June 9, 2015

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Headlining Events

Local Companies take User Conferences to a Whole New Level

By Peri Kinder

June 9, 2015


Who knew customer insight technology could be so much fun? Or, for that matter, a business management platform?

Utah’s hottest tech companies are using excitement-packed user conferences to connect with clients, launch new platforms, and create buzz for products and services. These events offer more than dry workshops—they often feature celebrities and entertainers, and social or recreational activities are built into the schedule.

For instance, in April, Domo launched its inaugural user experience, an event it dubbed “Domopalooza.” The company brought in Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane and musical guests Ludacris and Robin Thicke.

On his blog, Domo CEO Josh James wrote, “Let’s be honest, a great conference isn’t just about amazing content and educational opportunities. Some of the most valuable moments come from the people you meet and the connections you make. So while there will be plenty ‘get smart’ time on the agenda, we’re making sure that after the work, there’s plenty of time to make the memories.”

Orchestrating an Experience

How does a company convince its users to attend an event that basically discusses feedback analystics? Do what Qualtrics did. Throw a world-class party with game-changing speakers like Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran and Freakonomics author Stephen Dubner. Share inspirational stories, host a ski day and create breakout sessions to help clients utilize your services even better. Oh, and bring in Journey to perform a private concert.

When Qualtrics held its 2015 Insight Summit in February, customers were clamoring to register. It was the second year the insight technology provider hosted a user conference, and word had gotten out. Registrations for the event held at The Grand America had to be capped at 1,300. Next year’s event promises to blow the doors off.

“So many companies get it wrong and build a conference around what they need. We start with the customer and work backwards. We try really hard not to make it a sales event,” says Kylan Lundeen, Qualtrics director of marketing. “We will really customize the level of experience. The entire company will pitch in to host breakout sessions.”

In 2015, attendees could choose from 60 breakout classes including using data to “do good” and customer engagement. But next year’s conference will host 200 breakout sessions with something for everyone.

“We ask, can people go home and be better at their job because of this experience? Can they be proud of being part of the Qualtrics family? We enable them to be rock stars at work by providing detailed, pertinent information to their employers.”

As professional feedback analysts, Qualtrics emailed surveys to attendees before, during and after the four-day event. The company wanted to make sure that people were having a good time, but, more importantly, that they were also getting key messages and receiving the information they needed. Lundeen says the conference got rave reviews from attendees. But they couldn’t please everyone—one person complained the Journey concert was too loud.

Connection is a big deal for Qualtrics. From the venue to the activities, the conference was designed to help people talk to each other. “We hold it at The Grand because there are so many intimate spaces where people can sit down and connect. So many alliances are forged through these connections,” Lundeen says. “Friday is a ski day. When you ski with strangers, you create bonds that last a lifetime, even if it’s just talking as you ride the chair lift.”

Taking the Party on the Road

An engaging user conference doesn’t have to be an extravaganza with celebrity speakers and rock bands. Ancestry.com partners with historical archives around the country to put on family history conferences four weekends a year.

Organizers of the events find that people travel for hours to attend Ancestry Days. With nearly 1,400 amateur and professional genealogists attending each conference, expectations are pretty high, and Ancestry.com strategists have learned to give their members exactly what they are searching for.

The company partnered with the Oklahoma Historical Society in November 2014 for Ancestry Day in Oklahoma, organizing a celebration as the archives launched its Native American records online. Native American history is a big deal to genealogists, and the opportunity to access those records was a draw to people within a five-state radius.

A bus tour of Chickasaw Country started the conference, which included visits to cultural centers, recreation areas, local shops and a neighborhood winery. Classes featured notable speakers, who discussed Native American heritage.

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