Customer Conferences & Employee Summits: 5 Tips To Ensure Success

Customer Conferences & Employee Summits: 5 Tips To Ensure Success

Emilia D’Anzica, Founder, MBA, PMP | Sabina Pons, Operating Partner, MA | Growth Molecules™, LLC

After a two-year hiatus due to the global pandemic, companies are planning in-person customer events like user conferences, trade shows, company kickoffs, and so should you. Are you uncertain about where to start after becoming accustomed to hosting online events? Do you feel overwhelmed and apprehensive about the strategy and tactical logistics of bringing customers, prospective customers, and employees together?  Rest assured that you are in good company. Keep reading to learn about our personal experience in successfully executing two record-setting events. 

Both Sabina M. Pons and I have a long history of creating and executing corporate events so when one of our clients, Seeq Corporation asked us to lead the strategy behind their first global industry conference and also their annual employee conference, saying “yes” was a no-brainer. My first job in Silicon Valley was at Guru.com as an events manager and the last corporate event I led before leaving startup land as an employee resulted in 12,000 leads & over 1,500 people in attendance across the Salesforce Dreamforce conference in 2017. Sabina has coordinated multi-million dollar events across the sports and entertainment, TV and film, and advertising industries before she made her way into technology. So teaming up with Orange County, California-based Intertwined Events to help bring our customer’s visions a reality just made sense.

Our team at Growth Molecules™, LLC was hired to design the experiential event strategies and onsite event execution. 

We partnered with Nikki Bishop, the Vice President of Customer Success, and others from the Seeq leadership team, to design the messaging and themes that gave way to the keynote, breakout, and panelist sessions. Speaker management was a large area of focus for our team, ensuring that there was a consistent structure and thematic experience for audience members. Lastly, we collectively had to keep the various industries, and corresponding personas and related interests, in mind to ensure that the user conference part of the event was relevant and worthy of their time traveling from around the world. 

We initiated the planning process by facilitating a workshop with the client in November of 2021. Together, we worked diligently over the next six months to create ‘Seeq Conneqt’. We invited Intertwined Events to lead all of the logistics and they brought in a team of specialists to help with the backend management including the videographers, photographers, audio and visual, and venue management. Uncommon Marketing Works also joined us to lead the marketing efforts of the event.

The event took place in Austin, Texas in the first week of May 2022. To say that it was “magical” sounds cliche but that’s what it was: For many attendees, it was their first time meeting in person, despite the fact that they had been colleagues for over three years. Other aspects of the week-long event, like the thoughtful experiential touches, the authenticity, and approachability, of the keynote speakers and panelists, and the energy of the attendees made it a “core memory” as one of our colleagues stated.


As with any large project, the importance of measuring its success, and also its opportunities for improvement are crucial. Therefore, we conducted a retrospective meeting to align on what we could have improved, key learnings, and how we will go from 200 customer attendees to 1,000+. The 90%+ attendance rate for both the user conference and employee event in 2022 is the result of many teams, ideas, and attention to detail coming together. Below, we share with you key learnings and advice to help you plan and execute your next world-class event.

Five Musts To Ensure You Create A High-Impact Event For Your Customers And Employees.

I. Start With An Event Mission

After a two-year hiatus due to the global pandemic, companies are planning in-person customer events like user conferences, trade shows, company kickoffs, and so should you. Are you uncertain about where to start after becoming accustomed to hosting online events? Do you feel overwhelmed and apprehensive about the strategy and tactical logistics of bringing customers, prospective customers, and employees together?  Rest assured that you are in good company. Keep reading to learn about our personal experience in successfully executing two record-setting events. 

Both Sabina M. Pons and I have a long history of creating and executing corporate events so when one of our clients, Seeq Corporation asked us to lead the strategy behind their first global industry conference and also their annual employee conference, saying “yes” was a no-brainer. My first job in Silicon Valley was at Guru.com as an events manager and the last corporate event I led before leaving startup land as an employee resulted in 12,000 leads & over 1,500 people in attendance across the Salesforce Dreamforce conference in 2017. Sabina has coordinated multi-million dollar events across the sports and entertainment, TV and film, and advertising industries before she made her way into technology. So teaming up with Orange County, California-based Intertwined Events to help bring our customer’s visions a reality just made sense.

Photo credit: Villa Visuals

If you host an event because your board or leadership says it is time to host one, ask them what they envision. What do they expect out of the event? Make it measurable. It is difficult to justify hosting an event without an ROI so start somewhere.  Consider internal and external goals.

Example Of Internal Goals:

  • Invite 20% of prospects and close 50% of them in the next 3 months
  • Upsell to 60% of the clients attending our newest product
  • Sign 3 sponsors and charge for the event for the first time in our company history
  • Bring together three times more customers than we did last year
Stretch goals are good – We are all motivated by an opportunity to attain success. We didn’t know if we would get 100 people together so we set the bar high at 200 and the event sold out. 

Events DO help sell – We believe this and here is why: According to research conducted by Frederick F. Reichheld and Phil Schefter of the Harvard Business School, they cited a study (conducted by Bain & Company, in coordination with Earl Sasser of HBS), analyzing the costs and revenue that came from serving customers over their whole purchasing life cycle, customers are your biggest advocates, an important reason why investors will take a bet on your company, and the buyers who are most likely to buy your newest invention. The research findings show why you should invest in your client experience.
External Mission:

Next, we wanted the mission to be about our client’s customers, and this new world to which we are all adjusting. We wanted it to be memorable. We wanted the company’s unique culture to be felt throughout the event. After multiple brainstorming sessions, and a lot of caffeine, we agreed on the event’s mission: We wanted people to come together to connect (it can be uncomfortable after two years in our homes, many of us feeling alone), to collaborate (on several thought-provoking puzzles, case studies and opportunities to engage with others in our fields), and to conquer this [post-]COVID business world with confidence. The event’s mission, and our mission, were tied to The Three Cs.

There you have it – every agenda session had this theme of the three Cs intertwined in the message. The audience felt the mission throughout the event and your next event should too.

What is your company’s mission for your upcoming event?

Photo credit: Villa Visuals

II. Start Early: Planning is 80% of success. 20% is execution

The Project Management Institute (PMI) has shown through case studies that without proper planning, many company programs fail. In fact, PMI reports that, for every $1 billion spent on projects in the U.S., there is a loss or waste of roughly $122 million—meaning that 12% of the budget for projects, on average, is wasted due to poor management, counterproductive behaviors, and bad decision-making*.

Growth Molecules Team and Seeq Team Prep call planning for Seeq Conneqt. Photo credit: Evan Williams, Customer Success Consultant, Growth Molecules.

Put in the time. Do the double and triple checking of facts, figures, and plans. Overly communicate and ensure that roles and responsibilities are identified at the project’s onset. Having a dedicated project manager, slack channel, pinned documents in a centralized location, and weekly steering meetings will greatly increase your event success.

For more information about our Customer Success Event Services, contact us at Events@growthmolecules.com

III. Build An Event That’s Employee and Customer-Centric

Dynamic breakout session in Austin, Texas at Seeq’s Conneqt conference. Photo credit: Villa Visuals

Knowing your audience is crucial in most business matters, however, it requires an extra level of focus for in-person events than it did before the pandemic. With continued virus variants and different pockets of outbreaks, coupled with varying national and local regulations on masks and vaccinations, travel can be daunting. By inviting guests to attend an in-person event, you are essentially asking people to risk their health to travel. Be sensitive and thoughtful. 

Part of the thoughtfulness is for those that do decide to attend, ensure that you have truly put their hopes, wants, and needs at the center of your planning efforts. Going back to the basics is the best way to achieve this. Ask yourself:

  • Is our event compelling enough for a person to travel?
  • What do our customers/employees want to learn?
  • How can our customers/employees feel like part of the experience, rather than bystanders?
  • What are 3-4 “wow” moments where you can surprise and delight your guests?

Capturing every detail through sketching in Austin, Texas at Seeq’s Conneqt conference. Photo credit: Villa Visuals. 

IV. Consider Coupling Your Customer & Employee Events

This sounds radical, and the idea of having two large events, back to back in the same week sounded like a bad idea to us at first, too. However, hear us out: If you are investing in bringing your customers to an annual event and incurring the expenses to fly your Sales, Customer Success, and Executive Leadership teams to the event anyway, then leverage the assets, resources, and event space that’s already in place! This will result in two important outcomes:

  1. Cost Savings: Two events leveraging the same vendors can save you money and be more efficient as you can repurpose a large portion of your customer event collateral, event crew, and content. Events take so much time, money and resources, why not fly out executives one time to an event versus two? 
  2. Osmosis of Energy: The energy from your customer event will penetrate into your employee event. The excitement, stories, and outcomes from the customer event will be shared and further pump up the rest of the employees. The team coming together, to understand the impact their hard work is having on customers, is realized in near-real-time.

 

The Seeq Corporation Team at Seeq’s Conneqt conference, in Austin, Texas. Photo credit: Villa Visuals

V. Hire the Right Talent

The Growth Molecules™, LLC team at Seeq Conneqt in Austin, TX, May 2022. From left to right: Sabina Pons, Emilia D’Anzica, Gosia Rios, and Evan Williams.  Photo credit: Villa Visuals

When Nikki approached Sabina with the inquiry about working together for these two important events, Sabina came to me and said, “you’ve led events for 12,000+ people, I have been in the events and hospitality space as well, I know we can do this, are you up for the task?” My Answer without blinking was, “YES!”

Growth Molecules™, LLC is on a mission to change the customer experience while achieving company revenue goals and enabling employee success. If your company is seeking best-in-class customer and employee event partners, contact us. We specialize in helping companies create best-in-class events through our global experience. When you engage with us, we serve as your strategic partner from conception and identification of objectives and key results (OKRs) through execution, ranging from agenda creation, speaker selection and coaching, customized swag, speaker gratitude gifts, and event partner selection. We also offer to inspire and motivate Master of Ceremony Services.

We are Growth Molecules & we strive to help people and companies GROW.

Curious what the outcome of the event looked like? Click here to watch the video

If your team is sticking to online events, here is a quick guide from an online workshop with hosted with Square. to help you plan your online event as well.

We look forward to helping you and your team plan your next Customer-Employee Centric Event!

About the Authors:

Emilia D’Anzica, MBA, PMP is the Founder and Managing Partner of Growth Molecules™, a Management Consulting Firm focused on customer success strategies. She is also a part-time Adjunct MBA Professor and an International Speaker and co-author of Pressing on as a Tech Mom.  

Sabina Pons is an award-winning management consultant and keynote speaker whose focus is on driving revenue protection and growth for technology companies. With a Master’s degree in Communication & Organizational Behavior Sabina is passionate about igniting corporate transformational change. She is also the co-author of Pressing on as a Tech Mom.

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