Years ago, while working at Giga Information Group, several analysts got together and created a service we loosely referred to as “events,” and then wrote about what we had captured as best practices over the years. With companies now going back to having in-person analyst events, I thought it would be handy to cover some of those best practices again to help companies improve the quality of their events.
It amazes me that this is almost never done. The result can be a huge mismatch between the interest areas of the invited analysts and the material being presented. More important, even if there isn’t a mismatch, if you don’t know the things the analysts want to hear about, even if you are on a topic consistent with their research agenda, you’ll likely be hit with a lot of questions your people are ill prepared to deal with.
By asking ahead of time, you can better select the analysts that will be attending, better craft who will be speaking and what they will cover, set expectations up front on topic areas out of bounds, and generally have a more successful event.
I get why post event measurements are generally not well defined. The events team doesn’t want a ton of negative feedback after an event so the questions tend to be light on content or focus. However, every event should have several clear goals the company wants to accomplish. First and foremost, the survey after the event should test whether those goals are met. I’m a big fan of doing this survey in person rather than in writing. One of the folks responsible for the event should do the survey in person because less is lost in translation. If the analyst was dissatisfied, they can be asked what should have been done to improve the experience. The goal should be to improve the event over time, not just give a meaningless pat on the back for what undoubtedly was a lot of work.
Events should have a reason for being and that reason should flow through all aspects of the event from who attends to content to follow-up to assure the core goals for the event are clear and were met.
Someone who is good in front of an audience is rare. They should be able to hold an audience’s attention, convey a message clearly, and generally create a better outcome than some senior executive who reads Power Point slides to you poorly. It often seems like presenters are selected based on some false belief that titles make a difference. While that is true of a CEO, if that CEO sucks at presenting, it won’t reflect well on the company. I remember one event where the CEO was so inebriated, they asked me to do his presentation (which I hadn’t seen). The better plan would have been to have a backup, like an understudy, because CEOs get sick, have personal or professional issues that cause them to have to miss the event, or, like the CEO I covered for, have impulse control problems.
So, key presenters should be chosen because they are good at presenting, and each should have an understudy so that if they have a last-minute issue, the event isn’t tarnished by it.
There is always a chance the projector, monitor, recording system or some other technology will fail at the worst possible moment. CEOs like Steve Jobs, Andy Grove and Bill Gates had teams that often were triple redundant just to make sure the audience was never aware of a technical problem associated with the technology being showcased. Having to stop a presentation because no one can figure out the projector or PC reflects badly on a tech company. Making sure that doesn’t happen plays well for the audience and for top executives who tend to not have a sense of humor when this happens and have been known to lash out at the people putting on the event when it does. Thus, making sure that it doesn’t happen isn’t just good for the event, it is good for your career.
– Rob Enderle, The Enderle Group