Going into the first day of our first ever user conference, MITS Exchange, last week was a little scary as we decided to take a big risk. Rather than planning out every minute of the agenda, we decided to let our customers help us shape 50% of the agenda. Yes, you read that right: 50% of the agenda!
We decided to take this risk after careful consideration. We thought about all of the event models used in the 15 - 20 events we attend every year. We considered our top five goals for our first conference. We researched and debated. At the end of the day, we decided that to create an environment that truly fosters collaboration, communication, and "exchange," we needed our customers to help drive the agenda.
And, our risk paid off because...our customers are amazing. They embraced our vision for the conference and helped us build out the agenda on the fly. They were open, flexible, and engaged, willing to take this journey with us, and for that we are very grateful.
Here are three approaches we took that contributed to the success of MITS Exchange:
First, we decided that we would not invite third party sponsors to participate in the program. Outside of our fantastic keynote speaker, Dirk Beveridge of the UnleashWD Innovation Summit, and one breakout session led by an outside subject matter expert, MITS Exchange participants were either customers or MITS staff/consultants. That meant no distractions (ok...well there was all that food in the break station) to get in the way of us getting to know each other better.
Second, we incorporated two "lean" meetings that enabled our customers to set the agenda for what they wanted to talk about. Man was this scary. Even though MITS holds lean-style meetings regularly in the office (including a monthly lean lunch), this was the first time we did it with over 100 people! My hat goes off to the entire MITS team for executing two beautiful...and large...lean sessions, covering a wide range of topics from instructional to visionary/strategic, and everything in between.
Third, we elicited and voted on MITS product roadmap features and direction. Yah, we actually did that.
MITS Exchange was a tremendous success for us...and for our customers:
"MITS is committed to their customers. They are forward thinking and results-oriented, motivated by the successes of their customers."
"The power of MITS continues to grow and this event helped me move much further forward."
"It was great to see our feedback being put to use rather than put on a list of lists that goes nowhere."
"Motif Seattle's catering group makes fantastic chocolate chip cookies." (Yep, there is that food distraction!)
"MITS cares enough about us to listen and act upon things that could disrupt our business but will help us innovate and take control of our future."
"I was very impressed with the level of discussion."
"Understanding how all of our data elements fit together allowed me to develop a quick strategy for roll-out and customizations."
"MITS is listening."
"Too much good food." (There it is again.)
"MITS Discover has more power than I realized...it can help our company become more competitive and customer-focused."
"We made a good choice [to go with MITS]."
"I'm anxious to get back and roll MITS out to all of our users."
While the dust of planning and executing MITS Exchange is settled, the real work is just beginning both here at MITS and at our customers' locations across the US and Canada.
We'll be sharing more insights and outcomes from the conference with our customers in the coming weeks and months...including a "hold the date" for the next one.