I Hold an Annual Sales Conference Live & In-person. Here’s Why:
by Matt Thompson
posted on 12-13-2015
I don’t think of myself as a radical, but these days, I seem to be bucking the trend when it comes to sales conferences. While many of my peers at other big companies are replacing in-person sales conferences with virtual conferences, I am 100% committed to continuing with live events.
On paper, virtual looks like a better bet. It’s certainly cheaper: flights, accommodation, event locations, food and beverage mount up to some pretty sizeable figures; and a virtual event is definitely less of a time sink for the people who attend.
But when it comes to our annual sales conference, I don’t believe “virtual” is a substitute for our worldwide teams meeting in-person. The opportunity to be with peers, partners and customers, share ideas, and actually FEEL the energy of everyone together in a room cannot be beat.
An annual sales conference is an important event for companies. Getting everyone – sales teams, product teams, finance and support teams – on the same page with the strategy for the year is essential to a company’s success. There is an amazing amount of work that goes into next year’s go-to-market strategy, so it make sense to maximize the delivery of that strategy. And delivering it live is incomparable.
For ongoing training and enablement, I’m a strong supporter of virtual, and with our internal Digital University program we have a full slate of online learning experiences for our teams. Plus, my regular communication cadence throughout the year to our sales force happens through our interactive Sales TV programs.
I’m not blasé about the financial and time costs of a live, in-person worldwide sales conference, so I have rules in place to ensure that the dollars spent and hours of travel are investments, not just expenditure:
- Attendance to ALL sessions is required – this is clearly communicated to everyone who is attending, and my managers know that they are accountable for the attendance of every person on their teams.
- Networking time is integral to the agenda. The learning that can be gained from discussions with colleagues during downtime is priceless. For all the phone conversations you may have with someone, nothing develops a relationship faster than meeting someone in person, especially when you have a global organization.
- Leading by example. Developing a strong culture that we want to be a part of is something that really only happens when people are together in one room. From my managers down, expectations of who we are, and how we operate, are clearly communicated. Because, at the end of the day, it’s not just what you do, it’s how you do it.
- I expect people to have FUN! We all spend a lot of time on the road, and socializing with colleagues is an important part of successful teams.
Finally, there is an element of rejuvenation in a worldwide sales conference that takes place in person. Everyone gets together to celebrate the previous year and plan for the next one – as one team.
My POV on hosting a live event may not be mainstream these days, but I’ve run Adobe’s Worldwide Sales Conference for the past eight years, and I’ve seen mine grow from 1500 people to 4500. I know in my heart, that if we didn’t all come together once a year, our team, our culture, and our company success would be the poorer for it.