Registration is open for the Gartner Tech Growth and Innovation Conference and are coming in at a steady rate. I’m confident that this year’s event will be bigger and better than last year. You can find more information on the event and details on how to register here (Note to Gartner clients: If your research agreement included a summit ticket or tickets, you can use them for this event.)
As conference chair, I get a lot of questions from our internal teams and customers about how to plan individual attendee agendas for the event. We’ve prepared lots of materials to help our sales teams guide you toward the best possible agenda, but I thought it might be useful for me to share how I would plan my time if I was attending.
- Allocate time for your two 1:1 meetings with analysts – The first thing to build into your plan is to take advantage of 1:1 time to meet with two different analysts individually. 1:1 scheduling opens in May, but make sure you build into your plan time for these meetings. You can dive deeper with analysts on their presentation topics or other questions that are relevant given your interests and their coverage areas. You might meet with an analyst whose focus is on an adjacent market, getting some personal perspectives as you evaluate your future plans. Attendees tell Gartner regularly that 1:1s are a valuable part of the conference experience, but some attendees forget to take advantage of these. I would personally love to see every attendee use both of the 1:1 slots that are made available to them.
- Focus on Your Track Plan – With 1:1s on the list to target, the next area, that will take the most planning, is to choose sessions from the four tracks.
- Start your track planning with Track A – Today’s Growth Opportunities – The first place to work on your track plan is by looking at the sessions in Track A that are focused on where spending is happening today and why. Choose the session that covers your primary market focus first. Then supplement that with a few (probably 1 to 3 more) other sessions that cover adjacent markets or markets that you may be considering expanding into. This approach helps you validate or refine your current plans, backed by Gartner’s quantitative market forecasts.
- Look to the future with Track D – Riding the Next Technology Waves – Next, explore track D. Look for sessions that cover technologies that you think could impact your business in the future. Once again, choose a few sessions to get your mind thinking about the future, evaluating steps you need to take today to put yourself in a better position to capture the opportunity or protect your business against threats. If you are already placing bets on these technologies, learn when it is time to increase investment and focus.
- Shift your focus to your customers with Track C – Transforming the Customer Life Cycle – With a solid base of sessions focused on the technology and service focus areas, now add some sessions that move from you to the enterprise customer. Focus on sessions that hold the potential to help your business improve how it engages with customers, adapting strategies to understand their situation and make it easier for them to not only buy, but to gain value from your products and services.
- Take a hard look at your practices with Track B – Infusing Innovation into Operations – Finally, fill out your agenda with sessions that help you evaluate how you are running your business. Explore cultural and process issues in managing talent, products, and business models.
- Leverage the Keynotes – Obviously keynotes are a key part of the experience. We don’t put any sessions “in competition” with keynotes, so plan to attend as many of these as you can. The keynotes will be thought provoking sessions that will plant concepts into your mind as you work your track plan.
- Supplement, when possible, with Workshops, Clinics, and Roundtables – Finally, for your core plan, don’t forget that this is the one Gartner conference where you, as a tech provider, are welcome at these activities. Like 1:1s, registration for these open in May, and they will sell out-fast, so work now to identify targets, that don’t conflict with your critical track sessions, and set reminders to register as soon as that is available.
There you have it, my recommended path to scheduling. I’ve not included planning for general networking, visiting sponsors, or deeper discussion after track sessions in our Conversation Sparks (planned time after each track session when attendees and speakers can discuss ideas sparked by the session–brainstorming, answering questions, or setting plans for followup meetings to explore partnerships). All of these activities are key aspects of the conference experience that should occur naturally throughout the event.
And to answer one final question–what if we send a team?
As you can see, my recommended path is focused on getting value from the breadth of the conference. If you bring a team, whether that is just one other person from your leadership team or 10 or more people, then you can use some different strategies to go deeper. One approach, if the team is small, is simply to use the same strategy as above, but to get coverage for more sessions than any one person can do alone. For leaders with broad responsibilities, this is the best approach, in my opinion.
For larger teams, with more defined roles, you might change your track plan. CEOs and Business Unit Leaders might want to put more focus on Track B as their starting point for planning. Product Marketing Leaders should start their plan from Track C. Product Management Leaders; Track A. And Strategic Planners and Strategists; Track D. In all cases, I recommend that attendees, even with large teams, cross tracks for a view of sessions (e.g. Product Management leaders are going to want to attend sessions on Design Thinking in Track B). The blend may be less than for a single attendee or small team, but a big part of this event is to help broaden perspectives and look at things in new and different ways. Crossing tracks can help with that.
One other suggestion for teams, make sure that your networking time is not limited to talking with each other. You’ll obviously do some of that, but spend some time gaining perspectives from others in the industry, from businesses that are like your and those that are very different. Then, plan time for group discussions to review the conference and key ideas and messages after you return to the office.
I hope attendees, and prospective attendees, find this plan useful. Yes, this is a bit of an ala carte approach to scheduling, but with some conceptual ideas. Like your customers, every one of your situations is a little different, and you’ll want to follow a path that is most appropriate for you and your business.
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