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How to screw up an analyst summit….

Logic says that the best way to screw up an analyst summit is do the reverse of everything I wrote about in my last post What makes a great analyst summit? But life is never that simple, and there are other “worst practices” which don’t necessarily map neatly to the positives.

One would hope that nobody deliberately goes out to create a bad event. But rigid adherence to inappropriate structures and a lack of awareness about what could go wrong can certainly contribute to poor outcomes.

Once again, these 10 “worst practices” are in no particular order. Everyone has different priorities, so these issues will vary in importance. Some folks will no doubt disagree entirely with some of these – that’s fine, just so long as they’re aware of them. And whereas last week’s best practices tried to strike a balance between analyst & vendor needs, these points are probably biased to an analyst’s perspective.

 Death by PowerPoint                      Until someone comes up with an alternative, PowerPoint will continue to be used as the main communication platform for briefings & conferences. But it doesn’t have to be used in every session. And it doesn’t have to be used ad nauseam – less is often more, and in this situation, fewer slides often deliver better insights.

 Marketing mumbo jumbo             The technology business delights in jargon, whether that’s abbreviations, acronyms, verbifying nouns, repurposing phrases or just trying to make things sound more exciting. Without much of this jargon, you’d struggle to make yourself understood, but you need to stick to the generic. Internal buzzwords & abbreviations are generally unintelligible (and irrelevant) to the outsider, while over-hyped product descriptions gain zero to little traction with analysts.

 Mixing analysts & media                This is a constant pet hate of analysts. Journalists & analysts are different breeds with different needs, so why assume that they can be productive together? Certainly there may be times when you need to invite both analysts & journalists to the same event eg a user conference, but you certainly wouldn’t give them the same program. As to other influencers such as advisors, consultants & bloggers, well, the jury is still out, but you need to tread carefully.

 Expecting positive “stories”        To the point above, analysts don’t produce their outputs in the same way that journalists do, so it’s illogical to expect that to change just because you’re running a briefing. While some analysts may produce an event summary, most won’t & this certainly shouldn’t be one of your summit objectives. Executives need to be educated not to expect immediate gratification from event bulletins which look good, say little and have even less market influence.

Failing to follow up                          It will be impossible to answer all questions at a summit, simply because they require more time, more depth, or a spokesperson who isn’t at the event. All of these outstanding issues offer an opportunity to continue to engage with the analysts & deepen the discussion. Failing to follow up on them is a bit like not returning calls from sales prospects – who knows what you will miss out on?

 Not managing time                          It’s hard to shut down a really interesting discussion, but there are two things you have to remember: this may not be interesting to everyone in the room, and whatever time you add here, you need to take away elsewhere. It’s impossible to be time-perfect, but you need to keep on track. Build in buffers, wrap-up some sessions early if the opportunity arises, give presenters time calls & shut down folks who run off at the mouth. That applies equally to executives & analysts, you just have to be more tactful if it’s the CEO!

Speaking, not listening                  Analyst relations is a dialogue, a two-way discussion. Vendors who want to present their view of the world without discussion, questions & debate are doing themselves a disservice (as well as boring the pants off the analysts!). Often, the best insights for both vendors & analysts come from the debate, not the canned presentations.

Mis-using analyst data                   Analysts define markets, and generally have pretty good methodologies for doing that. That doesn’t mean that Analyst Firm A agrees with Analyst Firm B. Using data or quotes from one firm when analysts from another firm are in the room is always a bad idea. Redefining market data or replicating analyst firm signature research to reflect your own view of the world is even worse.

 Sticking to the script                      Of course, you’re going to build your analyst summit agenda around a core set of topics and messages, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stray a little outside them. Your executives are knowledgeable people and (generally) are capable of having an open & honest conversation. Analysts value candour, & will suspect the motives of anyone who sounds too rehearsed & on-message.

Overdoing hospitality                     Everyone likes to be pampered & made to think they’re just that little bit special. Good venues & accommodation are essential, but there’s no need to overdo it. The same applies to mementoes & giveaways – your presentations don’t look any more convincing wrapped up in a brand-name electronic device than they do on a logoed USB stick. Some analyst firms have strict rules about the value & type of gifts they are allowed to receive, and it’s a pity that more don’t follow their lead. Often, those analysts most willing to take advantage of your largesse are the ones of least importance & influence.

I’m sure there are more examples of analyst summit “worst practices” out there, so what have I missed? Tell us what made you cringe (no names, though – to avoid embarrassing the guilty!!).



4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dave, My biggest bugbear as an analyst attending these sessions was total lack of content. Many descended into a mire of marketing without imparting any real insight. Great analyst events share real business insight which you wont find on the PowerPoint page. Its principally about getting answers to “why” questions versus “what” questions.

    July 9, 2012
    • Dave Noble #

      That’s a great point, Simon. Understanding “why” gives an analyst greater confidence in a vendor’s strategy & how they communicate that to end-user clients. I’d also add “how”, which is often the other proofpoint that analysts need.
      cheers, Dave

      July 10, 2012
  2. Adam Jura #

    Dave, although not in the analyst world these days, my pet hate was always ambiguity around NDAs at events. Often, a vague statement was made about some of the content being under NDA, and while it was easy to identify some (financial data for example), most of the time questions had to be asked.

    I can remember more than one occasion where a statement was made by a vendor followed by an analyst tweeting that same message, only for it to be mentioned afterwards that actually, that statement was under NDA. It left both the vendor and analyst red-faced, and could have been easily avoided.

    Common sense should be judiciously employed of course, but there’s a significant grey area

    July 12, 2012
    • Dave Noble #

      Hi Adam, yep, NDAs are often a sore point. Many vendors struggle to resolve what is & isn’t “on the record” before a briefing, so they just hope for the best. Others try to put a clamp on everything, even the most innocuous information. And sometimes it’s just bad execution. I’ve been in the situation of having to ask analysts to pull down tweets about embargoed announcements, and it’s not pleasant!! In one case, it was an executive failing to read their briefing notes – which clearly stated that that one piece of information was under NDA – and therefore forgetting to let the analysts know.
      I’m seeing some emerging best practices of vendors including “tweetable” tags on particular slides, but it’s certainly not universal.

      July 12, 2012

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