A new kind of event please

I have an appeal for vendors everywhere: create events that are unique and interesting.

In our line of work, we get many invitations, and we go to some of them. But there’s a definite trend, I think, to homogeneity of all vendor events around several issues only.

For example, not so long ago, practically every event that hit my in-box was about multichannel integration. "That old chestnut", I used to think every time someone told me about an event concerning on this topic.

Before that, it was the Internet channel and how to make billions with cross-selling.

Presently, the hot events we’re getting are all about Green IT, New Payments, and (not surprisingly) innovation in all its forms. Now really, there are only so many ways we can be told to save power, or consider contactless, or reconsider our innovation process.

And there are only so many formats these events can take.

Firstly, there is the discussion dinner (not usually a lunch in the UK). Depending on the vendor, in some case a rather lovely restaurant (or for more exclusive clientele, a private dining room), a moderator is brought in, and the people round the table talk about the issue in question.

There is the presentation plus drinks format, usually with a much bigger crowd (invariably clutching their "VIP" invitations). At which there will be one or two speakers, (one will be a crowd-drawing speaker with interesting content, the other will be a vendor with a sales pitch).

And there is the all day, possibly including lunch, event, which features many presenters, possibly some stands with interesting gadgets, and a drinks option at the end.

I’ve pretty much stopped going now. We are practically never told anything new, and there are very few vendors that can make events work without the obvious sales pitch. So here is my plea: please tell us something that can justify our investment in time and that will help us do our jobs. Challenge us and change our thinking.

For example, I’d like an event that would tell me how to run a bank in the cloud. Now I realise that its not something that can reasonably be done right now, but it is vendors who will work out the major problems. And, for extra marks, tell us how to establish a MIPS market so that we can buy our compute in advance like airlines do with fuel. Share your thinking with us!

I’d like a new format too: what about a debate between you and your top competitor (with, of course, your best thought leaders) on the topic? Let us have some crowd-pleasing disagreement with the cleverly clothed sales pitch.

With so many invitations, I’d expect that the vendor that cracks the code of this will be pretty much inundated with acceptances. In the end, the difference is the same as that between a great television show and the ads that pay for it. We’ll watch the show, but timeshift the ads.

5 Responses to“A new kind of event please”

  1. April 22, 2008 at 11:07 am #

    James my man, very true – I observed just this week on how all vendor (read mainly IT and telephony) presentations are on Gen Y and Unified Communications – “whilst it was interesting, I’d heard it all before, for aboout 2 years at similar presentations, but I got the impression the audience (and even the speaker!) was hearing it for the first time … theres something about baby boomers who marvel at this idea that there are more ways to communicate and contact people (and collaborate!) than through the phone and email.”
    Be brave, tell us something silly, or creative, or innovative – dont summarise the last 10 talks I’ve been to, or better still, go to the other 10 talks and do something different.

  2. April 22, 2008 at 5:30 pm #

    James – I agree completely. We’ve put a hairline fracture in the mould by having retailers speak at banking breakfasts and next month have a North Vs South race night without any sales pitch at all.
    Do I win a tee shirt?
    Simon

  3. April 23, 2008 at 10:53 am #

    Am participating at Consult Hyperion Digital Money Forum, and I note your colleague Fiona McConnell is here. Dave Birch puts on a good show, with a very withe an emphasis on participativeness, and short snappy presentations, and panels. Good future thinking an how to achieve innovative thinking. Just my 10c, from another skeptic.

  4. April 23, 2008 at 11:06 pm #

    James,
    I completely agree, and am not only unmoved at the prospect of attending many more such events, but also at speaking at them.
    Instead, I’m interested in attending an “unconference” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unconference) or aconference with an equally new and interesting format, as you suggested. The Shine Unconference (http://www.shineunconference.com/) is being held in London in early May and I’ll be very interested to hear reviews about this attendee-driven approach.
    Katherine

  5. April 24, 2008 at 6:07 am #

    So it seems the consensus is that we all want something different. Colin, glad you were able to meet Fiona.

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