I’m on my way to Orlando for the Fall Symposium, so I thought I would write about what it is like to work these conferences as an analyst. I plan to deliver three presentations in Orlando and no doubt dozens of 1 on 1 customer meetings. I also will be visiting several presentations to see how things go to prepare better for the European Symposium in Cannes November 3-7. I am the chair for Cannes, so I spent a lot of time working with Gartner colleagues to define the agenda. It is exhilarating to see the lineup I’ve been working on since July begin to come to life. In Orlando, I’ll be looking for ways to improve the European conference in the couple weeks we have left.
I’ve done many conferences in the 13 years I’ve been an analyst, with four Symposia and five Summits this year. I still manage to find it exciting. Going to a big event like Symposium crams all the experiences of being an analyst into a compressed space. In those concentrated five days, I meet dozens of people, hear about different ideas, and get a chance to expose the concepts I’ve been working on to hundreds or thousands of people. Each conference feeds me with sparks and insights I can use to develop new areas of research. Sometimes it feels like being inside a pressure cooker of IT ideas.
There certainly is pressure. I recognize that customers make a considerable investment of time and money to come hear what we have to say. We realize that, and work hard to make it worthwhile. Just like for delegates, Symposium is busy, exhausting even. We scuttle between the hotels, conference rooms, work areas and restaurants. I know from planning the agenda that we try to avoid too many stressful situations (back to back presentations, or a session in the Swan Hotel followed by a meeting in the Yacht Club, for example). Even so, there will usually be at least one harried connection per day.
The different locations put their own stamp on the events. Orlando is quite circumscribed, since it is on the Disney property. There aren’t many chances to get outside of the bubble, as it were. Cannes is held right in the city, along the Mediterranean. One of the highlights of Cannes is the 15 minute walk along the Croisette between the hotel and the conference venue. Aside from that, we spend most of the day indoors. While Orlando and Cannes sound exotic and fun, there isn’t really much difference between windowless function rooms here or in any other location.
The day for analysts starts early, with breakfast meetings with clients or colleagues to review a joint presentation that will be delivered later in the week. Our calendars fill with presentation slots, and one on one meetings set up by the events staff. There is an informal competition to see which analysts sell out their slots the quickest. That “Analyst fully booked” stamp across our faces on the Analyst Board are seen as a badge of honour. Analysts can be an insecure bunch, so any indicator of popularity is seized on. The formal competition is to get the highest evaluation scores. I can assure you that those evaluation forms are tracked closely, even obsessively by some.
In between, we grab time to keep up with email, call clients for inquiries, write and review research notes, and all the other daily tasks that don’t go away just because you’re at a conference. We spend a lot of time in the analyst workroom, hunched over our laptops, trying to keep up.
Evenings are spent with customers, prospects or colleagues we often work closely with, but don’t get many chances to see face to face very often. Some people find the energy to make the most out of their evenings, but I find late nights and early mornings a bad mixture.
Despite the requirements and stress levels, Symposium season is one of the most rewarding times for an analyst. I have had the chance to deliver part of the analyst keynote at several other Symposia. Walking on to that stage with thousands of people in the audience and dozens of technicians running the show is an experience like no other, The feeling after helping a customer in a one one one session or delivering a presentation that you know connected with the audience is a tremendous buzz. I’m glad I get the chance to do it.