How to Create a User Conference That Generates Value

How to Create a User Conference That Generates Value

Nothing compares to a great user conference. I really enjoy getting to know my clients’ customers, sharing in their successes, and seeing the human side of how a particular technology works. User conferences can drive a great deal of value – by supporting sales cycles with existing customers as well as building the foundation for selling to new customers. However, it takes a lot of work to do them right. Here are a few tips for success. 1. Understand the value of the user conference – from your customers’ perspective. Most B2B customers have to work hard to justify their attendance at any vendor event. Make it easy for them to build the business case by identifying the key takeaways that will have a measurable impact on their businesses. Then, build the content accordingly. 2. Community first. I have never seen a single post-conference survey response that complained about too much time allocated for networking. On the other hand, I have seen plenty of feedback about the immense value that networking brings. When companies try to squeeze in an extra session here or there so that every part of the content agenda gets covered, they are usually cutting into networking time. I think that the rule of thumb should be: “community first.” 3. Build content both top-down and bottom-up. The most successful tracks that I have built were ones where I started out in my customers’ shoes – creating a “short list” of issues that should be addressed. I then augmented this “top-down” approach with a “bottom-up” search for interesting speakers and topics. Whether you are doing a formal Call for Papers or just sniffing for ideas among your customers, the dual approach:
  • Forces you to think broadly about content
  • Gives you tangible topics that you can bring to the customers that you really want as speakers
  • Leaves you open to finding hidden gems of knowledge in your customer base
4. Don’t let content review become an afterthought. When you are dealing with busy customers and busy product managers or other experts, it’s easy to let presentation deadlines slip. Don’t!! I have seen some really bad drafts turn into great presentations; and some last-minute messes that don’t deliver the impact that you or your customer wanted. User conferences are often full of relatively inexperienced speakers. When you spend the time to look at presentations carefully, deliver your advice in the right way, and leave adequate time for fixes, your speakers will appreciate the support. So set the deadlines, communicate them clearly to all parties involved, and stick to them. 5. Make it social. One thing that user conferences are never short of is content. Social media is a great way to use that content in bite-sized pieces – to promote the event and to extend the value beyond your customer base. Whether it’s video previews, in-event tweeting, or post-conference networking, you can think socially at every step in the planning process.