In my 15-year business career, I’ve had my share of challenging moments.
I’ve been on the receiving end of obscenity-laced tirades authored by disagreeable senior executives.
I’ve stood on stage in front of hundreds of people, dazzling PowerPoint presentations on towering screens behind me, as technology I had planned to demonstrate failed utterly.
With a smile on my face, I’ve feasted on mysterious meats at business dinners in foreign countries.
None of these challenges, however, has tested me as much as planning and executing an industry event. It’s the hardest, most stressful, and, when successful, most rewarding work I have ever done.
I’ve been putting on events for years. I’ve hosted mobile app developers at Mobile World Congress, CES and CTIA. I’ve done mobile game briefings for journalists with DreamWorks Animation. I’ve co-hosted VIP app demos and after-parties with heavy hitters, such as Red Bull, ESPN, and the PGA, and with startups such as StyleSaint.
Along the way, I’ve learned a thing or two about what separates an attention-getting, let’s-toast-ourselves-after-74-straight-days-including-weekends-of-work success, from a fancy-but-forgetful gathering that most will un-remember as soon as they reclaim their cars from the valet.
The key to a successful event: an authentic partner testimonial
Event season is about to heat up. While I can point to a lot of ingredients that are essential to an event’s good outcome, there is one that stands out, especially if your business markets products or services to other businesses:
An authentic, in-the-flesh testimonial from a successful, happy partner.
Events by their nature require that companies puff out their chests and announce their coolness. This creates a dilemma best summarized by a former manager of mine: as soon as we proclaim ourselves to be cool, we instantly become not cool.
That’s why getting a partner to say your product or service is cool is so important. Picking the right person from the partner company to speak on your behalf is critical, too.
If the partner is a start-up, insist on a C-level executive. If it’s more established, go for VP or higher. Whomever you pick should be someone who can shine on stage, on camera, and while being interviewed by a journalist itching for a “gotcha” moment.
You probably will have to pay for at least some of your partner’s travel. You will have to forfeit time on stage or in a booth that could be occupied by someone in your company’s C-suite instead. If you can work around these things, though, the payoff can be significant.
Your message can take flight without the baggage of having been delivered just by you. After all, potential partners, skeptical media and analysts are far more likely to value an existing partner’s story than anything you might say.
Your partner can use your stage and the audience you’ve gathered to get its message and brand into circulation.
The exposure can create significant value for your partners, which may come in handy in future contract negotiations.
Successful events require more than just a willing, believable, and available partner. You need a lead generation plan. You have to measure what matters most to your business. Logistics will occupy a lot of your time.
Still, if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a partner’s success case is worth enough words to fill Moby Dick. As you prepare for CES, MWC, and any other event on your calendar, think now about which partners and people can give the best voice to your messages. The sooner you book them, the sooner you can get to work on the second most essential ingredient to any great event: