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What makes a great analyst summit?

While ICT vendors might be under-investing in other areas of AR, there certainly seems to have been a swing back to multi-day analyst summits in APJ over the past couple of years. These events are a key element of any AR practitioner’s toolkit, but they’re a big-ticket item, and they can be fraught with danger.

There are many things that can go wrong when staging a large-scale event. Some of these things can’t be anticipated, but most of them can. And most of them can be avoided with a little bit of foresight.

I’ve been involved with dozens of one, two & three-day analyst summits over the years. I’ve run them from concept to execution; I’ve mentored other AR pros through every stage of the process; I’ve consulted around content & structure; I’ve coached spokespeople; I’ve managed feedback processes; and I’ve even attended a few as an analyst – though they certainly weren’t as prevalent back in the ‘90s.

Most of the events I’ve been involved with have run fairly well – though a few have induced a panic attack or two. All could have run a little better, most often because someone chose to deviate from the plan.

But with all this experience, I admit that I was a caught a little short when a colleague asked me for “10 dos & don’ts for analyst summits.” It’s one thing knowing how to do things, but I’d never actually captured my knowledge like that.

So, no time like the present. I’m going to focus on the “Dos” today, which I’m sure will attract some great feedback from my analyst readers (and the vendors too!). The negative side of things – what to do if you want to screw up an event – we can cover in a separate post.

To create a great event, you need to take into account the objectives & needs of both the vendor and the analyst, not just one or the other. So that’s the context of the best practices detailed here:

Structure                               Every event needs to have an over-arching structure which creates a logical flow and allows the vendor to tell a story. In simple terms, you need to start with the “big picture” and work down to the detail level over the course of the event.

Strategic context                 It’s easy to assume that analysts understand who you are and what you do. Most have a perspective, but is it the right one? Vendors need to explain where different solutions, technologies & target markets fit into their overall strategy, and why they’re important.

The right audience              If you’ve read my previous posts on analyst targeting & tiering, you’ll know how important it is to identify analysts who have influence & alignment with your solutions. While the incremental cost of an additional analyst is often low, these events are about value, not volume. And your executives need to understand that, too.

Content                                 Seems logical, doesn’t it? But it’s not about masses of Powerpoint, it’s about content that’s tailored to an analyst audience. However it’s delivered, analyst content needs to contain depth & detail, strategic context and real proof points, not marketing hype or messaging.

Breadth & depth                  Not all analysts are interested in the same things, although they may share common interest areas. Great analyst events provide the opportunity for “techies” to dig deeper while also allowing those on the GTM side to explore country-specific approaches or vertical markets.

 Spokespeople                     The best spokespeople at analyst events are defined by their domain knowledge, not by their titles. They’re also defined by their attitude. Spokespeople need to be positive, knowledgeable, well-briefed & keen to engage with analysts, not hobnob with their peers & managers.

 Networking                           One of the great benefits of an analyst summit – apart from educating & informing analysts about the latest & greatest – is the opportunity to build relationships with key influencers. Informal networking opportunities are available at breaks, over meals & during cocktail receptions. Attendance should be compulsory for (most) spokespeople.

One-on-ones                                    In an ideal world, every analyst would have a personal discussion with everyone from the CEO down. That doesn’t work in the real world, but summits provide a great opportunity to provide analysts from each firm with some dedicated discussion time with key executives, away from the prying ears of their competitors.

Real-world access              While it would be nice to think that analysts would totally focus their attention on you for the whole time, that just ain’t gonna happen. Wifi access throughout the venue is essential so analysts can deal with email during the course of the event. Some “non-compulsory” sessions give them the opportunity to withdraw to their hotel rooms to deal with bigger work projects, whether that’s writing a report or dealing with an end-user client enquiry. This is a much better option than analysts returning to the office & “forgetting” to come back.

Feedback                              There is no point in running this type of event without measuring the outcomes & learning how to do it better (or what to do next). Analysts will be happy to provide feedback on the event, the content, the structure & your executives. What they won’t do is give you direct advice & commentary on your products, solutions & strategies – that requires some “thinking time”, and there are better ways of getting that advice.

 Flexibility                               On re-reading this, I realised that I’d omitted the most important point. Structure & timetables are important in making events work, but stuff will change! The better you plan, the better you equipped you are to respond to changing schedules and different requirements.

That makes, 11, not 10. I haven’t listed these best practices in order of importance, more in a (hopefully) logical flow around a typical analyst event. There may be others, so tell me what I’ve missed. What’s more important to you? Both analysts & vendors should apply J



5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thanks Dave, a comprehensive post. A couple of things from experience of attending one or two events.
    – Location is key. Often a location out of a major city helps to keep a captive audience, once they have arrived. Singapore and Sydney can be tough locations because so many analysts are based there, they tend to duck in and out. EDS did a great job a few years ago by having an event at Bowral. It was too cold to be anywhere but inside.
    – Mix it up. Some vendors are really getting this right. Mix the format up, make it more interactive and not just plenary then 1-1. In APAC the analyst community is collegiate as you well know. We tend to mix well. Vendors need to make the most of this and allow for smaller discussions as well as 1-1 sessions.
    – Flexibility is really highlighted in social media. Some vendors have changed content dynamically to respond to twitter or other feedback. This has worked well in the past, but needs to be managed sensibly.

    June 28, 2012
    • Dave Noble #

      Thanks Phil,
      Great comments as always. Location is always a stressful issue – we’ve seen some great “offsite” events over the years, but Sydney & Singapore are seen as safer options, particularly for executive access. And you’re right about the small group discussions, workshops, roundtables – whatever you want to call them. This is a mid-point between the plenary and the 1:1s, but not always managed well.

      June 28, 2012
  2. Great post, Dave. The perfect analyst event for me has content, depth, one-on-ones and/or breakouts with informed people, as you mention – plus a degree of honesty in the interactions: a solid diet of marketing spiel, particularly when there is no wireless access for escape, is a real turn-off/time-waste.
    Oh, and we like good time keeping, and seating arrangements with a surface you can work on!

    June 28, 2012
    • Dave Noble #

      Thanks Rachel. Great points – analysts need to be able to work effectively, not everyone can manage with just a stool & a smartphone!! Time-keeping is a constant challenge, though I know a few analysts who share the blame with the vendors on that one 🙂

      June 29, 2012

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