Why and how VCs will kill your early stage B2B company

gun to head

VCs kill their porfolio companies

It is not out of choice or malicious intent, but through ignorance.  This is something we are trying to address by writing IMPACT and getting VCs to read it. VCs are a powerful voice on the boards of your start-up. Partly because of their shareholding, but also because they “have seen it and done it”. Except they haven’t. In many cases they have “seen it, not done it”. They don’t have the time to really understand the nitty gritty of what is happening inside a company. They have to take a fairly hands off, 50k feet view and be driven by the management reports.  But that doesn’t stop them having a view, which can be forceful when the company is struggling.

Why VCs step in and force management’s hand

When you don’t hit the numbers on your business plan, it starts to get ugly. Narrowly missing your quarterly sales target, but with big deals forecast for the end of the year does not seem to be a red flag. However, come the end of the year and none of the big deals have closed and suddenly it is panic stations. But the biggest issue is “It is proving impossible to forecast sales closure on deals.” That spooks VCs.

But there are other vital signs for an innovative tech company that there are underlying problems:

  • The solution should be selling in far greater volumes. Sales really isn’t scaling as expected.
  • Every business buyer you approach loves the solution but is unable to find any serious budget.
  • You are making sales, but they are only pilots, and the larger follow-on deals are stalling and delayed. And often you have multiple pilots in a single client.
  • The cost of sales is too high to be sustainable long term: the business model does not work.
  • You have hired a big-hitter sales guy with a proven track record from an established big tech company, but they are not delivering.
  • The analysts firms such as Gartner or Forrester don’t seem get it and there is no Magic Quadrant or Wave that you naturally fit into.
  • You are struggling to recruit partners who are able to resell the solution without huge levels of support from you.
  • You have high levels of professional services vs. license sales.
  • The customer’s IT and procurement teams are getting involved and are now proving to be a major roadblock.

The VC answer (which is wrong)

“Go and get a hard hitting Oracle sales guy”. The reason this is totally wrong is hidden in the IMPACT buying process.  You need to read the book summary to understand the IMPACT cycle that the buyer goes through.  But in summary:

The six key phases of the process are easy to remember as they have an enormous IMPACT on your company’s performance:

Idea – Mentor – Position – Assessment – Case – Transaction

Every purchase goes through all six phases, with or without the vendor (your) assistance. The reason that you probably don’t recognize this process is because the customer goes through the process on their own, and only invites you in at a certain point. What is critically important is the point at which you are invited in, as it affects how you engage with the buyer. And that in turn determines the operational culture of your company – i.e. how you organize, run and measure.

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 16.36.12

There are the Early Adopters (EA) who are happy buying innovative solutions. There are the Early Majority (EM) who want to buy the market leader. And there are the Late Majority (LM) who want to buy a commodity at the cheapest price. Here is where the buyer starts to engage in terms of the IMPACT process.

The Early Adopters are inspired when you or a consultant meets them and suggests an idea that reveals things to them that they did not already know. So the opportunity is generated by you when you connect with an evangelist in the customer at Mentor. That means you are working with the customer from Mentor through to Transaction. This is unlikely to be competitive, but highly consultative.

The Early Majority reach out to potential vendors when they have a set of requirements and a budget, so they have built their own business case – at Case. So you would work with the customer – procurement and IT – through Case and Transaction in a competitive procurement process.

The Late Majority only makes contact when they are ready to place an order – at Transaction. This will be from the procurement team at the customer and will be a “sharpen your pencil and give me your best price” gig.

The customer goes through the full cycle, with or without you. Once you are invited in, you are with them on the journey through to Transaction, no matter how long it takes and how much effort is required from you and the customer. The only alternative is that at some stage the idea is shelved or dropped.

The Oracle sales guy (or equivalent) is used to selling to the Early Majority who have a budget, set of requirements, RFP and a procurement cycle. They are confused, frustrated and cannot understand the buyer behaviour of the Early Adopter. They see buyers and commissions. They are oblivious to the IMPACT process as they pitch and close customers. They fail but drag the company down with them.

VCs are equally confused as they don’t know about the IMPACT buying cycle and want you to be selling to the Early majority, because that is where the big money is made. But because you are innovative and early stage. So your market is not mature enough for the Early Majority to purchase.

Coaching your VC

VCs need to understand the implications of the IMPACT cycle and your place within it.  You cannot change it.  You cannot magically sell to the Early Majority – nor do you want to – yet.  You need to take your VC through the IMPACT cycle and explain where you are engaging customers. Give them the book summary. And get them to read it  Or get me to talk to them.  I am the “stranger with a briefcase” so will possibly have more credibility.

What should VCs do?

The concepts in IMPACT are equally important for investors as they are for CEOs. Before they invest in a company, does it have the correct business model and operational culture? A pretty fundamental question. But simply asking the management of the company you are about to invest in is probably not enough. They are hardly going to say that they didn’t have the correct business model. Clearly this is not the only due diligence. You still need to evaluate the management team, the solution, the market, and the competition. But now you have another lens or perspective that will make you ask some different questions throughout the due diligence:

  • How attuned is the management team to the different buying cultures?
  • Is the solution, or the target markets for the solution, likely to be Value Added or Value Created?
  • Are the management and sales team hard-core Value Added or consultative Value Created?
  • Is the competition aligned with their buying cultures, or is there an opportunity to sneak an advantage?
  • If there is misalignment between the company’s operational culture and the market buying culture, can you influence it to dramatically scale the company?

A fairly simple, quick, and relatively unobtrusive approach would be to do the analysis of solution/proposition vs. buying culture. This will give you a clear view on their alignment and massively de-risk your investment.

They also have a portfolio of companies they have invested in. How many of the companies with great solutions are failing to meet expectations when you invested? Have they simply written them off as part of ‘portfolio investing’ – you get some stars and some dogs. Sometimes you cannot legislate which are going to be stars or dogs. So a good investor makes so much on the stars that the dogs don’t matter to the portfolio.

What if that were not 100 percent true? They don’t invest in dogs. They perform weeks of expensive due diligence to avoid the dogs. They hope to pick only stars – so what goes wrong? What if they could help the dogs become stars, just by applying the buying culture and IMPACT principles?

A radical new way to publish a book

publishing

Rethinking book publishing

Having recently read the Lean Startup by Eric Ries a thought struck me as we started to rewrite Why Killer Products. We originally published it in 2008 which was appalling timing as the whole world was in melt down and survival was the only thing an executive wanted to think about. But now, we have a digital goldrush as everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. So we are re-writing it and making it more focused on executives in tech startups selling B2B.  So, why follow the same worn old path?

Traditional approach
  1. research
  2. write full book
  3. get reviewer feedback
  4. rewrite book
  5. publish
  6. write book summary
  7. promote
  8. wait for feedback.
A radical approach

However, we are taking a different approach to the book. We have written a 25 page book summary.  It is a free download and is really an abridged version rather than the normal “teaser”. It gives you the whole story, but doesn’t go into a massive level of detail or have any examples or case studies. If there is enough interest from the book summary we will go ahead and edit and publish the full book. So instead our process looks like this;

  1. research
  2. write 25 page book summary
  3. get reviewer feedback
  4. rewrite summary
  5. make available to readers
  6. get feedback and level of interest
  7. write full book
  8. publish.

We got the idea from a combination of the Lean Startup who advocate developing the minimum viable product (MVP) to gauge and test the market and also Teespring a t-shirt printing company who call it “crowdfunded customer apparel” who only print the t-shirts once the number of orders have reach an economic batch size.

What it means is that we don’t waste time if there is limited interest or if the book summary gives enough information and the full book is not necessary.

Is this the future of publishing? We think so, but let’s let the market decide.

The power of social media: good & evil

A simple mistake by a Sainsbury’s employee who put a poster aimed at employees, to encourage every shopper to spend an extra 50p, up in a store window would have been a local issue 5 years ago. Realising their mistake it would have been taken down and forgotten, with perhaps a little ribbing from colleagues and a dressing down from their supervisor. Not now. Social media amplifies everything. The good and the bad. The blunder was spread around the social universe with the hashtag on Twitter until it was picked up by a national newspaper, in this article,  which supercharged the social media force.

Here is the offending or offensive poster.

Sainsburys 50p

Literally genius or is it literacy genius?

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 10.21.21

Students at a local school were assigned to read 2 books, ‘Titanic’ and ‘My Life’ by Bill Clinton. One student turned in the following book report, with the proposition that they were nearly identical stories! His professor gave him an A+ for this report.

Titanic: Cost – $29.99
Clinton : Cost – $29.99

Titanic: Over 3 hours to read
Clinton : Over 3 hours to read

Titanic: The story of Jack and Rose, their forbidden love, and subsequent catastrophe.
Clinton : The story of Bill and Monica, their forbidden love, and subsequent catastrophe.

Titanic: Jack is a starving artist.
Clinton : Bill is a bullshit artist.

Titanic: In one scene, Jack enjoys a good cigar.
Clinton : Ditto for Bill

Titanic: During the ordeal, Rose’s dress gets ruined.
Clinton : Ditto for Monica.

Titanic: Jack teaches Rose to spit.
Clinton : Let’s not go there.

Titanic: Rose gets to keep her jewellery.
Clinton : Monica is forced to return her gifts.

Titanic: Rose remembers Jack for the rest of her life.
Clinton : Clinton doesn’t remember anything.

Titanic: Rose goes down on a vessel full of seamen.
Clinton : Monica.. Ooh, let’s not go there, either.

Titanic: Jack surrenders to an icy death.
Clinton : Bill goes home to Hillary – basically the same thing

Unlocking the secrets of selling innovative solutions B2B

IMPACT: the technology executive’s guide for selling B2B disruptive and innovative solutions

Download the 20 page Book Summary

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

It is getting easier to develop technology, and cheaper to deploy through the cloud, but it is not getting any easier to build and scale an innovative B2B technology company. At the outset innovative or disruptive technology is only purchased by an Early Adopter, to use Geoffrey Moore’s “Crossing the Chasm” terminology. The Early Adopter buying approach is the polar opposites to the Early Majority buyer. The Early Adopter is prepared to take a personal risk with innovative technology as they can see the huge potential. In contrast the Early Majority is the risk-averse buyer of technology in established markets to solve known, documented and measured needs; for example CRM, ERP, BI, secure mobility or collaboration. In fact, staggeringly 63% of all software revenue is split between Microsoft, SAP and Oracle – the market leaders – selling to the Early Majority.

Our 25 years of research has shown that every buyer follows a universal buying process, irrespective of industry, country or market. We have distilled this process into 6 steps; IMPACT. Idea, Mentor, Position, Assess, Case, Transaction.

What is interesting is when the customer invites the vendor into the process. The Early Adopter engages the vendor at Mentor when the solution is innovative, disruptive and shows potential that needs to be proven. The Early Majority does not invite the vendor until Case, when they already have a budget, business case, RFP and are ready to run a formal procurement process.

So, the different buying traits and the length and style of customer engagement means that selling to an Early Adopter requires a radically different approach to the shorter engagement with the Early Majority. However, unaware of IMPACT of the buyer types, most early stage companies replicate the sales techniques of the market leaders with disastrous results. They are selling to the Early Adopters, but using an approach honed to sell to the Early Majority.

But it is not just the sales teams that have to work differently. The entire company must be structured in a way to optimize sales to the particular buyer type. We are calling that the operational culture; the strategy, the structure, the behavior and expectations of the organization. This means different processes, incentives and KPIs. The Early Adopter needs a Value Created operational culture which has more thought leadership and is more consultative. The Early Majority needs a Value Added operational culture – the way that we see the market leaders operate – managing a sales funnel and winning RFPs.

Sadly most early stage companies, by default, are organized with a Value Added operational culture and are staffed with Value Added sales guys fresh out of SAP or Oracle. They are confused about why they are not closing deals and their tried and trusted sales funnel metrics are not working. And worse, they are frustrated that it is proving impossible to forecast close dates.

The purpose of this book is to enable you understand what is happening for your Early Adopter customer through the IMPACT cycle and how to engage with them so that it all makes sense and becomes repeatable.

To be able to survive and then thrive to the left of the chasm, selling to Early Adopters, early stage companies need to make a strategic shift and move to a Value Created operational culture.

Download the 20 page Book Summary

Q9 Group launches. The start of a new era or is that error?

Q9 logo and tag line

The summer is over. The flip flops and shorts have been swapped for business attire. I took the summer off to spend time with the family and that has proved to be one of my better decisions. But I also set myself the goal of by 1 Sept that I would decide what I would focus my energy on. I had 4 options:

  1. Another tech start-up
  2. An interim CEO role (adult supervision) for a tech start up
  3. A portfolio career of writing, speaking and non exec roles
  4. Launching a global consulting firm.

I chose door 4. Why?  I think it offers the right level of risk vs reward for me.  Plus, sitting here in San Francisco, close to Salesforce.com I can see  huge opportunity to help them with their largest clients where they are engaged in large change projects with complex implementations where the process driven approach we perfected at Nimbus will make a huge difference.  Finally, back in March I was program manager for a large TIBCO Nimbus project with a small team of 5  of us for 3 months at a client in Toronto. It was Q9’s first project and it took me back to my Accenture days. And I had forgotten how much fun and rewarding it was.

So the last 2 weeks I have been developing the brand, getting clear on the proposition, setting up the email, social sites and website.  The deadline was today.  And it is all done. So please go and check it out  www.q9group.com    All comments, both good and bad, are welcome.

Q9 logo and tag line

MISSION:  We help our clients change to be more successful

FOCUS: Customer Experience = Process + CRM (Salesforce.com)

 

 

Obviously if there are projects that you hear about, then please think of Q9.  If you are interested in working for Q9 then email me  igotts@q9group.com  In the early days it is a balancing act between winning projects and taking on staff. But the aim is to build a significant consulting business, headquartered out of San Francisco but delivering complex change projects for global clients.

I will continue to blog here as IanGotts on a range of subjects, but also Q9 will be blogging on process, sales and Customer Experience.  So please go and subscribe.

I am both excited and scared.  But that is how it should be – right?

 

CRM = Customer Rejection Management

Customer Service

Every major organization has some form of customer call center. You may have renamed yours “contact center.” They are manned by staff that are trained, tooled-up with technology and incentivized to support customers. The center is critical because it drives long term sales and protects repeat revenue. It may even be considered a “profit center.”

Customer Strategy

But your customers are calling you less, and only when they really have to. I would suggest that CRM stands for “customer rejection management” rather than customer relationship management; and this is by design. There are three strategies that companies are adopting that are driving customers away, giving you less insight into your customers and their needs, and, ultimately, alienating them.

These strategies are:

  • Outsourcing: lets a call center operator talk to your customers;
  • Self service: lets them find their own answers; and
  • Search/social networking: lets someone else help them.

All three strategies are driven by a cost-center/cost-reduction mindset.

But the one time you force your customers to contact you is when they don’t want to. This is called non-value demand. In other words, you are making your customers do something that has no real value for them.

Either you make them call a number and sit on hold after they have navigated through a labyrinthine list of menu options; or you make them go to an unintelligible website, register by entering a huge list of personal information, wait for a validation email, and then make them try to navigate your website – all with little or no guidance or step by step instructions. Sound familiar?

Here are some examples of non-value demand:

  • Report a fault or error in a product or service.
  • Fix a problem in a product or service.
  • Confirm or acknowledge a change of contract or other details.
  • Update personal details.

The opposite of non value demand is value-demand. This is something initiated by the customer that they want for their benefit. They may not want to talk to you but it is worth their time and effort. Some examples are:

  • Ask for an increase in credit limit.
  • Cancel a product or service.
  • Order a product or service.
  • Give feedback.

What makes both non-value demand and value-demand non-functional is that companies often compound it with poorly thought through, inadequately tested and inconsistently applied business processes. I am not just talking about the screens in the CRM application but the end-to-end process: the customer journey.

This makes the experience even worse for everybody. The customer is confused and frustrated. The call center operator is uncomfortable and frustrated; i.e., the customer leaves the call upset, no matter how good, positive or cheerful your call center person is.

Good process design

The explosive growth of social networking means that there is now a wide range of ways that a customer may get their question answered. They can call you, search your website, email you, search for the answer on a forum, post the question on a social networking site like LinkedIn or Facebook, or on a micro-blogging site like Twitter.

This is the perfect opportunity for you to take a look at front office processes, and take a customer-centric perspective. Put the customer at the heart of the situation and think about their journey.

The good news is that most of the back office processes can stay the same.

This is the opportunity to take a faster, more effective yet proven approach to process capture/discovery, CRM design, and the adoption of new working practices for your customer facing staff. This can be done through interactive, collaborative process mapping sessions, rapid CRM system prototyping or role-based guided process walk-throughs delivering links to systems, videos, on screen entry, documents and forms, in the context of an end-to-end process.

Gone are consultants interviewing staff and producing complex flowcharts that cover the entire wall of the project office. The end to six to 12 month CRM/IT-centric projects. Say goodbye to offsite CRM systems training courses.

Just theory? No = Success.

Is this approach just theory, you ask? No. It can be seen on every street in the UK in Carphone Warehouse stores, with an initiative they call ‘How2’. (Full disclosure: Carphone Warehouse is a TIBCO client.)

If you can’t make it out of the office, Carphone Warehouse has documented its project in videos from several perspectives including a retail store, back office, the project sponsor. The results speak for themselves. Just from the deployment to 815 stores the ROI was 1100% in year one, customer satisfaction (NPS) was up 25%, an additional revenue of £5M in the first year and they’ve saved £50,000 per year on telephone support calls to stores. In fact, the company has just won a Gartner BPM Excellence Award in the Leveraging BPM Technology category.

Just theory? No = FAIL.

I’ll contrast this with the non-value demand experience of another UK retailer … which shall go unnamed.

Last year I moved the family to the USA and before we left we rented out our house. We called the UK-based retailer, 30 days in advance to cancel our TV/phone/broadband service (value demand). The person at the call center was very helpful. A letter arrived in the post confirming the cancellation of the TV. The letter read:

Sorry to hear you decided to cancel your subscription. Your viewing will stop on dd/mm/yyyy. (The date was wrong: non-value demand contact required.) We are delighted that you want to continue your service etc., etc., etc. (Wrong again = non-value demand contact required.).”

So we make a non-value demand call. A very helpful and friendly call center representative said that we would be receiving separate letters from each department (telephone, broadband, TV) cancelling the services.  Each, presumably, saying the other services would continue, confusing us or prompting more non-value demand calls. We were advised to simply ignore these letters when they arrived, which we did.

About a week ago we were sent a letter prompting another non-value demand call. There is a credit on the account and they wanted me to call them to let them know if we would like a check and where to send it. Far better would have been to credit our bank account or attach a check to the letter.

Processs-led thinking leads to happy customers

The people who design operational processes should think about how it feels from a customer perspective. Then how the effective use of technology can enhance the experience for everyone. The social media revolution taking place is the perfect catalyst.

Ahhh!! I feel better now. Who should I call to tell?

Yoga mat for sale. Used once. – $1 (Craigslist Bellevue)

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 21.17.16

Here’s the full text from the Seattle Craigslist ad below:
Yoga mat for sale. Used once at lunch hour class in December 2009. Usage timeline as follows:

11:45a
Register for hot yoga class. Infinite wisdom tells me to commit to 5 class package and purchase a yoga mat. I pay $89.74. Money well spent, I smugly confirm to myself.

11:55a
Open door to yoga room. A gush of hot dry air rushes through and past me. It smells of breath, sweat and hot. Take spot on floor in back of room next to cute blonde. We will date.

11:57a
I feel the need to be as near to naked as possible. This is a problem because of the hot blonde to my left and our pending courtship. She will not be pleased to learn that I need to lose 30 pounds before I propose to her.

11:58a
The shirt and sweats have to come off. I throw caution to the wind and decide to rely on my wit and conditioning to overcome any weight issues my fiancée may take issue with. This will take a lot of wit and conditioning.

11:59a
Begin small talk with my bride to be. She pretends to ignore me but I know how she can be. I allow her to concentrate and stare straight ahead and continue to pretend that I don’t exist. As we finish sharing our special moment, I am suddenly aware of a sweat moustache that has formed below my nose. This must be from the all the whispering between us.

12:00p
Instructor enters the room and ascends her special podium at the front of the room. She is a slight, agitated Chinese woman. She introduces me to the class and everyone turns around to greet me just as I decide to aggressively adjust my penis and testes packed in my Under Armor. My bride is notably unfazed.

12:02p
Since I do have experience with Hot Yoga (4 sessions just 5 short years ago) I fully consider that I may be so outstanding and skilled that my instructor may call me out and ask me to guide the class. My wife will look on with a sparkle in her eye. We will make love after class.

12:10p
It is now up to 95 degrees in the room. We have been practicing deep breathing exercises for the last 8 minutes. This would not be a problem if we were all breathing actual, you know, oxygen. Instead, we are breathing each other’s body odor, expelled carbon dioxide and other unmentionables. (Don’t worry, I’ll mention them later.)

12:26p
It is now 100 degrees and I take notice of the humidity, which is hovering at about 90%. I feel the familiar adorning stare of my bride and decide to look back at her. She appears to be nauseated. I then realize that I forgot to brush my teeth prior to attending this class. We bond.

12:33p
It is now 110 degrees and 95% humidity. I am now balancing on one leg with the other leg crossed over the other. My arms are intertwined and I am squatting. The last time I was in this position was 44 years ago in the womb, but I’m in this for the long haul. My wife looks slightly weathered dripping sweat and her eyeliner is streaming down her face. Well, “for better or worse” is what we committed to so we press on.

12:40p
The overweight Hispanic man two spots over has sweat running down his legs. At least I think its sweat. He is holding every position and has not had a sip of water since we walked in. He is making me look bad and I hate him.

12:44p
I consider that if anyone in this room farted that we would all certainly perish.

12:52p
It is now 140 degrees and 100% humidity. I am covered from head to toe in sweat. There is not a square millimeter on my body that is not slippery and sweaty. I am so slimy that I feel like a sea lion or a maybe sea eel. Not even a bear trap could hold me. The sweat is stinging my eyeballs and I can no longer see.

12:55p
This room stinks of asparagus, cloves, tuna and tacos. There is no food in the room. I realize that this is an amalgamation of the body odors of 30 people in a 140 degree room for the last 55 minutes. Seriously, enough with the asparagus, ok?

1:01p
140 degrees and 130% humidity. Look, bitch, I need my space here so don’t get all pissy with me if I accidentally sprayed you with sweat as I flipped over. Seriously, is that where this relationship is going? Get over yourself. We need counseling and she needs to be medicated. Stat!

1:09p
150 degrees and cloudy. And hot. I can no longer move my limbs on my own. I have given up on attempting any of the commands this Chinese chick is yelling out at us. I will lay sedentary until the aid unit arrives. I will buy this building and then have it destroyed.
I lose consciousness.

1:15p
I have a headache and my wife is being a selfish bitch. I can’t really breathe. All I can think about is holding a cup worth of hot sand in my mouth. I cannot remember what an ice cube is and cannot remember what snow looks like. I consider that my only escape might be a crab walk across 15 bodies and then out of the room. I am paralyzed, and may never walk again so the whole crab walk thing is pretty much out.

1:17p
I cannot move at all and cannot reach my water. Is breathing voluntary or involuntary? If it’s voluntary, I am screwed. I stopped participating in the class 20 minutes ago. Hey, lady! I paid for this frickin class, ok?! You work for me! Stop yelling at everyone and just tell us a story or something. It’s like juice and cracker time, ok?

1:20p
It is now 165 degrees and moisture is dripping from the ceiling. The towel that I am laying on is no longer providing any wicking or drying properties. It is actually placing additional sweat on me as I touch it. My towel reeks. I cannot identify the smell but no way can it be from me. Did someone spray some stank on my towel or something?

1:30p
Torture session is over. I wish hateful things upon the instructor. She graciously allows us to stay and ‘cool down’ in the room. It is 175 degrees. Who cools down in 175 degrees? A Komodo Dragon? My wife has left the room. Probably to throw up.

1:34p
My opportunity to escape has arrived. I roll over to my stomach and press up to my knees. It is warmer as I rise up from ground level – probably by 15 degrees. So let’s conservatively say it’s 190. I muster my final energy and slowly rise. One foot in front of the other. One foot in front of the other. Towards the door. Towards the door.

1:37p
The temperature in the lobby is 72 degrees. Both nipples stiffen to diamond strength and my penis begins to retract into my abdomen from the 100 degree temp swing. I can once again breathe though so I am pleased. I spot my future ex wife in the lobby. We had such a good thing going but I know that no measure of counseling will be able to unravel the day’s turmoil and mental scaring.

1:47p
Arrive at Emerald City Smoothie and proceed to order a 32 oz beverage. 402 calories, 0 fat and 14 grams of protein — effectively negating any caloric burn or benefit from the last 90 minutes. I finish it in 3 minutes and spend the next 2 hours writing this memoir.

3:47p
Create Craigslist ad while burning final 2 grams of protein from Smoothie and before the “shakes” consume my body.

4:29p
Note to self – check car for missing wet yoga towel in am

Conference delegate – a better ROI

Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 19.31.09

The Fall conference season is starting, but what is your attitude to conferences? Do you sign up as an enthusiastic delegate? Do you feel you need to attend, but resent the time away from the family? Or are you a conscientious objector who stays at home catching up via conference videos and blogs?

Flawed thinking

Maybe you’re thinking about conferences the wrong way.  And organisers need to take note.

It costs a ton of time and money to go to a conference. So, other than the parties and freebies, why go? If you cast your mind back to last year’s – or last month’s – conference, what do you remember?

Now, social media is starting to change the nature of conferences.

Presentations: Before it was about listening to sessions. Now they are available streamed in perfect quality on YouTube or the conference website. Or at least the slide decks are available for download.
Coverage:  Analysts, bloggers and delegates will all be tweeting and blogging during the sessions for the benefit of delegates and those stay-at-homes. Which means the organizer needs to provide wifi and a room which is not pitch black.
Networking: Before you might make a few valuable contacts. Now with Twitter and Facebook you form offline relationships before the event. And at the event you meet the people face to face. Putting a face to the gravatar and finding out if they match up to their online profile….
Organization: The set up of the conference needs to reflect these changes. The agenda needs to allow for more networking,  the venue needs wifi to enable people to connect, and there should be space for informal meetings.  Finally, the organizers should not be overly concerned if people are not attending sessions, but instead are engaged in conversations with other delegates.

This means that the conference starts well before the actual day (making contacts, arranging to meet) and lasts beyond the event (listening to sessions, reading blogs).

So next conference, focus on engaged conversations. The one on one discussions of what someone is working on. Helping a friend think about a a project approach or solve a thorny  problem. Discover why it is the CMO not the CIO with the IT budget. Sneaking out to go to a coffee shop with a very cool CEO…

Small talk or engaged conversations?

Want some ideas to break the ice and get beyond small talk?  Take a look at this TED blog