Conference Tips

by john on September 9, 2003

I’m in LA for the Gartner CRM Fall Summit. It is the first Gartner conference I’ve been to and I’ve been pretty impressed with how they have run it. I’ve attended, worked and spoken at similar conferences and I know how difficult they can be to do well. Here are a few things I like and wish all other conferences did:

  1. Prior to the conference Gartner made available almost all of the presentations via a website for registered users of the conference. This is nice because it makes it easier to plan out which sessions you want to attend. Make presentations available prior to the event.
  2. Upon arrival at the conference Gartner provided a CD containing the final draft of all presentations. While most conferences these days do supply the presentations to attendees many do not provide them for several weeks after the conference. That is pretty much useless. When I get back on Thursday I want to start sharing what I learned right away and by having the presentations on CD from Day 1 it is very easy to do that. After a couple of weeks that CD would most likely get shelved and never used. Provide a complete presentation archive on CD to attendees at the start of the conference.
  3. Throughout each presentation Gartner utilizes “question runners” who walk around the room carrying placards with a big question mark on it. If you want to ask a question you flag down one of these runners and they record your question, which then gets asked during the Q&A at the end. If that was all they did it would not warrant a mention but what Gartner does which I think is key is they provide an expert to ask the questions of the presenter. This is excellent because the expert is able to quickly sort the questions in a logical fashion and reword the questions in a way that may result in a clear and better answer. Have an expert facilitate the Q&A
  4. One last thing I really like is that each day is actually packed with sessions. There are sessions of one sort or another running from 7:00AM to 6:30PM each day. Like many conferences of this nature they have a sponsor showcase area but rather than blocking out half a day where there is nothing else going on except for the showcase they actually run it concurrently with real sessions or lunch. Attending conferences is an expensive proposition in terms of money and time – it is critical that conference organizers provide full days that provide value. Plan full days.
  5. Many of these are pretty common sense and most conference organizers already do them well. But you would be surprised at how many conferences fall down in many of these areas.

    If you attend a conference and don’t like something, tell them. Maybe they will listen to you for next year. If you organize conferences please listen to what people ask for.

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