Really not sure how it got to Friday with no blogs posted yet this week. I blame analyst conferences!
But I wanted to get some thoughts down about the future of these events. In the last two weeks Cisco and Microsoft have both run events for analysts designed to minimise travel budgets. Welcome side effects of not flying include:
- Spending more time with our families. Any day that I get to see my wife and son is a better day.
- Cutting our carbon footprints. The main carbon in any professional services firm is travel. As I often say, I could live in a mud hut and only eat vegetables and my footprint would still be unacceptably high.
- People won’t accuse us of constant boondoggles
The missing element of both conferences was testing the experience. Live Meeting and Cisco Webex both have their pros and cons, but neither offers a painless and guaranteed access experience, especially when you want to use multimodal sharing off desktops, videos and so on. My only criticism then was that both vendors should have got us online to get the experience right before the events themselves.
Judith Hurwitz wrote a good piece about her experiences of the Microsoft Virtual Analyst Summit.
There is no substitute for personal interaction with people. When I attend an industry analyst meeting I pay attention to more than the words the speaker is saying
Fair point. But actually I found the 1:1 phone calls with Microsoft to be excellent. Particularly the session with a customer of Visual Studio.NET Team Services, Ted Malone of Configuresoft. I had never met Ted before but we just clicked. With no video or anything else. GREAT conversation. The human voice is a wonderful instrument for comprehension. Ted is funny, and astute and totally gets that software development is about collaboration rather than just “workflow”. Honestly – the quality of the 1:1s was good enough to generate 8/10+ ratings for four out of five one:ones.
Note that a computer can tell if someone on the phone is being truthful or not. Well we are better at parsing truthiness than any computer. All that said, given Microsoft send us a video camera before the event, and a hefty bag of candy, I assumed we were expected to do more video conferencing.
But what about online videos? Microsoft basically pre-canned presentations rather than live-streaming them. Judith said:
Will a typical analyst have the patience to watch five hours of pre-recorded videos? Not likely. I might listen to a video that I am particularly interested in (like cloud computing or service oriented architectures, for example). But I will not listen to all the presentations. There are simply too many distractions and too many things to do. That is the reality of my life as a researcher, analyst, and writer. The reality is that unless you present compelling presentations with information that draws me in you will not capture my attention for long periods of time.
Stat. On the other hand, I don’t like going to keynotes and sitting there for two hours. All tech vendors err on the side of WAY too much information in keynotes. These days I like to follow the example of my colleague Cote, and watch the keynote from the hotel room, where the net connection is assured, and my twitter community is with me. Canned video suits me pretty well.
Interestingly enough Cisco this week used telepresence tools for some presentations from Corp. (it ran a half day face to face event and a second day purely virtual) and honestly, at least one of these might as well have been a video. Some speakers were reading from scripts, and it showed. No eye contact.
Frankly, boring content or boring speakers are going to suck whatever the context.
Judith’s conclusions are basically my own:
1. Virtual conferences need really good planning and execution. It cannot simply be a disconnected voice with some slides on a shared screen. That is called a conference call.
2. Streaming or live video is wonderful but it needs to have the technology foundation so that it will work no matter what the customer/participant’s environment happens to be.
3. If virtual conferences are to work they have to be conferences. I don’t think that we have good models for executing virtual conferences that work. They need to be electric, informative, and have interactivity. Right now the virtual meeting is not a true model. It is simply old execution applied to a new idea.
I think that we will see the emergence of a true virtual conferencing model. I can’t tell you that I can visualize a virtual conference that I would enjoy. Like many analysts, I am not good at passively sitting and watching. I need to be engaged and part of the action. I am not sure how you do this virtually. But I am ready to be surprised and delighted since it would be great not to get on an airplane.
All in all though this was a first time for both Cisco and Microsoft, so of course you’re going to get teething problems. And I am looking forward to seeing Robb Mapp, from Microsoft analyst relations face to face when he visits London in a couple of weeks. I will buy him a pint. One thing you can’t do virtually is share a beer.
disclosure: Microsoft is a client. I did drink beer during its event, after six pm.