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How do we design a better enterprise event? Two customers weigh in

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Despite my satirical attempts, most vendors stubbornly cling to questionable event formats. Exhibit A: the over-extended, techno-hype keynote.  That’s not the case across the board; some vendors are actively testing ideas. Recently one of our partners asked me, “What kind of event schedule do you like?

But who cares about what a snarky blogger/analyst/influencer/whatever thinks? It’s the customers that foot the bill. Given all the cocktails-in-hand event deconstructions I’ve been a part of, I thought I had some idea of what customers want. Why not put my ideas to the test?

My interview victims subjects: Tammy Powlas of Fairfax Water and Sue Keohan of MIT Lincoln Library (Obviously, they are both speaking on behalf of themselves, not their employers). Both are long time SAP Mentors, ASUG volunteers, and session speakers. (ASUG is SAP’s North American User Group). Their experiences are mostly in the SAP event world, but that includes a range of events put on by SAP, ASUG, and others.

Five questions about event highs and lows

Here’s how I broached the question to them: I wanted to ask a couple of event-seasoned folks like yourselves that have seen the good and the not-so-good. My ideas for starters:

1. End keynotes on time.
2. Provide lots of birds-of-feather networking time. Make it easy to find folks who share your regions/interests/problems.
3. Include plenty of informal educational sessions as well as formal. (As in: an expert lounge setup, where you can drop in and out of sessions easily).
4. Have a  “community clubhouse” setup in central location with coffee, and hubs to learn about product/services, and make connections.
5. And of course a motivational speaker (not).

Powlas likes an informal learning setup called “Speakers’ Corner”:

Hi Jon – you have hit all the right notes. One thing that Eventful Australia does that I really like is have a Speakers Corner – a speaker goes to a “corner” for thirty minutes after his/her session so attendees can come and ask questions.

Powlas brought up a point about slides I hadn’t considered:

I also like getting the slides before the event, to help decide which sessions I can attend. Oh, and you are you are right about motivational speakers.

Powlas also likes the “Ask the Expert” format. And yes, the strategic placement of coffee. Meaning: good coffee drinks, barista-style:

SAP Insider is the best at having “Ask the Experts” tables for networking, and ASUG did something brilliant this year by having a coffee barista on the third floor of Education sessions at ASUG Annual Conference 🙂

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