How to screw up a vendor analyst day - in 12 simple steps

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed March 2, 2018
It's Friday, it's raining sludge, and I'm a wee bit cranky. What better topic than how to screw up a vendor analyst day? It's all in satirical fun, but the events here are pulled from real-life. Repeat at your own risk.

This is your Friday acerbic satire warning. This post may not be safe for all workplaces or marketing departments. Heaping helpings of sarcasm to follow.

There's plenty of good posts on how to throw a terrific analyst event.

But there's an editorial void: how to screw up an analyst day. Done properly, an "analyst day" can be a welcome addition to the event calendar (I prefer them about six months after the vendors' user conference to keep the convos going).

On the other hand, when you gather a bunch of persnickety/over-traveled individuals in the same bland hotel fishbowl for a full day, lots can go wrong. User conferences go for multiple days - plenty of time for course corrections. For analyst days, there's one swing at the plate.

And lots of ways to screw up.

Before I start the satirical countdown, let's acknowledge the mirror. You'd be hard-pressed to find more divas, fussers, curmudgeons, eccentrics, and assorted high maintenance individuals (some of whom notoriously don't get along with each other) than you will amongst a group of analysts - present company included.

On the flip side, if analysts can be charmed into putting down their phones and leaving Twitter alone for a few freaking minutes of engagement, they tend to be very smart and committed people who raise valuable questions.

A good analyst day brings insights to all, and informed coverage to the masses. Alas, pulling off a really good analyst day is a ton of work. Fortunately, there's a low-effort alternative: screw the day right up! Here's how that's done.

Twelve easy steps to screw up your vendor analyst day

1. Decide that the purpose of the day is a brain dump, with as many slide decks as you can blast through. Instead of letting the day breathe with plenty of chances for feedback and interaction, why not cram the schedule with back-to-back slide dumps? That way, analysts can keep up with their email. Which leads to:

2. Start as early as the rooster crows. 8am? Nahh, go for 7am. Even 6am. The analysts can sleep on the plane - you have boatloads of slides to cover. No need for a relaxing mixer over an optional 8am breakfast.

3. Don't invite customers. It's a pain to get customers in for a day like this. And: a customer session takes time away from "Where we're going with AI and blockchain" slides. Granted, you do miss out on the chance for customers to offer a real world view of your software that analysts find persuasive, but they can always get customer stories from your competitors.

4. Invite customers, but over-moderate the panel. You wouldn't want analysts to ask your customers questions directly - that could get awkward. Better to (futilely attempt to) massage with scripted questions.

5. No need for small group break out sessions or 1:1s - just keep everyone cooped up in the same room all day.

6. Don't invite analysts who have been critical of your software. No need to engage those who are skeptical, or ensure they are at least well-informed of your plans. Leave those fussbudgets at home. You'll get through more slides this way.

7. Adhere to a very strict definition of analyst when sending invites. Never invite influencers who matter to your community unless they fit that definition. Pretty much stick with Gartner, Forrester, or IDC. What's an analyst if they don't have a design department to crank out pretty graphs? Besides, the "independent" analysts tend to bog the day down with outside-the-box ideas and questions.

8. Sprinkle "NDA" slides liberally throughout your slide decks. Don't just have one or two important, no-blog/NDA slides. Slather "NDA" on slides throughout the decks. That's crucial to controlling and limiting the editorial coverage from the event. Foster confusion on what can be shared.

9. When you go for the NDA slides, make sure the timeframe of the NDA is long-term and unclear. Lifting all NDAs in a week would result in too much open press coverage. So: keep the NDA timeframes murky.

10. Definitely ask to review all copy about your event before it is published - that's a guaranteed winner. Don't be tempted to let the analysts blog unfettered views - that will royally mess up the sentiment analysis your marketing team is doing!

Bonus, on screwing up the analyst dinner (usually held the night before)

11. Make sure that the dinner is a multi-course affair that will last at least three hours. If your analysts get too much sleep the night before, they'll interrupt the rhythm of the slides too much. Also, very important: make sure that you assign seats for the dinner so that people can't sit where they want to. The more you can establish a caste system and perceived hierarchy of guests at dinner, the better. Definitely don't do an informal buffet style where people can easily network, leave, and get to bed early.

Bonus two: assuming you invite notorious pesky-questions-specialist Brian Sommer

12. Make sure you don't have any Dr. Pepper.

13. Invite diginomica - nah, too obvious.

The wrap

/end of satire and sarcasm!

If you want my take on a great analyst day, flip each statement to its opposite.

Getting events right is a tough racket. Even the best events have weak spots. Most analyst days have good points, and some room for improvement. That's true of those of us who attend as well.

Some vendors like to embed analyst programs into user conferences. I'm not a huge fan of that - I like to get out and talk to to customers. I prefer the separate analyst event on the other side of the calendar year. But, some analysts do like a dedicated session during the conference - that's where polling your influencers comes in.

The obvious objection provoked by my satire: how do you cover the necessary material while overcoming the pitfalls? My answer: schedule a follow up call for a deep dive you didn't have time for. It comes down to whether you want to foster relationships in context, or push through a certain amount of slides.

For those in a more constructive mood, here's three good pieces on the art of the analyst day:

Analysts are also responsible for making the day a good one. Involve them in the planning - then they are more accountable for the outcome. Now that we've fixed analyst days, user events, webinars, customer case studies and keynotes, along with bad PR pitches, good PR pitches gone bad, bad AI press releases, bad blockhain press releases, and bad tech predictions, what's left?

Updated 5pm PT, March 2, with additional links, a couple of small edits for enjoyability, and the addition of #13.

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