As a professional presenter, I’m a frequent contributor to customer events organized by Microsoft Dynamics 365 partners all over Europe. Over the last 12 months, I’ve been on the agenda as speaker and panel moderator of a few dozens of these events. With audiences varying in size from a few tens to several hundreds of visitors. That experience gives me an interesting view on how these events are organized, how the visitors react and what the outcomes are.
Every single time it’s impressive to see all these partners doing great efforts to organize their best event ever. However, while most of these events are really good, there’s always possibilities for further improvements, right? So here’s the top-5 learnings and new insights from all those events that I’d like to share:
1. No specific event themes, so limited registrations and quite some no-show
Many partners just call their event ‘our annual customer event’. Or ‘die Hausmesse’ as many partners in Germany do. However, it makes all the sense of the world to me to define and promote a specific event theme. Why? Simply because a compelling theme makes your event more attractive for your target group. A well-defined theme also functions as a kind of umbrella on top of the event. And that helps your speakers to adapt their messages towards the same theme so that all the parts fit better together. As a result, that turns into more registrations and a smaller no-show.
2. A ‘one size fits all’ format in the end fits nobody
When asked, most partners seriously want to attract their customers’ decision makers at these events. However, most partners seem to forget that strategic roles have completely different interests and available time compared to the tactical or more operational levels. This results in an agenda that offers all content to all attendees. Unfortunately, this ‘one size fit all’ approach often ends up in a ‘one size fits nobody’. Surely, the visitors from the operational levels will show up. But the decision makers mostly decide to stay home.
3. No real engagement creates a frustrated audience
Most IT events these days still work according the ‘sit down – shut up – listen’ format. That’s unfortunate, since todays customers want to be engaged. They want to express their own opinions. Share their experiences. Compare these with their peers. And learn from each other. So round-tables are working great. Just like statements with raising hands. Using modern apps like Mentimeter or Voxvote is of course a bit fancier. And probably also gives a better fit if your event is all about digital transformation. Facilitating visitors to vote with their phones on provocative issues, present the outcomes in real time and then discuss these outcomes with a panel on stage gives great energy and valuable results. Failing to offer any kind of engagement can create a frustrated audience. Or worse – potential visitors that stay home.
4. A wealth of functions and features, but no insights in business benefits
I do understand that you are excited about all the new innovations in and around your Dynamics 365 solutions. As a Microsoft partner you have all reasons to be excited! But does that really mean that you must deliver a sort of ‘tsunami’ of functions and features? And if you really think you must do that, why not translate all this into tangible business benefits for your customers? Yes, this is a generic behavior that goes beyond customer events. We see this behavior all around us. In pre-sales and sales. In marketing and in implementations. But why not start changing this pattern at your next event? Here’s much room for improvement for many partner organisations.
5. Probably the worst one: no customer events at all!
This is my worst observation. And one with a great potential danger! Large numbers of former Dynamics AX, NAV, GP, SL and CRM partners don’t organize any customer events at all! Neither use other professional formats to inform their current and future customers about the impact of all the innovations in the Dynamics 365 platform. About the changes in product branding. About the support they can expect on the older version that they still use. And what that all means to them business wise. That of course creates a big risk of losing existing customers since there’s many other partners and competing vendors out there willing to eat your lunch.
I hope that sharing these observations will help you improving your next customer event.
Of course, I’ll be more than happy to spice that event with an inspirational keynote presentation. Or moderating a provocative and interactive panel discussion. As I’m also available to be your wise advisor or sparring partner in the set-up and organizational part of that event.
The complete top-15 document