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David Ratcliffe, President, Pink Elephant

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    Monday, January 28, 2013

    The 6 Most Important Pink13 Trade Secrets - Published Here!

    Those who know me well will probably tell you that trumpet blowing is not something I’m known for. But I’m going to give it a go today (at least on behalf of the whole Pink team), so - Spoiler Alert: major trumpet blowing exercise ahead!

    Out of all the things we do in the world of ITSM, Pink is possibly best known for delivering the most admired ITSM conference on the calendar each year. It’s not just me who says so, our practitioner customers and vendor customers tell us every time - “Best conference ever!”

    It’s a tough standard to live up to every year, but we follow some “golden rules” to minimize risks and increase the likelihood of continuing our success.

    As we’re headed into the final stretch for the 17th Annual International IT Service Management Conference & Exhibition, at the Bellagio in Las Vegas next month, maybe I can let you into some of the secrets as to how we do it.

    There is something of a formula we use - and I’ll call out the most important aspects right here. In fact, I’ve never been shy in sharing what we’ve learned with others. Especially those who don’t do this for a living (for example, local itSMF groups who are trying their best to offer up special event programs for their members).

    Event planning is an unforgiving business. Get it wrong and you could have a major disaster on your hands. Get it right and the reward is a huge sigh of relief! So, there’s a bunch of things we pay a lot of attention to, and there’s 17+ years of experience which undoubtedly counts for a lot, but here’s what I believe are the major reasons why at Pink we’ve been so successful in delivering the industry’s best, biggest and most admired Conference of the year.

    1. Content: Is King!
    Hands down this is the most important criterion for our practitioner customers. Pink’s CEO, Fatima Cabral Ratcliffe, frequently reminds us that the feedback we get from attendees each year always makes priority reference to the quality and relevance of the subject matter. Making sure the sessions are valuable is THE most important thing. So we don’t compromise when it comes to identifying subjects and creating sessions. Fatima and Pattie Lanktree go out over a year in advance to begin to solicit contributions on specific topics from known, and new, speakers. No matter how accomplished you may be as a speaker, if the subject isn’t topical and in-demand, you’ll be rejected. I’ve noticed at some events the program building seems to be the wrong way around. Choose the speaker (or speaker organization) and then find out what they want to talk about. At Pink we don’t care too much who you are, who you work for or what you want to talk about - unless what you’re proposing matches what we’re looking for.

    2. Practitioner Speakers: Tell It Like It Is!
    Content and speakers go hand-in-hand, of course. But sometimes Fatima and Pattie hear about interesting work that’s been done in a practitioner organization and that piques their curiosity. “Is there someone there who can speak about that project? How did they do that? What were the challenges and how were they overcome?“etc. etc. It all sounds like more content management, but in fact just because some content has been identified, that’s only half the solution. Now they have to find someone who’s capable of presenting it! I know Fatima and Pattie are proud of how many practitioners they’ve encouraged and brought to the fore as industry speakers. At Pink we aren’t just about re-cycling speakers - we introduce new speakers every year. They’re carefully encouraged and coached, and the high level of ratings shows we’re doing it right! To encourage others we always recognize the highest rated practitioner session through our “Case Study Of The Year” award.

    3. The Pink Faculty: Really Is Unique!
    No matter which ITSM event you go to in the year, you’ll never see such a rich team of experienced consultants talking about practical, down-to-earth advice as you’ll get at the Pink Conference. Troy DuMoulin (Pink’s VP of Professional Services) has an amazing team of Consultants and Trainers who just LOVE to share their knowledge and experience. We think - we KNOW - they’re the best in the industry!

    4. Vendors: They’re Customers Too!
    At other industry events I see the vendor community being treated as some kind of “necessary evil”. I can almost imagine what goes on in the Conference planning meetings “We need their sponsorship (money) - all we need do is give them a 10x10 booth .... maybe we can get a bit more from them if they sponsor the coffee break!” What’s up with this? The vendors have a significant role to play in the world of ITSM. Their products are valuable enablers. It’s important they have the opportunity to get in front of practitioners with their vision and their ideas for how they can help. The market stall approach of a traditional exhibition is usually the only vehicle conference planners use to “serve” vendors. That and the opportunity to splash logos around on walls, Powerpoints and handouts (for more $$$ of course!) The truth is that signage doesn’t really connect people, and some practitioners find the exhibition floor a bit intimidating. So in recent years Pink’s Lisa Lyons has introduced more opportunities for vendors and practitioners to connect in useful ways:

    • Pre-event and post event webinars.
    • Interviews and articles distributed though our electronic newsletter - PinkLINK.
    • Demonstration of their thought leadership with specially designed speaking sessions and seats on think tanks and panels.
    • In the past couple of years we’ve even profiled vendors with interesting new products in our closing keynote session. They didn’t pay extra for that, they got that opportunity because they have something interesting we’d like everyone to hear about.
    • Ultimately they could target the “Innovation Of The Year” award. If the cap fits, we’ll let you wear it!

    5. Location: Las Vegas!
    The 1st & 2nd Annual Conferences were in Toronto. That city is clearly the preeminent Canadian location, but still a foreign country as far as many US-based practitioners are concerned. So when we moved to Chicago in year 3 we saw a big jump in attendance. The next year it was Orlando and we saw another significant jump. A few years later the switch from Florida to Nevada saw the biggest single year increase in attendance before or since. Of course we understand that Las Vegas is not for everyone, but neither is Orlando, or anywhere else for that matter. Still, even with Vegas’ reputation being tarnished in recent years as corporate bailout money ended up on the Strip, our customers continue to vote with their feet and prefer Las Vegas. After all, for most of us in North America, if you’re going to travel somewhere in February then for once at least - Las Vegas is a safe bet!

    But it’s not just the location and timing that’s the draw, which leads me to the next point ....

    6. Venue: Bellagio!
    In August 2001 I was invited to speak at another organization’s conference in Las Vegas. That was my first time at the Bellagio. I was so impressed with the facilities I came back to Pink HQ and declared “We really need to be there!” The convention centre is not as spread out as some others, where you seem to walk miles from one room to another. It’s also all on the same level - no elevators or escalators. And overall the quality of amenities and service is amongst the best we’ve experienced - at any venue anywhere in the world. It really is 5-star and, in my view, still the best hotel in Las Vegas. That’s the kind of standard we want to be associated with at Pink! And our customers agree. Since we first located our Conference at the Bellagio we’ve never wanted to be anywhere else. However, good business discipline dictates that we should stop and think carefully before renewing each year. Therefore we’ve went out to tender more than once to make sure we’re not missing something elsewhere. So far the Bellagio is still #1 on our list, and I’m always proud to tell people that the Bellagio folks tell us that Pink is their #1 customer! Apparently, we don’t just use every room for the duration of the Conference, but our pre- and post-conference schedule of training courses means we almost take over the place for nearly 2 weeks. And that means Pink brings more business to the Bellagio than any other organization. Wow!

    There you have it - 6 of the top reasons why we produce such a great event!

    It’s always been good to be a Pinker, but my proudest moments are when I think of what the Pink team has achieved year-over-year with the Annual Conference.

    So, for this year, if you have something specific you need to learn about in the field of ITSM, we’re sure to have it at the 17th Annual International IT Service Management Conference & Exhibition. For deep and comprehensive learning you should check out the training course schedule which goes before and after the main event. On the other hand, if you have a wide range of interests, concerns and challenges you expect to be facing throughout the year - then look at the main program and create an hour-by-hour itinerary for yourself from the main Conference program, get yourself registered and welcome to Pink!

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    Posted by David Ratcliffe on 01/28 at 01:19 PM
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