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Golden Rules For Vendor Conferences

Ulrich Spranger
Ulrich Spranger
This seems to be a recurring theme in my blog. In 2017 we visited quite a number of vendor events, both great and not so great. My dear vendors, we love you dearly and we also think very highly of the opportunity to network. But please make it as easy as possible for us!

1. No exotic locations – arrivals!
In Europe it is easy to travel to Frankfurt, Berlin, Vienna, Stockholm, Milan, Copenhagen, Paris, London and so on. Unfortunately, it is not so easy to get to Mykonos, Cyprus, Malta, Faro, etc. It is usually your event agency who recommends these locations, and always either right before or right after the summer season flight schedule. That is precisely when it is very inexpensive, but hardly any airline still flies there.

2. No exotic locations – efficiency!
Yes, you are the most important vendor in the world, but your customers also know other people. In reasonable city locations it is possible to even meet in local offices or to visit customers in the vicinity. Remember, you want distributors who think efficiently.

3. The best local hotels!
Your event agency books the hotel. That is bad, because these people know exactly where their best profit margin lies. Plus, these hotels are often under renovation or not popular at this time of the year. If nobody else wants to stay there, then we do not either.

The hotel should have at least 5 stars. Yes, that is expensive. But then, in case of doubt, let the guests pay. You want the top decision makers to come. And they need the best Internet, sometimes room service here and there, to have a shirt ironed or perhaps even want to receive a customer. And how often have we stood in the evening in front of a hotel bar which closes at 22:00 hours. Not good for networking!

Oh yes, and if the conference is in such a hotel, each of us has an excuse for why he needs to stay there. If your corporate heads in the US headquarters consider the hotel too expensive for your own people, then book the lower quality place next door for your own people. But why does your customer’s CEO, whom you want to impress, unfortunately suffer just because the hotel budget is not high enough for your technicians?

4. Conferences and dinners in the same hotel
Your customers do not want to ride the bus. We all do not go to school anymore. And we want to go to our room in between, and sometimes even skip one of the conference sessions. This is bad if the hotel room is far away by bus.

5. Ever heard of Late Check-Out?
If your conference lasts until 14:00 hours, then you make a deal with the hotel that guests may use their rooms until then. This is possible! It does not make a good impression when your best customers are sitting on their suitcases on the second day of the conference, because the check-out has to be in advance.

6. Stop using PowerPoint
We gladly look at your numbers on a few PowerPoint slides. But then please stop it! Instead, give us products for touching, please. And none of the people who come to your conferences are interested in technical data. Then invite product management.

We want to know how we and our resellers will make more profit margins, with you. And also, how we can improve the cooperation with you and where there are new markets. And that's what you have to tell us, nothing else.

We also like to learn more about your strategy. But if you want to engage in secrecy in this direction, then we will also tell nothing about our strategy.

And if you show numbers, then please make it stuff that we do not already know from your website. We are competitive animals. We want to know how we stand in comparison to our competitors, so give us the information!

7. One-on-one discussions
One-on-one discussions with decision makers, please. No distributor or dealer of yours discusses his marketing plan or gives you great ideas in a room with his competition. Oh yes, and please bring the decision makers with you. If your conference is so important, then a senior manager from Japan, USA or wherever else can come, too.

8. Fun, fun, fun
Yes, it's fun to do a city tour together, go to a whitewater park or climb a mountain. Right. That is: with your own family! But not with you. Each of you is always planning a half-day for something "fun". That only causes us problems with the tax office. Please give a recommendation on what you can do after the conference. Save the money and instead book the better hotel.

9. Awards
We are very pleased to receive the award for best growth and best marketing at every vendors' conference. Thank you very much! But these awards do not fit in any luggage. Especially because Jarltech always gets so many. How about handing over the pieces and collecting them again? "We have already arranged for the award to be sent to you afterwards". That's service!

10. Personal interests
If your CEO or European boss does not come to to your presentations - or is present, but is just looking at his laptop or his mobile phone instead of listening - then the session is not interesting. Just terminate it. Your corporate people do everything to look good in the eyes of their bosses. Then also plan your lectures like this.

11. Timing
You want your resellers and distributors to network at the bar in the evening? Okay, but then maybe the session should not start at 8 o'clock the next morning.

12. Products
And once again, because it matters soooo much: Leave us alone with products when there is nothing really disruptive to report. We read data sheets and test products better in our own lab. It gets tough when a technician explains to guests what a 2D barcode really is or in which markets one may use a mobile printer. Hello, what have we been doing for the past 25 years? That's almost rude. And it happens again and again! Please also leave out the slides about which projects you all won in Namibia, Argentina, Taiwan or anywhere else. You can send it by e-mail, then we can even forward it to the sales department.

13. Time frames
If there's nothing new to tell, then make the meeting shorter. You do not have to use "gap fillers" just because somebody has come up with the idea that such a meeting always has to last two days.

All of these points come from a mix of experiences: nobody needs to feel addressed personally. Always keep in mind that as a vendor, you save on travel expenses by having us coming to your events, instead of the other way around. You have control of our limited spare time, so please make it as nice as possible!

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