Sunday, November 18, 2012


Why you aren't getting full value in attending analyst conferences and webinars

The word conference is derived from the latin word confer. If you look up the definition, you will find something along the lines of: to consult together; compare opinions; carry on a discussion or deliberation. Sadly, industry analyst conferences tend to be highly scripted and filled with static powerpoint in order to stifle different opinions, carry on a discussion or to encourage deliberation...

When I was an employee of The Hartford, I used to speak at a lot of industry conferences on a variety of controversial topics. I, however never spoke at conferences but on by Gartner, Celent or other analyst firms with one exception (more on this later). Gartner did approach me for one of their events, but had asked for something I haven't ran across in other conferences. They wanted to schedule prior to the event, a rehersal session. Rehersal means that they wanted me to get down exactly what I would say to particular questions in advance. I am unsure as to whether this was a compliment or insult. You know, I get to use a teleprompter like Barack Obama to wow the American public enabling me to wax poetically while delivering well-polished bullshit or did they think of me as a B-rated actor in need of acting lessons. Interestingly enough, this behavior isn't contained to just Gartner. As I also frequently participate in many insurance vertical events, I have noticed on more than a few occasions that webinars put on by firms such as Celent, Novarica and others have similar practices where the analysts are reading their responses to moderated questions. As an audience participant, you will find that the questions you may ask, will never be seen by others participants until it goes through moderation. So, much for the definition of conference.

Anyway, to be fair there are a few analyst firms that hold true to the definition of what a conference is meant to be. The two personal experiences, I have had in this regard are with Kuppinger Cole, an analyst firm in Germany and the 451 Group in the United States and London. They manage to hire talent that actually knows their subject matter deeply, who over-prepare and therefore have no fear about getting pummeled with questions they are blissfully ignorant about. The name Kuppinger Cole is derived from the names of two individuals while 451 Group describes something very fascinating. 451 is the temperature that paper burns. I wonder if this a word play on all those other analyst firms who need to burn the scripts that their analysts read on webinars that rob their attendees of higher value...

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