When I started in the conference business it was a common recommendation that when putting together a program, get as many user stories or case studies as possible. The presumption was that attendees want to listen and learn from peers and high-profile companies in their industry. And so, I followed that advice and sought out those types of presenters. As a marketing tool, this approach often worked as a way to get people to come to an event. But almost as often, the attendees were disappointed in the sessions themselves.
Why was this the case, given that these presentations usually included:
- The problems encountered by the attendee’s peers;
- How the problems were solved;
- And how the attendees could do it.
Though that sounds like the right formula, here’s why it does not necessarily work:
- Frequently these sessions are funded by vendors and the presentations imply – or overtly state – that the primary reason for success is attributable to use of a particular product.
- Or the presentations rely on YOU, the audience member, to distill the material in ways that can be applied to your specific situation. After all, the presentations were not customized for each attendee.
If attendees were paying attention, their best bet is to ask questions at the end of a session or try to meet with the presenter afterward. But all the attendees of a particular session can’t do this. For those that cannot, the session might be interesting, but offer no real payoff.
What can you do as the event’s manager to succeed with these sessions? Make sure the presenters:
- Will not discuss a particular product and service in the presentation;
- Are not funded by vendors or have vendor speakers on stage ;
- Have allocated enough time for a good Q&A period as part of the session;
- Review the session in advance to ensure that the takeaways are clear and relevant.
Managed the right way, case studies can become a marketing tool while also delivering real value to attendees. So manage them properly!