I’ve been talking with some folks about a big industry analyst meeting (not to be confused with financial analysts.) It’s an important opportunity to spend face time with influencers and get out the message about why your company matters.
Here are some observations and tips that might help in case you’ve got a similar meeting coming up. Although this is about an analyst event, the tips could just as easily apply to a press gathering.
- Before you send out the first invitation, cross check your planning with the conference calendar. If there’s another big industry event close on, don’t schedule your gathering at the same time. You’ll lose attendance. It’s easier to change your date than for analysts to skip out on a major conference.
- Find a good corporate event planner and get out of her way. These people are a joy to watch, and they will take care of all the logistics, so you can take care of the content.
- Panels are good, instead of individual presentations, especially if you plan to showcase customers or let your execs take questions. These work well as group situations. Weak speakers won’t be put on the spot, and the others can share the question/answer load. A good moderator can create some live dynamics that analysts will appreciate. You can give the panel a name and carry out the event theme in a structured way.
- Give the analysts all your presentations. Why not? They are going to ask for them anyway, so be proactive. Put together a nice CD or thumb drive with the slide decks, executive bios and photos, customer case studies (especially if these customers are speaking at the event for you.) white papers and reports on the key pillars of your messaging. You’ll make the analysts’ jobs easier, and you’ll have more control over what they come away with.
- Don’t start the agenda too early in the morning. It’s going to be a long day. These analysts are on the road, coming to your turf, but they still have work to do, too. Start at 9 AM and give them some time to check email, return a few calls and enjoy a cup of coffee in peace. Maybe you’ll have more of their attention later in the day if you give them time to take some things off their plate..
- Trust your company, your people and the analysts. Don’t try to control every message and interaction. These are people coming to see people. They have a job to do. They aren’t out to get you. Meet them halfway at least. You’ll get better long-term results with honest interaction than too much structure.
What Analysts Want to Hear
What do analysts want to hear? I decided to ask one. Here are his remarks.
“It depends on their (the analysts’) interests and clients. They primarily want to see that a company is different and has strong offerings that solve real problems that add value for customers. They want to connect with execs, professionally and personally, and feel free to call them as needed. (Like I know top people at companies who will take my calls, and I know many well enough to ask about kids, interests, etc.). That’s the relationship stuff that takes time to build. And it builds trust, too.”
Here’s where it might get scary for corporate marketers:
“At a big meeting, let the analysts ask tough questions and don’t dodge the answers or blow smoke. They will figure out weaknesses anyway, and it’s better to be up front about them, especially if you have a way forward to talk about.”
“No sales pitch. Talk about the industry and the business and how you have a strategy. And WHY you have the strategy you do.”
If you can’t do that, you’ve just thrown one hell of a gathering, but you probably won’t get much out of it in the long run.