in the dissemination of information into the larger community, regardless of the discipline. They provide arenas for the immediate presentation of new results and cutting edge research with the opportunity of questions and answers to flesh out the materials.


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