PTC USER, From Two Perspectives

Alan Belniakbusiness8 Comments

Inside the exhibit hall at PTC USER 2010

Last week, I attended my company’s annual customer conference: PTC USER.  If you follow me on Twitter, you saw many tweets with a #ptcuser10 hashtag, and we’ll save a dissection of the digital media for another post.  In this post, I want to examine the event from the eyes of two different people: customers and me.

The North American event traditionally kicks off the global tour of the same content, repeated in other locations.  This event has many similar items that other trade shows offer.  One aspect of this event that differs from other typical trade shows, though, is that the group (PTC USER) was originally created as an independent voice of the PTC products.

So, here is my perspective of PTC USER, through two different sets of eyes.  There were 1,815 people in attendance, so surely there’s at least one other person who has a similar viewpoint to mine!

PTC USER: What the customers get

  • The tagline of the event is “TEN… Training, Education, and Networking.”  I think that’s an accurate statement.  There are so many product update briefings (from the PTC folks) and expert presentations (from our customers) that it’s hard to not leave this event having learned something.
  • I overheard, “That’s great, can I get your card?” (or a variant of that) at least four times in conversations.  While I obviously champion the digital social networking, I’m also a proponent of face-to-face networking, and it’s nice to see and  hear that the event was facilitating this kind of live connection.
  • I had breakfast with a person who was discussing some results of a project his company took on.  He had some summary materials, and I was able to give him my business card to get a copy of that sent to me.  No amount of Googling would have ever turned that up.
  • The Hands-on Workshops (HOWs) are such a nice plus to this event.  They were often at maximum capacity (from what I’m told),  so there’s obvious demand for them.  These are free to attend, presuming you’ve paid the registration fee for the event.  As in, there isn’t an additional fee to attend these.  And they ran successively throughout the duration of the event.
  • The announcement of the new PlanetPTC brand and the three brands underneath it: live, virtual, and community had people talking.  The live events, like this PTC USER will certainly continue.  But the financial and logistical obligations are being removed from the PTC USER organization and shifted to PTC.  What this means is that the same great content (and more/better content) will still be offered, but the risk will be reduced significantly for PTC USER.
  • More virtual events will be happening, since we had such great success with the Mathcad virtual event a few months back.  It is a new venue/distribution system for some, yes, but a very cost effective way to get much of the same content across.  Indeed it’s not the same, but access to great keynote presentations, live Q&A, and access to take-home materials – without the travel and hotel costs – is surely to please many budget managers!
  • PlanetPTC Community is especially exciting for me, since I worked with the team that led the project.  There are many places to congregate online for support and question-and-answer sessions, but there aren’t a lot to get together and showcase your work, inspire others, and continue those face-to-face connections in the digital world (or, create new ones).  PTC’s extensive Forrester research indicated that (this is discussed here by my colleague and friend, Rachel Nislick) our customers are hungry for this kind of venue.
  • So, in the end… yes, the event costs money.  Live trade shows are one source of many to do one’s job better. The savvy worker will look at all the tools in concert and choose from the many, not the ‘all’ and not the ‘same ones every time’.  What’s offered is a lot of content for a pretty fair price.

PTC USER: What I got

  • In my new role, I was able to cover the event from a digital media perspective (not just social media).  In years past, I was tethered to a booth for a product.  This year, I roamed… a lot.  More on why below, but suffice it to say, my perspective on the event increased just by the mere fact I got to walk around a bit and see more aspects of the event in action.
  • We set up a media aggregation page and piped in all kinds of content so that others could follow along at home.  We did this last year, too, and we had a renewed focus on it this year.  We featured videos, tweets, blogs, and pictures.
    • You can read more about the stats and the mechanics of the video and such in my next blog post.  What I wanted to convey here was that providing access in more ways than one helped round out the buzz, excitement, and content of the event that wasn’t necessarily captured in years past.
  • I had a fair amount of gear to do this.  I had a laptop, mouse, mobile phone/smart phone, Flip Cam, voice recorder, USB hard drive, digital camera, and various assorted cables and chargers.  I had at least seven printed circuit boards on me at all times!  Why do I note this?  Because in the age of the digital, portable, real-time web, I was a walking studio: recording, production, and distribution/publishing.  I was capturing video and pictures and turning around that content, sometimes in as little as two hours.  If you’re reading this blog, this might not be a surprise to you.  But think of conferences you attended only three or so years ago, and look at how fast technology has changed.

I was tired.  I was up early to do work before each keynote presentation, I roamed the floors in an ‘always on’ fashion, and I was social in the evening, sometimes till late.  But I really enjoyed the event.

In my next post, I’ll dissect some of the numbers a bit from the media aggregation page to show what kind of an impact I think this had.

image courtesy of PTCUSEREvents on Flickr

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