Yesterday, as soon as I made my post for a SmartLabs Wrap-Up, I saw that John Trigg posted one on TheIntegratedLab.com at about the same time. I think we must have hit the button to make our posts within about five minutes of each other. If you view this blog right on the blog’s URL, you’ll see TheIntegratedLab’s posts fed right in so that you can read them, as well. You’ll also notice that, as a contributor to TheIntegratedLab that I’ve fallen behind in my postings, but it’s something I need to work on.
Anyway, since John and I made those posts, I’ve continued to speak with people about the SmartLabs Exchange. There’s still a huge buzz going on even afterwards. People who couldn’t make it back have e-mailed and called, wanted to catch-up and see what they missed. People I met there want to e-mail about what they learned and who they met.
Let me back-up for a moment to point something out: in John Trigg’s post, he mentioned that this event appears not to have been affected by the downtown in conference attendance, and that the event did extremely well. I should add that this is not a cheap conference to attend, either. One of the reasons I think it works so well is that, in my opinion, it’s extremely focused on the customers.
With that said, I should add there’s definitely a commercial aspect, as well. The event DOES have sponsors and DOES have displays. It DOES help sponsors and attendees get together, if they have an interest. But that’s just one aspect of the event. Customers that I spoke with primarily found value in meeting with and speaking with other customers, and in sharing ideas with each other.
So, even though customers do pay a solid chunk of money to attend (include not just the conference fees, but also travel and it does add-up), one of the reasons I think it’s so successful, right now, is that it gives users a chance to learn from each other. No-one truly understands their needs and issues the way their own counterparts do. Customers become part of the Exchange as they are tapped for their own expertise, because their knowledge is of a great value. This is why I encourage customers to attend these types of events. When you take a course or bring someone (like me, for example) in to speak with you, you get a single view. When you meet with your peers, you become part of the discussion. That’s where you really learn something – not by being fed information from other people but by participating in it.