New member profile: How Boardroom Events puts the attendees first
Badoin talked with ABM about the company's model, what he believes are the fundamentals in producing events and the future of the events industry.
ABM: Why did you launch Boardroom Events?
Charles Badoian: Previous clients approached us. Over 25 or 30 CIOs reached out to us telling us there was nothing as well-run as what had existed during our tenure at Gartner. There was a portfolio of events that Gartner ran but they sold that business [to another company] in 2007 or 2008. Clients basically said the events had lost its focus on the CIO. So I got a bunch of colleagues from my Gartner days and Microvision days and started Boardroom Events. We saw a scenario where people were no longer doing the hosted events model very well. They didn't understand the fundamentals of the model. We thought “There's a void here. Let's go back and create something.”
ABM: You said a lot of people didn’t understand the fundamentals. What are they?
Badoian: It's a total focus on the client that attends the event versus the sponsoring organizing; it's creating a format that's really conducive for the attendee. If you create it correctly, the sponsoring organizations gets huge benefits just because of the experience the end users get (the clients or the buyers).
Basically, what a hosted event does is identify key decision makers in a segment. They are typically very hard to recruit, very high touch. You have sponsoring organizations give them presentations. What we do differently, from a presentation perspective, which is different than most and where we spend most of our time, is after we recruit our key delegates we spend just as much time vetting and qualifying the sponsoring organization because it's very easy to take anyone's money, but we want to be very selective about the sponsors and the IT executives.
ABM: What other industries are you looking at?
Badoian: We are heavily intrigued by energy conservation. Part of the challenge is the initial investment in those types of industries are not high, so one of the goals we have is to deliver a level of profitability so that we can invest in those industries and actually run events at lower margins for the greater good. That's kind of our long-term vision: to use high -revenue, high-margin events to create events that are not necessarily as revenue-generating but are for the greater good globally.
Also, from an IT industry we are seeing that mid-market is being underserved. We have the Midmarket CIO Forum and that's the total solutions package. But we're seeing segmentation on topic areas where you can actually run a complete event on mobility for the midmarket, security for the midmarket, etc.
ABM: What do you think clients and sponsors can gain from 'boardroom-type' events?
Badoian: From an IT executive perspective or client perspective, we use an acronym called QDM -- qualified decision makers. What we look for is a collection of qualified decision makers. I think the biggest benefit that we provide to that group is high-level dialogue outside of the office without distractions. You and I experience this every day. There will be five different calls, 10 different calls, we are going to be pulled into multiple directions. So we pull you out the corporate environment, bring you to a format that is very easy from a travel perspective—we coordinate everything: travel, pick-up at the airport, check-in—and then we give you a collection of your peers that you know without question are at the same-level, from a decision-making perspective, as yourself.
And the thing that we are really winning on is the amount of prep that we do with our sponsoring organizations to make sure that their message is on point, on target for the IT executives. We do three dry runs for every sponsor. We do a dry run with just myself, leveraging my 18 years of hearing presentations. We'll do another dry run after their revisions. And then we'll do another dry run before the event with our advisory board to make sure it is topical and informative. The sponsoring organization focuses on context (“Tell us what pain points you see, how you can solve the pain points, what are the results for my organization, and how I can benefit from it”).
I think the community element is really important. If you are in a room with your peers, the questions that they will ask will be a lot more compelling than questions asked by those who are not your peers. That's why it's important to get the right people on site because the questions that a CIO from Company X asks, a CIO from Company Y probably has the same question but hasn't thought of it that way. The pure dynamic in the boardroom is really effective. We've looked at models where it was purely one-on-one interaction and it was not as beneficial to the client. Also, after every board room session we do a breakout where the clients de-brief: “What are the key things? Who's considering this?” We make sure the dialogue goes above and beyond the presentation.
ABM: You've been in the events industry for 15+ years. What has changed? What are the biggest challenges for the events industry right now?
Badoian: 1993 was my first event. I wasn't legally old enough to drink! The [biggest challenge] is the FUD factor. The general “fear, uncertainty, doubt “about the economy. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with events. I think face-to-face interaction will continue to be the most compelling and proper way to do high-level business. I do see a space for online as an initial interaction.
And, honestly, lack of talent is a big challenge. That's probably the biggest struggle that I have is finding the right people for our organization. In the old days, when corporate budgets were huge and you were part of a very large company, you had specialists in a particular area. In this environment, you really need talent that is multi-capable.
ABM: What do you think will be the future for the events industry?
Badoian: I think the events industry as a whole needs to embrace sustainable business practices. The amount of waste generated at a large trade show is just wrong. After the building industry, the trade show industry is the second-largest creator of waste in North America.
[Also,] the reality is that decision makers will always want to 'press flesh.' So you should create the relationship face-to-face and then do the transaction online. At Gartner I basically wrote the online business model once a year for five years and I could never pull the trigger. I could not find a way to justify it. Every CIO I know wants to meet the person that is going to bring that solution into their organization, especially because their jobs are on the line. If you're going to buy some super-duper whatever for you organization, and it's a substantial part of your budget and will change your organization, you're going to want to meet the team that's selling that solution before you sign on the line. But telepresence is intriguing..
By Elizabeth A. Reid