So let’s start with some general suggestions:
Analyst schedules are almost always busy. We often don’t know from when and where we are flying in to the event until the last minute. Especially March to May and September till November are ‘crazy’ months when regular work (advisories, consulting, speaking etc.) collide with the conference schedule. So the earlier you can get your event schedule shared, the better, including the days and times for the analyst track. Then vendors should understand that analysts often don’t know till a few weeks before the event from where they will be flying to and back from.
Monday starts are popular for conferences, which mostly means Sunday travel to get there. It may seem little to vendors as this happens a few times a year, for analyst it means a few dozen times in the year (32 times for me in 2014). So travelling to the conference on Mondays will not only be appreciated by analysts – but also customers, who often attend more events than most of the vendor personnel.
For better coverage, it helps if you can share – under NDA as needed – the key announcements for the event beforehand. Some vendors do a very good job to brief analysts ahead of the event on key announcements and events, e.g. IBM and Informatica stuck out in 2014. You certainly get more coverage and a more attentive analyst crowd if you brief us ahead of time.
Analysts need the conference content to blog, report and advise shared customers and prospects about it. Ideally vendors would share that before – under NDA is fine – or as real time as possible. In 2014 one vendor shared documents of the conference 20 days later… needless to say the trains had left the station. And I would not play the silly game of giving feedback and in return getting the materials. Personally I am happy to play it as long as reasonable, but first priority for an analyst is to understand, tweet, blog, report on the event – not to provide feedback on it.
Events are exhausting, for all participants. But the follow up in the next 3-5 days with the analyst community is crucial, the faster questions can be answered, the better. Bringing the executives together at the end of the analyst track is a great best practice, e.g. done so by e.g. Amazon, Ceridian, IBM and Kronos in 2014. Providing high quality pictures of keynotes and slides is ensuring a vendor’s content looks great in blogs and reports. Otherwise it will be missed completely on the visual side or the best effort of an analyst taking his best picture…
Next – how do you seat analyst and press in keynotes… Tables and multiple power plugs are a must. Even though you get a first row seat but you need to balance smartphones (for tweets with pictures) and a notebook on your lap with two colleagues sitting next to you and trying to do the same – it definitively does not make our life easy. And is certainly detrimental to coverage. So it does not have to be the personal LazyBoy (as some of us were joking in fall) – but a decent table, power outlets and an ok chair will go a long way. And bio breaks are needed, too – so don’t do 4 hour keynote sessions as one vendor did in 2014.
And lastly – always a challenge – if you want the analysts to cover live / tweet from the keynotes - make sure that they have a working Wifi network. I realize that is a huge challenge, but with more regular attendees being active on social media – it is better to err on the side of spending more for Wifi than less. Providing a separate media / press / analyst network is a good practice, though I don’t like the two class society… a tweet is a tweet from anyone attending and using your conference hashtag. And the work around with wired connections is certainly a good one, but let us know ahead of time as not all of us carry the needed network adapter cables most of our devices require these days…. Lastly columns in the line of sight don’t help attention and visual coverage either.
On the subject of covering the event, in case you stream it – make it even easier to do so. I am waiting for streaming clients to have the respective social media buttons to share the slide / picture that is currently streamed right away to the social network. If a vendor wants more social coverage of the event, that is the biggest trick in the trade for 2015.
And then comes the bigger picture. We understand that vendors don’t want to share / cannot share information early some times. But give us a hint that major things are happening. Last year we had the case that a vendor announced very major new products – when all analysts were either already in the air or at the airport. Not only do vendors miss on the coverage, the previously written takeaways are obsolete or need a massive change. It’s ok not to give away the news, put tell us to pay attention at a certain time or day. Or not be on a plane at the time. Wink, wink.
Next comes the event coverage. Analysts understand that most vendor staff is exhausted, for you it’s a big event vs. for us analysts it is just one of many. I’d recommend vendors to keep some spare capacity for factual reviews and inquiries during and right after the event – as you want to stay in the news cycle. Often analysts are off to the next event and if their blog / report is not out quickly, things start piling up. The result is less, later and less accurate coverage, all things you don’t want as a vendor.
And after the even it is expense time. Making the expense process easy will be welcome by all analysts. Some vendors have given analyst ‘carte blanche’ for flight booking, setting limits to what they will approve amount wise. Giving the analyst the freedom to book their own flight is a win / win – so certainly a best practice to consider. One vendor has gone so far to do so for the whole event, setting limits for hotels, airport transfers, taxis etc. – a very good step all other vendors should take note of and ideally imitate. Bonus to consider for 2015: Do an expense drop when the analyst leaves the event, credit same cost for return to airport and incidentals for the rest of the day – and vendor and analyst are done. With the bonus that analysts are likely to show up when they leave your event.
And lastly cookbooks and other large items and gifts are certainly appreciated, but offer the analysts a shipping option. Last year I came back with three cookbooks in a week…
If you are a vendor – let me know what you think – if you are an analyst – please do the same – and add what I have missed.