Home Friday Recording #57 Michael Sciano: Planning Customer Yearly Events

#57 Michael Sciano: Planning Customer Yearly Events

by Michael Sciano
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In this episode of CMAweekly, host Michael Sciano and colleagues discuss the planning and execution of yearly customer events. Michael shares insights from organizing Ignite, an event featuring speakers from ServiceTitan and Aspire CEO and COO, while also touching on his experiences with event planning at other companies.

The conversation delves into the importance of customer-centric content, speaker recruitment and management, event engagement strategies, mobile app use, and the influence of product marketing on event agendas. The inclusion of a field trip, breakout sessions, and various event spaces to capture customer feedback and participation are highlighted.

Michael also introduces the idea of an award ceremony as part of the event and shares his experience with incentives for customer involvement. The call ends by announcing the upcoming episode with Kevin Lau on planning for 2024. Throughout the conversation, the focus is on encouraging deeper involvement in annual events and exploring different perspectives on customer events.

Planning Your Customer Events

Mary Green [00:01:04]:
As you all probably know, Michael’s here to share with us on his successful work in Customer events. He did 1 last month or the month before for, Aspire and ServiceTitan customers?

Michael Sciano [00:01:39]:
Yeah. Mostly Aspire And field routes, I’ll kinda describe how that works here at service time, but, yeah, it was just a few weeks ago, 1st week of November, was our event, and I, I might have bribed a special guest to to to join today, Emily Smith. The lovely and talented Emily Smith is here, Who is my colleague, she works at the serve at service titan and and worked a lot on Pantheon, so we might, we might pass her the mic here after a while.

Mary Green [00:02:10]:
Yeah. She did wanna a call with us back in February on her reference program, and that’s been one of the more popular calls this year. So

Michael Sciano [00:02:21]:
Wow. Yeah. That’s because she knows what she’s doing.

Mary Green [00:02:24]:
Yeah. Well, you can take over whenever you want. I’ll just be approving people to join in the background, and I think you should have access to be able to share your screen if you want or whatever you do, and, yeah, hop right in.

Michael Sciano [00:02:41]:
Awesome. Well, it’s dangerous to tell me to, that I can take over. So let’s make sure this is working. And let’s do this maybe. Every time I switch from a Zoom to a Google Meet to a Zoom everything ends up Messing up. So hopefully that is working now.

Mary Green [00:03:10]:
It looks like it is. And, I mean, maybe just don’t use Google Meet because I know.

Michael Sciano [00:03:16]:
I hate it too. Excellent. Well, hi, everyone. I recognize a lot of names. My buddy, Andrew Creighton is on. Hey, Andrew. And we’ve got Emily here. And so, yeah, Mary and I were talking at some point.

Michael Sciano [00:03:32]:
I can’t remember. My my brain’s a little foggy, because of the last few months getting ready for our event, but we chatted about Events and and and how my my role evolved to really take a a really a lead and an influence influential role, on planning our event this year and we got to talking and I just thought, you know, there’s a lot of different ways that, Customer marketing and customer advocacy can get involved in the annual event, and so we thought it might be a great conversation. So Try to do our best to to make it interactive. There’s a bunch of places, today where we can kinda pause, ask questions, get involved, And I will let me see here. I’m gonna do my best to keep the chat up to see if I can see questions coming in. So, so, yeah, Here we go. For let’s see here. So we’re gonna talk about annual events today, and, I really want people to think creatively, in terms of what this looks like.

One Big Annual Event

Michael Sciano [00:04:40]:
So we all come from different organizations, Small ones, large ones, really large ones, we might do regional events throughout the year, we might do 1 large user conference at, you know, once once a year, but we can look at how we get involved in events in a lot of different ways depending on what they look like so I I kind of narrowed the scope today to to focus on the 1 big annual event that a lot of software companies use throughout the year. So, you know, it’s, it’s a major opportunity for everyone because It is probably, like, the top 3 line items in the budget. Right? If you’re doing an annual event, it is mucho dinero. Whether it’s for 200 people or 2,000 people or 20,000 people, it’s gonna it’s gonna stand out in the budget. So there’s, there’s a lot of incentive to do it right and to get the value. Obviously, you’re driving value for the customer experience or the attendee experience, But behind the scenes, we really should spend a lot of time thinking about the various goals that can be accomplished there. And so, so there’s there’s definitely incentive for you to get involved. I have a tiniest, just a very short Soapbox to go on, that Emily will laugh about and that Andrew will definitely roll his eyes at.

Advocacy and marketing roles often overlap in business.

Michael Sciano [00:06:07]:
But, We talk a lot in the communities around advocacy and marketing, and there’s this gray line between them, and it’s it’s exploding. Right? We see all kinds of jobs reopening. Right? A lot of people got laid off around customer advocacy and customer marketing, But they’re coming back and, I I’m pretty hardcore, I make a distinct I draw a line between these 2 in my world, and in the way I think about it. They are very related and they build off of each other, but For me, customer marketing is not advocacy and advocacy is not customer marketing. We share in the role of driving an experience and driving education but for different audiences and with different end goals, and so for me, I really lean on the education piece of customer marketing, that is where my passion is and that’s where my expertise is because I am not a traditional a marketer, as you’ll find out, and advocacy has its role, but we have to treat it in some ways differently than what we do in marketing, so I spend the majority of my day thinking about how I can drive product adoption and education to ultimately achieve retention and expansion. And so, what I think a lot of us can agree on is we are thrown into these And to both of these roles as a team of 1, if you’re lucky, maybe a team of 2. My last 3 Roles have been a team of 1 to do both. It’s just impossible.

Michael Sciano [00:07:48]:
Right? It’s just absolutely impossible. If somebody has figured it out, I want what you’re snorting. I mean, what well, whatever your time management is because it’s really hard to do both of these any justice. So, so that’s my soapbox, and that’s why you’ll see, like, why I jumped way in deep to drive a lot of the agenda and the experience for our event this year, but in previous years and in that other companies kind of the angle I’ve taken has been on on education. If we agree that our goals are some mix of what’s listed here. Right? NPS, adoption, retention, expansion, advocacy, all of those are related and build off of each other, but the one common thing is education, right? So if I wanna achieve any of these, I need to make sure our customers know what in the heck they should be doing, and what more they can do with what’s at their fingertips. So, So yeah, that’s my soapbox, but my goal today is to see kind of who’s been involved in their events and what level of participation we’ve had, and, and try to encourage you to do even more. So who who the hell am I like to be talking about this, Right.

Michael Sciano [00:09:13]:
I, yeah, I don’t know. Some of you might know me. I I try to stay engaged in the communities, but I I frankly do a really bad job, especially in the last 5 or 6 months being so busy on our event that was earlier this month, but, I, I started out as a high school teacher For many years, taught history and government, and, that’s what I love. I love teaching. I really don’t care what I’m doing as long as I have an opportunity to coach and and guide others. I have spent the last, gosh, 13, 14 years in software with ExactTarget here in Indianapolis, and then which got acquired by Salesforce, spent a long time at Adobe, which was wonderful, and then joined ServiceTitan and Aspire last summer, so it’s been, I don’t know, almost a year and a half, coming up on a year and a half. But I I really made the switch over to, like, Client training and corporate training, and then led the the client training team at ExactTarget, which then led me into customer success management And then customer marketing, so I’ve had a weird career path, and yes, those are goats because I live in southern Indiana in the Absolute middle of nowhere. Many of you might know that I live on a farm.

Michael Sciano [00:10:31]:
The farm is real. It’s very rainy and muddy today. But, yeah, we raise goats and cattle and chickens when we’re not working, so it’s fun. But, yeah, you can always come out for, we’ll have an off-site on the farm. We got plenty of room. So So yeah. We’re gonna chat about 3 areas today, well really 2 areas, why you should be involved and how to get involved, and I’ve tried to steal I, like, went way back in the archives and got pictures from Over the years, so at at ExactTarget, we had connections, which still goes on today with Salesforce in Chicago, but we used to host it here in Indianapolis. It started out with a couple of 100 people, grew to, like, a1000, and by the last year of it, before Salesforce took over, it was 5,000 people.

Experienced in Adobe Summit, Aspire, ServiceTitan events.

Michael Sciano [00:11:26]:
I spent many years doing Adobe Summit, which just got enormous, and then here at Aspire and ServiceTitan is much on the smaller side, So I wanna help you, kinda bring the different perspectives today, and really try to, get those ideas going, so, I’ve been super fortunate. We even did, I was even a part of a fully remote event well, at airship in 2021 during the COVID time, And, yeah, COVID kind of ruined everything. We had a lot of fun doing in person events on a regular basis, And the fully remote events were super hard, part of it was pre recorded, part of it was live, there was a lot of moving pieces, But it still was the same approach of recruiting speakers, of creating a content, and and an agenda that worked for customers. But yeah, when I started out really easily, you know, I did not have a very influential role at Exact Target, I I led the client training team, but where we were tapped into was to do, the training and certification day on the pre event day, so Connections would start on a Tuesday, I think, and Monday was like your training day, it was an add on, and so we ran those sessions, and then throughout the event, We would do these mini sessions, in the exhibit hall. We would grab, like, 15 people and do, like, a 15 minute learning session, Which was pretty cool and and pretty you know, it made it very flexible, and then when I transitioned to Adobe, That was owning a whole track. We did tracks by use cases, we had anywhere from 28 to 24 sessions in our track, And I was responsible for all of the customer led ones, and then somebody else on our team did all of the product led ones. So So just a lot of variety, so I hope to answer a lot of questions today. And before we jump in, I think Emily was saying something, You know, we we have a weird nuance here at ServiceTitan.

Michael Sciano [00:13:38]:
ServiceTitan is software for the trades. It’s been around for, Gosh, almost 10 years, I think, and they service or they provide business management software for all the trades, HVAC, plumbing, and and the list that you see there. ServiceTitan puts on an annual event called Pantheon. They just had it in September, which was a huge hit and the biggest one they’ve done. And then there are 2 companies underneath ServiceTitan that keep their own brand and kind of we kinda operate on our own, with some guidance from the mothership, Aspire and Field Routes. So I joined via Aspire Last summer and over time, then ServiceTitan gobbled me up, and so now I I technically work at ServiceTitan, but I’m focused, a lot of my time on the Aspire brand still. And then FieldRoutes joined the fund this year. They had never put on an event before, and we invited them and their customer base to join Ignite this year, so that was interesting kind of introducing this concept of a user conference to a whole new a whole new audience.

Michael Sciano [00:14:46]:
So let’s do a quick poll. Yeah. San Antonio was surprising. That was actually my 2nd week of work. I joined Aspire, and then they’re like, hey. Our user conference is next week, And it was a 114 degrees, it was hot. It was terrible. But, so don’t do San Antonio in July.

Michael Sciano [00:15:09]:
I’ve got a couple of questions here. So you could raise your hand, maybe that’s hard to see in Zoom, but or use a chat, like, raise your hand or put in chat if you if your company has an annual event. Let’s start there. Let’s start easy. Do you guys have a big annual event? We’ve got some I’m seeing if the cameras are on here. Lot of team people. Yes. Yes.

Michael Sciano [00:15:35]:
Yes. Virtual. Caitlin. Yep. The g two one. Excellent. Trying to make it good. Virtual.

Michael Sciano [00:15:45]:
Alright. Not yet. Hey, Lauren. So, alright. Now Let’s do this. Raise your hand if you’ve been involved in one way or another with your user conference. Yes. Look at that.

Michael Sciano [00:16:00]:
I owned the entire thing. Wow. It’s moving. The chat’s moving. Oh, that was Rebecca. Excellent. Yes, Rebecca. Do you do I’ve seen that Emily Smith of course you do.

Michael Sciano [00:16:10]:
Awesome. Let’s think about audience right? So This is like this is really a big concept that I think gets passed over. What’s the ratio between Who comes to that user conference? Right? Is it mostly customers? Is it mostly prospects? Is it a ratio between the 2? Let’s drop that in in in the chat. For example, Ignite for us, at Aspire and Field Routes, it was 98% customers. It was it is heavy on customers and I’ll tell you why here in a little bit But, oh, 7525, 6040 customers mostly yeah, it’s really interesting where it’s all over the place. 5050 Yeah. Yeah. Perfect.

Michael Sciano [00:17:06]:
Yeah. Down by personas. Perfect. Yeah. So ours was, you know, if I think about the different ones, this one at Aspire is unique, it’s like All customers. I got to go to Pantheon in September. It was heavy on customers, but there was a slightly larger, Prospect based. Emily, you can I I I and you might have answered how many prospects were there?

Kathy Fava [00:17:34]:
It was around a 90 A 90 10 split.

Michael Sciano [00:17:36]:
90 10 split. Yeah, I thought it was something like that. At Adobe it was it was probably more 70, 30, if I had to take a guess, I don’t know about the numbers, but you’re talking between 15, 20000 people, so it got hard to track. But, but the reason I asked you that is is because it’s really important because you have to treat those audiences differently. Prospects will be really interested to hear customer speakers tell their story about why they’re using your product and so forth. They’ll be interested in the product roadmap, but if it comes down to sessions that are really hands on, they’re, you know, that’s obviously for customers. And so, oh, yeah, my bonus question in is if you can name the movie that that movie quote was So, if you have a guest for the movie, he wasn’t right in the head. I put that down because I love to pour myself into the events.

Paused job for a customer-focused venture at Ignite.

Michael Sciano [00:18:36]:
I essentially paused my customer marketing job since about June, to go all in on Ignite because it was so much customer focused. Right? We had 98% of our customers, and and of them we had we represented, what was it, 36% of our customer base was at Ignite the 1st week of November. So to me, I felt like I can pour myself in because so many customers were there. Caitlin, you’re good guess, but no. He wasn’t right in the head. I’ll let it linger a little bit. So I’m not right in the head because I I put way too much time in, I didn’t get fired, and no one has been mad, but I had the support of our CMO, and of everyone else, it’s like just go all in on this thing. And so that’s the first thing, right? If we’re involved in our event, we really want to understand What the goal is and what the scope is, so it was really important for me to know about a year ago, we started planning a year ago, what are the goals? I’m new here, like is it product led? Is it Customer led, are we selling, is it education, what are our KPIs, how do we know if it’s been a success, what do our customers want? Braveheart is the winner, Christine.

Michael Sciano [00:19:54]:
Excellent. Braveheart. I just saw that’s exciting that somebody knew that. But knowing what the goals are of the event is so important. For us, Aspire, and Ignite is a CS owned, a customer success owned event. They started it 5 years ago, they’ve Owned it, they’ve been the motivators and the driving force behind it, and they are not willing to give it up. They are very loud about their opinions about what can and cannot happen at Ignite, and so it is, It is a CS led event, and there are small differences that I spent a lot of time educating our service titan colleagues about As they compared it to Pantheon, they said, you have entirely too many breakout sessions, what is going on? This is this is a nightmare. And why aren’t there many big announcements, right? So at Ignite we do not make any product announcements, There’s no new PR release about like such and such product is coming out and we just announced this whole new We renamed our platform, nothing like that, there are no major announcements.

Michael Sciano [00:21:07]:
There is not a Say it well, there’s a small sales presence. We probably had a bigger sales presence this year than ever before, and part of that was an internal or change to have some of our sales focus on just customers and and upsells and expansion, but, But we don’t we don’t push sales. We’re not trying to push sales. We it is all education focused. And so a lot of the sessions that you’ll see and kind of kind of how we attack the agenda was driven driven by education, so that’s a really big nuance to account for because if you go to something like a Salesforce Dreamforce, right, that’s a whole lot of selling going on there, And, it’s a lot of brand and thought leadership, and they’re making a splash every day, same with Adobe Summit. Every day, our big PR announcements are going out in the morning. They have a huge media presence there as well. So it’s really important to know what the goals are and the scope.

Capturing customer feedback through event involvement.

Michael Sciano [00:22:14]:
And so for some people, if your role is, more more specific around advocacy. Right? So you might not be completely involved in the makeup of the event. I truly believe that there’s no other better time than to grab voice of customer in all of its different shapes and forms at the event. You’re gonna see just a whole lot of different activities and spaces that we created to capture, the voice of the customer, and and go back and it went kinda back to what our initial goals were. So, so you’re you’re not out of luck if if, if you’re like, well, I don’t have this huge role where I can influence the agenda, but I want to be involved. Well, there are plenty of places and ideas that you should be, bringing to the table. So, we early on in our planning, we had somebody who ended up leaving the company, But, that was for different reasons, but, they were very they pushed back hard on having all these extracurricular activities And they didn’t want to have a lot going on. They even wanted the exhibit hall to be closed during breakout sessions and main stage, sessions, and we’re like, No no no, people are gonna pick and choose what they are engaged in, and we want to have some extracurricular activities going on, And we leveraged those extracurricular activities around voice of customer as you’ll as you’ll see.

Michael Sciano [00:23:44]:
So, I think it’s important to know that, you know, people are gonna migrate, they’re gonna look for breaks, they’re gonna take mental breaks throughout the day and so We wanna kind of change things up, for them. Alright. So that’s why. Like, super impactful, get your money’s worth, get involved. Let’s talk about how. I put together some of my favorite ways, of getting involved, and kinda from big to small, so. And I don’t think I missed any questions yet, but Let’s see. So we’re gonna talk about agenda and content, and then separately well, separately but connected the, the customer experience, and then how to crush, crush some internal goals.

Michael Sciano [00:24:33]:
So first one is is the agenda framework. This was so I raised my hand, we I joined in July, we had Ignite in July in San Antonio, And, no one well, there was a person who owned Ignite, but they were more as a project manager, and they were going to all these different folks to pull it all together, and we had an Events Manager and and and she had joined just a couple of months before Ignite and so She finally had a Megan, my colleague, she’s awesome. She finally going into this year, she had a full year To really think about and plan Ignite. And, and so this guy Brian was more like project managing it, and And as I mentioned, CS really owned a lot of the content. Well they have day jobs and it took an immense amount of time for them to Figure everything out from the agenda to all these breakout sessions then develop it. So I took a lot of that on, I raised my hand, I saw a gap and I went after it. And I kinda brought all the experience to focus on these 3 these 3 objectives, right? So It needed to be customer centric. As I said, we had 98% of our the folks there were customers.

Michael Sciano [00:25:49]:
It needed everything needed to be Customer focus, what can they do today, what are the challenges, what are they struggling with, what do they want to hear even from our CEO and our other leadership? They’re paying us money, how are we spending their money? They wanna know. And so that immediately then went into content pillars. So when I think about planning, whether it’s one day or ours was over the course of 3 days, I want a pillar on each day to drive attendance all 3 days. I want to make sure that you show up for the opening and that you stay through the closing. And so what can we offer each day to pull people back and keep them engaged? Especially this year we were in Vegas, So there’s plenty of distractions right around. So what were the con we’ll look at what the content pillars, and then Scaffolding my area of expertise is education, as I mentioned, and so scaffolding is a fancy word for Building that foundation up. I’ve gotta teach you a before I teach you b. And I think that People miss this sometimes when they’re putting their agenda together.

Michael Sciano [00:27:01]:
So this was our agenda for Ignite, and I can kind of explain scaffolding a little bit better this way. So the red stars are the pillars. We started at 1 o’clock on a Tuesday, which left the morning open for all these extracurricular activities. We launched our new product advisory board, We had 1, we did a huge refresh, it was 12 new members and this was their 1st meeting. They had dinner on Monday night, Then we had product advisory board meeting for them on Tuesday morning. FieldRoutes had their Pathfinder network, that’s their advocacy community, And so they pulled, about I forget 35, 40 people into a room and did their stuff on Tuesday morning. There were a couple of 1 on 1 meetings, they had a couple executive meetings, some partner meetings, and we just gave that Tuesday morning for all of those extras, and registration opened at 10, and then we had our opening at 1 o’clock. And that would that’s really the pull there.

Michael Sciano [00:28:04]:
It’s easy to get people to show up for the beginning. We wanted to make a big splash, we used an opening video this year, and we had the CEO of ServiceTitan speak along with the CEO of Aspire. And then we got right into it, right? We got into our breakout sessions and we had another session about the future of tech by, the the, COO of and the cofounder of ServiceTitan, Vahe, and then we kind of went right into our welcome reception. Because as you look at day 2, it was heavy, it was really heavy. But here’s where scaffolding comes in, we had, The product roadmap session in the morning of day 2, and here’s why. In previous years They put the product roadmap at the end of the last day. It was really like the last thing before everyone left. Well, 2 things happened.

Michael Sciano [00:28:58]:
One, people started leaving and they missed it, they wouldn’t stay for it. And 2, the product team, it pissed them off because they spent This whole time answering questions that they were gonna answer in the product roadmap. And they also had these breakout sessions about everything coming out in the product road map, and those kind of came first and then they led with or they finished with the road map session. So It was all backwards, right? It was like there was no point to do the road map at the end when they already had these breakout sessions, so we flipped it. Right? It’s like, We got to get this roadmap first so that you can spend the next, you know, the rest of the day and day 2 going and deep diving. So the product roadmap session became very interactive and very entertaining because they could go fast, because for everything that they covered in the roadmap, there was a product preview or a deep dives breakup session. So they didn’t have to go into the detail on the road map. And, of course, we had 2 at the same time because we had Aspire and, field routes.

Emmett Smith keynote kicks off day.

Michael Sciano [00:30:04]:
So we let we kicked off day 2 with Emmett Smith, who’s our keynote speaker. He’s a great Speaker by the way if you’re looking for 1 and and not super expensive but we we have that keynote speaker to kick off the day 8:30 and then a round of breakouts then a road map then lunch and then breakouts the rest of the time, and then our pillar On on Thursday on 3rd day was, this closing session, with a great speaker, another great speaker, Keith, And then we added on for the Aspire side of the house, the landscapers, we added on a field trip. So par three Landscape is one of our customers based right there, like a mile and a half away from the Strip, and this weird thing happens in the landscape industry where they want to go and visit each other’s companies and learn all about their operations. I’ve never experienced it before in my career because I was working with b to c Brands that we all use every day, and Best Buy would never wanna meet with Target and and or, you know, some other company or Delta Airlines was never gonna meet with Southwest Airlines. They would never invite folks in to see their secret sauce, but For whatever reason in the in the landscape world, they they love doing this, and so we had an add on trip for about a 100 people who went to to the field trip. So that that carried people all the way through to day 3. So, I’m gonna pause there and because there’s I think there’s a couple of questions. See if people have questions.

Michael Sciano [00:31:35]:
How are you determining pillars and breakouts? Are you surveying customers? Are you taking yeah. Great question. So I think, that’s kind of how we what we get into next is how do we figure out these breakouts? This insane matrix that you’re seeing is probably hard to read is the breakout. So we had a bunch of survey data from previous years of Ignite about, you know, from attendees, what they liked, what did what didn’t work, and what they were looking for. And then we pull the CSMs internally, like, what do the people need? What do we want to do? And so for us, We create tracks by role, and it and really the roles and and the functions Mapped to modules in the product, and so you can kinda see across the top sales and account management, operations and production, accounting and admin, Say sales, and then we had this Optimize Aspire that was a new track. It’s kind of like a, you know, really take your Aspire software to the next level. So this is different for every company, you know. At Adobe it was all use case based, based on the product.

Michael Sciano [00:32:46]:
So we were Cross channel campaign management, it had less to do with personas, and roles, and more about use case. But here at Aspira, it’s all role based. So that’s a little bit about, how we’ve determined it. We dug into the survey data, and then we did some internal polling, and just kind of made sense out of what people are doing in the product. The blue side is field routes. Again, this was their first one, So they had to kind of figure out where to start. And I don’t know if she joined but we had a huge help from Kelly Boudet who is a consultant. She kinda worked as a freelancer to help us on the Field Route side, because they had they had this learning curve to go through.

Michael Sciano [00:33:30]:
And she was great because I knew nothing about the Field Routes business, and she helped them work through that matrix of creating their 4 breakout tracks. And then we created a partner track, part of the sponsorship deals, people, sponsors could pay at a certain level to Get a partner session is a great way to drive some revenue for us, and then that community discussions, that gray one, we wanted to have a track that could pull for both audiences. Right? And those were built around our, our company core values. We have 4 core values, And they’re highlighted in gray there, and so it was more about like how do you build a sales team and a winning sales strategy, how do you build a healthy company culture. A big topic in the trades is around hiring and retaining, they have real challenges around labor, from everything going on in the macroeconomy, things like that. So that was a little bit about it, and you can see some of the stats on the bottom. Okay, there’s a lot of questions. So let me let me go back.

Pillars, sessions, skills, spacing, improvement.

Michael Sciano [00:34:36]:
What worked to keep people engaged until the end? Great question. I think a lot of it went to the pillars. We Wanted to have something new and fresh every single day, and that scaffolding kind of built in. Right? So what you can’t necessarily see On this are these breakout sessions are building off of each other, so a lot of them a huge thing a huge piece of feedback that we got was, Differentiating by skill levels, so beginner, intermediate, advanced. We hadn’t done a good job of that in previous years, And in the early feedback we got, we I guess there’s still room for improvement. We tagged every session by role and by skill level this year, but not everyone saw the filters in the mobile app. So there’s our learning lesson to do even better next year, but A lot of these build off of each other, it’s it’s like a 101 and a 201, and and so that was and then we spaced them out, right? We didn’t put them back to back, so if you wanted to learn about, you know, Reporting and accounting, we put 1 on Wednesday and 1 on Thursday so that you’re, you know, kind of forced to stick around that 2nd day. And then did your guest speaker tie into your overall framework? Oh, Emmett Smith was great.

Michael Sciano [00:35:56]:
We, For us for Ignite, we don’t we didn’t have, like, this overarching theme, which was new for me because every year in the past I’ve had either a phrase or a word we kinda rally around. So we didn’t, but we did kind of, connect with the opening with Emmett. Emmett talked a lot about, just kind of embracing change in the unknown. He’s got this whole he’s a really great speaker, but, he talks about all the different parts of his career, not just football, but even his post football life, about, not questioning when change comes, Right? He talks about how when he was a kid and when he was in middle school and high school, he started out as a quarterback, and somebody, one of his coaches was like, You’re not a good quarterback, you don’t throw the ball enough, you just run, we’re gonna turn you into a running back. And when he was young, he, like, really pushed back hard against that. He’s like, no. I’m a quarterback. And it’s this whole thing that he tells about being becoming a running back, but he didn’t see it, he didn’t see it coming.

Michael Sciano [00:36:57]:
And he talked about that, and even after his football life, seeing these opportunities come where he didn’t think it was a natural fit but he just embraced it. So we we kind of had with had that to play off of in our opening, but it wasn’t a driver around the whole around the whole event. It’s a pain, but doing a driver on a presentation before the event really helps. Yes. Yeah. Lauren, oh my gosh. 89 dry runs, and some to some of them had to do it a 2nd time. It was painful.

Michael Sciano [00:37:30]:
Yes. What mobile app? We use Cvent. Cvent. Like, they kinda own the space. Last year, we used Whova, WHOOVA. They’ve had some great features that our customers loved and missed this year. They have a great community feature In Whova, Anne, you can get surveys for each individual session. So despite Cvent being like The king in the event space, they’ve got some work to do.

Michael Sciano [00:38:01]:
Yes. Customer Xcon used TUVA. So, I feel like I’m just going on and on. Oh, there’s oh, see, I got you a close-up of those tracks. So we talked through that. It’s a great internal exercise to do and really brainstorm kind of how the tracks are determined. And again it’s got to be relevant, it’s got to be what makes sense, for, for your audience and and goes back to being customer centric. Yes.

Michael Sciano [00:38:30]:
It is. It is up there in price. So another place now, Do you own the whole agenda? I find a lot of times product marketing owns the agenda, and and the brand marketing folks, and that’s that’s fine. I got lucky. There’s this gap and I grabbed it. I think if if somebody else owns the agenda, again, you still have a place, a role to play. And it can be customer speakers, right? Voice of customer. Definitely like dive in and recruit speakers and work with them, Again, based on what you’re comfortable with, all of our customer led sessions do mostly better in general than others.

Engaging product previews and customer-led stories excel.

Michael Sciano [00:39:15]:
And again, it depends on what the topic is, people really love our product previews and deep dives, and of course the product team leads those, and they’re they they make them really, engaging. But our customer led ones are just are skyrocket. And that goes all the way back even when I did it at Airship and at Adobe, people love to hear from customers. But I have been doing it long enough, when I started out I just was like, Yeah, customer, talk about whatever you want. And then I got better and I really pushed back. I don’t want a happy, you know, magic button story. It’s like the use cases and customer stories and videos that We all talk about in the world of advocacy, like if I have to read another well, here’s the problem and we magically bought such and such product and Wow, it all worked out, like nobody wants to read that. And so I tell them, I’m like, I wanna know the pain, I wanna know how bad or how hard Implementation was, I want to know what your learnings were, I want to know what you would have done differently, I want to know what You know, a year later or 3 years later, what are your challenges? It’s life is not perfect, let’s rip the band aid off and let’s really tell your peers How to get there? Because you guys were sitting in those seats a few years ago, and now you’re on stage.

Michael Sciano [00:40:36]:
And I want the people in the seats to want to be on stage next year. So let’s get real. And I I have that same talk track with all of the speakers. I meet with all of the speakers. I’m, Very strict about it, like you are not getting up at my event unless you spend some time with me. Maybe that’s a little bit on the arrogant side, but I just really want to make sure that they’re not selling themselves, or making it sound too easy, and I don’t want them to just, you know, recruit new employees either. So, this other spreadsheet, we had this master spreadsheet, Emily, I know you guys had one for ServiceTitan too. It had like so many tabs across the bottom, I lived in this thing for 6 months, It gives me a little PTSD, but you gotta if I don’t know if anyone I spent a little time in sales, you gotta get methodical with your speakers Like sales, like every day, Who am I moving forward? Have they turned in what they needed to turn in? Are they working on their drafts? And you’ve got to give them plenty of time.

Michael Sciano [00:41:44]:
If you go to your customers, they have a day job, they’re doing this as a favor, so give them 3 months. They’re gonna procrastinate just like everyone else, but then you can really, you know, 4 or 6 weeks, you can really push them, so Get with them early, get with them often, and make sure they’re set up, and then recruit help, because You cannot as 1 person manage a 100 plus speakers, but if you just Commit to it, and upfront give give them dates, give them timelines, give them assignments and a checklist. In fact, I think Yeah, so this was the one I used this year, we had it all color coded. There’s so many columns in here of like, how many microphones do we need for this particular room in this session? This one’s this is the one I used for Airship. Again, I kinda zoomed in over here on the left. I just put a list of every mundane tasks that needed to happen, like, Did we get their headshot? Did design edit it? Is it added into the mobile app? Like, just stupid, right? Stupid detailed Because I’m not a details guide, so I I just had to be very methodical about it. And then we tagged every session. Everything lived in this document, so we linked, you can kind of see like we linked the to the final deck, to the draft, to the notes, meeting notes, All of that.

Michael Sciano [00:43:18]:
Everything is in one place so that no matter who’s working on it, it’s here. Okay. I don’t know if there’s other questions coming in. Do you offer any incentives? Yes. So Most speakers got a free pass. I’m big on it. Like, if they’re doing a whole session, 45 minutes, an hour, whatever it looks like, just Give them the ticket. Right? I’ve been a speaker at a lot of conferences, and I’m it always blows me away when I don’t get a discount.

Michael Sciano [00:43:50]:
I’m like, really? Like, I’m doing you a favor. It’s less content that you have to do. We did make a tiered system this year. We had most people got free free registration, others got 50% off, and those folks were doing less. Right? So we had a couple of sessions where it popped up for 10 or 15 minutes, did their thing, and they were done. They didn’t own a whole session. So for those, they didn’t get a full a full discount, but they did still get a discount. So yeah.

Advocate for speaker budget with comprehensive packet.

Michael Sciano [00:44:23]:
I’m a I’m a big advocate of of just put it into the budget, depending on how many you have, right? So, and if people internally are pushing back, just ask them, Have you been a speaker at a conference? What was the incentive? And how did you feel about it? And usually people would be like, Oh yeah, you’re right. So, oh! I put together a speaker packet! So I found this 1 in my Dusty Archives, and I did one this year but I didn’t use it as much, but, just a cool PDF that you can When you meet with each speaker, everything’s laid out. I give them an overview of the event, what are what are we trying to do, what’s those key themes and messaging, who are you going to be working with? Here’s the timeline, here’s links to all these resources, just put it in one place. They’re not going to read it until they start working on it, but then when they come to you and they’re like, ‘So what do I have to do?’ It’s all in one place. Like, go back to the packet, Spend 5 minutes reading through this thing, and you will know where to go. And so, so that I really advocate and recommend doing a packet for your speakers, with everything in it. Yeah! Alright so we’ve got agenda, influence the agenda, influence the breakouts, influence certification day. Then we have the experience.

Michael Sciano [00:45:51]:
Mary, how are we doing? I’m I feel like I’m just talking out the wazoo. Emily, we’re gonna break Emily, are you ready? I’m I’m Giving you a a 32nd notice here. So you You’re doing great. I’m sorry. I feel like I’m just talking. I know.

Mary Green [00:46:08]:
Everybody seems very engaged, so you’re doing great.

Michael Sciano [00:46:12]:
This picture, I stole from Pantheon. They had a Emily did an awesome job. A lot of this was her idea working with the events team. So this was the center of the exhibit hall, and there were really Three main areas. This circle area was all about community, and I’m going to have her talk about it in a moment. Behind that you see kind of this Triangle where it says pro products, that was all the ServiceTitan product and sales folks were back there. And then around it were all the sponsors, right? Kind of building off that center hub. So I really liked it, and I We’ve got a couple of pictures here that I’m gonna talk through, but Emily, talk to us a little bit about your experience and And maybe what some of these kiosks were and how you approached you and Emily the other Emily, Emily Dunn, and and some of your colleagues approached this.

Emily Smith [00:47:08]:
Yeah. So for us, what you’re looking at in the center, we called it the service taking community. And the theme for Pantheon in 2023 was Journey to the Top. And so we played into that basically where everything that you’re seeing in that circle are all of the service titan customer programs. And so we have Customer education in the form of what we call Spark and Ember sessions. We have Torch Network, which is our advocacy program. We have Our service titan community platform. We also have something called Lady Titans because, females in the trade, they’re really trying to to boost that.

Emily Smith [00:47:41]:
So there is an organization to get women involved and then there’s also our, administrator certification platform. And that’s kind of all what’s in that center area there. And then we all partnered and had joint collateral where we had this mountain that Align with the branding of Pantheon and have this kind of, you know, here’s what your journey to the top looks like and what stages you can join all of these different customer programs. So, Community you can join when you are a prospect, but Torch you can’t join until you are 6 months into the program. So basically, we were all in this lovely centre here where They were incentivized with a bingo card to come to all of our different booths to meet with us. We had collateral, we had QR codes to have all of our different metrics. So, Our goals were getting support network members, getting peer reference requests fulfilled. So we all had different metrics that we were trying to tackle there.

Emily Smith [00:48:29]:
And so that’s kind of what That whole center area was. It’s basically just having them them bop all around the center. And then behind our Torch Network booth, that little house We have there was our Torch Network lounge.

Michael Sciano [00:48:40]:
I have a picture of that for you.

Emily Smith [00:48:42]:
Oh, yeah. So just right in that center there. So that was our exclusive Torch Network lounge, which was for all of our customers who are Torch Network members were able to exclusively join that lounge. It had separate AM and PM breaks, it had a wall of wins, it had swag, stickers, They were able to take breaks in there, have meetings, all of that kind of fun stuff. So that’s pretty much what we had all aligned there.

Michael Sciano [00:49:04]:
That’s awesome. Thanks. You gave me a moment to get a drink too. Yeah. There’s just so this is where I go back to like, You don’t have to be like the crazy guy that I was and pour my you pour yourself into this. Like, there are snippets and areas where you can really get involved and drive Credible value. The I love I wanted to have this same sort of torch network VIP space but our budget wasn’t as big as ServiceTitans. But we still kinda created this.

Michael Sciano [00:49:35]:
In the bottom right, we kind of we used some concepts, around, like, 1 on 1 meetings. So you’re seeing, like, 2 CSMs who we had a CSM kiosk, and and they could kind of pull their customer to the side and and kinda dive in. So instead of them having to, like, roam to find a spot, we just kinda had these set up Around there. I love what was the other thing I was gonna mention? Was it if I look at this picture, I love Yeah, I love the circle and these couches. I, But, we also had, we so At Ignite, we have in the center in the bottom, one of our kiosks was for products. They have some screens on the backside of this where they could do their demos. But, we always always had somebody just sitting here for product feedback. The the product team asked us, they’re like, we wanna collect feedback here in real time.

Michael Sciano [00:50:30]:
We’re like, yeah, let’s do it. And so We accommodated them, and then Chris Fezzano here in the upper left, he has a podcast for FieldRoutes. He got a I put together a bunch of stats. So I think he got 14 or 15 podcast interviews just during Just during Ignite. Right? So, like, he got tons of material. He posted up there all 3 days and just was grabbing people And doing short, long ones, all sorts of stuff for his podcast. We had, last year and this year, we did formal testimonials. This, So we we talk a lot about this as well in advocacy.

Video testimonials effectively promote company events.

Michael Sciano [00:51:09]:
Right? Going out and doing the high end production about these about these stories, You know, oh, we can’t do videos over Zoom because what is their background gonna look like?’ So instead of going to 15 different companies, We had 15 actually I think was 14 video testimonials this year. We had one of these rooms at Caesars Forum was Super fancy and just really well done, made for a great background, and we scheduled people weeks months in advance And for time slots to do these formal sit downs. And here’s a pro tip, if you hadn’t thought of it. Yes. We asked them all about the product and their business and all of that. But at the end of every interview, we had 1 or 2 questions specific about Ignite, Like, why what do you love about Ignite? What do you love about this conference? Why should other people come? We’ve done that the last 2 years and that you that became our hype Video to promote. So we’re already working on the video to promote 2024 from Brand new video testimonials of people talking about why they love coming. So just let your customers do the promoting for you.

Michael Sciano [00:52:20]:
But we you know, you have to think about these things, though. And then real fast, You know, this was my other list of things. We next year we’re gonna do these, like, mini exhibit hall sessions that I described in the beginning. We did have a couple of social media areas set up, just with cool backgrounds and stuff, and we had the the social team did all that. We had, we had, oh, in the in the app in the mobile app leading up to the event, There are ways to do meetups and kinda create mini communities. Last year in 2022, we did a peer review station. So the g two’s and the trust radius reviews and all of that, but honestly, for us it did go well. We got 8 last year.

Michael Sciano [00:53:12]:
This year, we just sent out an email, on Tuesday of this Yeah, Tuesday of this week, so we waited until after Thanksgiving, And we did, to the Ignite audience, of the 1,000 or so people who came, we asked them to do a review and we’ve already gotten, like, 70, between the 2 companies, so that was way more productive than last year. We did a bunch of on the street testimonials in the hallway, just grabbing people for, like, 30 seconds. I had, We had, a list of, like, 10 questions on a printout. And you just kind of go up to somebody and say, hey, can you give me a 32nd answer? Pick a question, 1 question, gather your thoughts, hit record. Nothing fancy, but again, now we’ve got all this content. And then we did a birds of a feather lunch at Pantheon. Emily did I don’t know if Emily you did that or somebody else?

Emily Smith [00:54:08]:
I had my Torch Network Game show.

Michael Sciano [00:54:11]:
So Yes, that’s right. That’s right. So somebody else did that. But President of the Feather Lunch is great. A great way to help them, Take advantage of lunch and meet other people. And then finally, I don’t know if Becky’s on, Becky Susco, she did an awesome session last year at Customer x that I was in, about customer awards, she gave us this great project plan template. I was all I was like, we’re gonna introduce awards this year, and I got off to a really good start, and then failed miserably. So fortunately we didn’t publicize it, it just got to be too much, we were doing a lot other new stuff, but I that is gonna be new for next year and that’s gonna be one of our pillars is to introduce and have an award ceremony, as part of the main stage.

Michael Sciano [00:54:58]:
It’s something I worked on at Adobe When we first launched the Experience Maker Awards, which many of you have probably heard Kevin Lau talk about. Kevin and I were on the same team that created Experience Maker Awards and launched them in I think it was 2018, so Alright, I’m done. Mary, I have talked everyone’s ear off. I’m gonna Open it up here. I I gotta scroll back and see if there’s questions.

Mary Green [00:55:23]:
Thank you. You did an amazing job. You I mean, you just shared so much and answered a lot of the questions. Normally, I have to watch the chat, so that was nice that you Kinda took over and handled all of that.

Michael Sciano [00:55:37]:
But I told you be careful when you still take over.

Mary Green [00:55:41]:
This is going to be one a very popular call. I can tell, just the way that you laid out all the program and everything. So 2 things. 1, Kevin Lau did an awards program call with us a couple of months back. Yes. He did. So that is on one of the websites, I’m either Club CX or CMA weekly. And, 2, Robert Maddox is going to be doing a call in a couple of weeks about turning customers into advocates, which we all know how to do.

Mary Green [00:56:16]:
But I believe that part of his call, Converge your advocates into influencers is going to be about using shout outs at events to get customers to, You know, do videos and things like that that you can use on social media and really boost them up. So I think that co goes along the lines of me getting a phone call in Zoom, along the lines of This event thing because, events are evolving, I think, in a way that the the focus on customers and, You know, customer education, specifically, I know that you’re a big fan of that, and, actually, multiple people on this call are. Yeah. So I’m going to share it across the customer education space as well just so they have some Some ideas from this because you guys did an amazing job. Thank you so much.

Seize opportunities, start small, and innovate.

Michael Sciano [00:57:18]:
Well, thanks for the opportunity. And there’s, you know, there’s no Right or wrong way of doing events, of course. I I just, you know, get involved and start small and pick 1 thing and and go, And you’ll you know, that’ll build credibility internally and, I think it’s I to me, when I when we sat down, like, a year ago, thought, man, we need a lot of things. We need testimonials, stories, peer reviews, we need to Generate some social media conversation, and so I was trying to back into all these needs, like, how can we just how can we do or get a lot of this when we have a 1000 customers in 1 place, so I wanted to give out I wanted to do, like, the passport partner bingo thing and, I want because we were in Vegas I was going to, Give out casino chips for everyone who completed their passport book. But the fun sponges I think Michael said no, I will show Oh, you know what? I said I would show some stuff. So because we were in Vegas, we had let’s see here, nope, We came up with now I cannot say that this was my idea. We had custom cards made, design the design team came up with these cards, and, we came up with the 4 we used the 4 icons for the 4 industries we’re in. So that’s a little

Mary Green [00:58:47]:
Oh, nice.

Michael Sciano [00:58:48]:
It’s a little mouse for pest control. And what do we have here? We’ve got, a broom for janitorial, and so those were a hot item. And what else? We for, for some, we we had maybe about a third of the people. They got the, The branded JBL Go to Speaker, our audience love these hats, so we got hats. Oh, you know, the coolest thing was we all wore t shirts this year. So we had 3 t shirts, 1 for each day. They were pretty but on the back were the cards. So we’re gonna kinda put the cards on the t shirt which brought it all together.

Michael Sciano [00:59:33]:
So just some new ideas of stuff that was a little bit more functional and and hopefully didn’t end up in the landfill.

Mary Green [00:59:43]:
Yeah. That’s great. Also, I really love the fun sponge idea of legal.

Michael Sciano [00:59:49]:
Oh, well, I’ll tell you, I got the idea so we at Adobe we were in Vegas twice a year. We had our Internal sales company kickoff there, and we had our customer event there. So 1 was in December, 1 was in March. For the internal one, maybe because it was just employees, they did do a little incentive around casino chips, and I thought That would be a fantastic way to incentivize people especially, like, I was gonna give out different, different amounts. And so I tried to think of how I could do this when they took the casino trip thing away, but, like, to me a video testimonial is worth a whole heck of a lot more than no offense to social media folks, but a social media post. So I wanted to have so that’s where the speakers came in, like People who did a video testimonial got a thank you box from us. They got a speaker, a hat, and, I don’t know, some other stuff. And it was just a night because they did that.

Michael Sciano [01:00:52]:
Right? That’s We could spend 1,000 upon 1,000 of dollars getting a video, and so we wanted to have a nicer gift for them. So, so that’s kinda how I was thinking about, like, how can we tier up the incentive or the gift that we give based on what you do?

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