I go to a lot of industry analyst events, and one company stands out as doing an analyst-focused event right: Lenovo. It makes full use of the analysts while most events just become a storm of slides and presentations. Lenovo’s event, which is actually called an industry analyst council, is also the oldest in the technology industry, starting well back in the 1980s when its ThinkPad division was part of IBM.
Here's why Lenovo’s event stands out as leading in the industry, in my opinion.
Industry analysts go to a lot of events, and after a while, they all start running together because the focus appears to be on how much can be put on a given slide and how many things can be presented in a fixed period of time. They remind me a lot of college in that you have presentation after presentation with limited time for questions, and the folks on stage are mostly in tell mode. They know the subject, and the audience is just learning about it.
If you remember how hard it was to stay focused on lectures in school, you understand how most of these go. However, unlike school, analysts are also multi-tasking because they have to keep up with their regular workload. This means they are seldom really engaged, and the firm holding the event often doesn’t know what the analysts think about what was presented until they write up a report on it.
There is also a huge amount of waste in analyst events. You typically have a room full of unique people who have a deep knowledge of customers, media and what competitors are doing — and those people aren’t contributing much at all. The waste is that there is a fantastic opportunity to get collective decision support and help — and most organizations completely miss it. So not only aren’t the analysts deeply engaged, the value they could otherwise provide is often lost because the event is more focused on telling than listening.
What the IBM PC company did and Lenovo now does is to make the event highly interactive. Yes, Lenovo pitches coming products, but the time is largely split between telling and listening. They bring decisions in conflict to the analysts for discussion, and the analysts’ thoughts are then factored into the eventual decisions. I should point out that the company also does similar events with large customers, and that way, when a decision is made, they have factored in a balance of customer and analyst positions and opinions, which generally leads to better decisions. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Lenovo currently leads the market in personal computers worldwide.
One additional advantage to this approach is the opinions are captured before the products are launched and often are built into the eventual decisions. The products are designed to be get stronger reviews because a large cross-section of the folks that will review them had a hand in the design. This is one of the reasons why products like its ThinkPad X1 Yoga are so good.
Finally, because the analysts are more engaged, they actually retain more of the content. In fact, if you think back to college again and the classes you best remember, they were probably the ones where the professor was constantly asking questions, not just lecturing. That threat of suddenly having to respond, coupled with the fact you were part of the process, kept you in the moment, and you likely retained more of the related content.
Lenovo’s Industry Analyst Council stands out because it attempts to engage the analysts aggressively, both to gain timely feedback and to assure analysts are paying attention.
In my opinion, one of the reasons Lenovo is leading its market and is the only Chinese company with a dominant worldwide position in tech is because it does this one thing better than anyone else. That is a best practice with benefits, and the lesson can be applied to any large audience, be it employees, investors, press or analysts.
An event should never be about filling time. It should be about engagement. And you don’t engage if you aren’t balancing listening and talking.
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