Gartner Innovation: Conferences

The area of conferences was one which I continued to get deeply involved with throughout my Gartner career.  I’ll recount one example of many which does not address the design of conference/expositions, but the maximization of potential usefulness of such events to the clients of Advisories.

CeBIT was and is the world’s largest computer exposition, and I decided that we should not only ship our usual troupe of analysts to its locale in Hanover Germany, but also host some of our better clients and prospects to maximize our marketing impact. While other conferences host their clients via parties (which we also used to do to say the least) I designed the following process: Each of several Gartner analysts arrived well before the event began, and canvassed the huge floor (over 250,000 square feet, over 3,000 exhibitors) to find the handful of the many displaying firms which would be most relevant to the issues being faced by each of the invited clients. The major “booths” at CeBIT are in fact huge two-level indoor structures where the product demos are on the ground level, fancy refreshments were served upstairs by very attractive ladies, and where the invited visitors who would be meeting with executives of the firm would meet in private conference rooms. Being an influential advisory firm in the IT space, we had prior access to senior executives of the displaying firms, and were  able to set up specific appointments during the exposition. The differentiation was that we would bring our clients!

Now the point: almost every visitor to an event of this magnitude gets lost and exhausted on the exposition floor. Normally, visitors walk the miles of aisles, wasting huge amounts of time stopping at many booths which too often have little relevance to their interests, but even then one must often fight the crowds on the floor with little if any access to the executives and the treats upstairs! On the very first exposition day we helicoptered our clients directly to the grounds, with each analyst leading his or her five invited clients, then presenting the planned itinerary and explaining why the particular visits were selected, with a bit about the hosting executives. Then, we chaperoned the clients from selected exhibit to selected exhibit, finally discussing and recapping the day’s experience. The value to the clients was palpable, hopefully at least leading to customer satisfaction and loyalty which would also positively affect the business returns to our company. This and similar innovations helped propel Gartner’s growth. But I think that function is now dead.

After my Gartner Inc., Soundview Technology, and  GiGa Inc., I’m still convinced that the industry which I am closest to, the IT advisory industry, would benefit from some revolutionary change.

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