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