User group event vs. Vendor event

by Shijaz Abdulla on 27.03.2008 at 23:11

Hmmm… I was feeling real sleepy when I suddenly thought of writing this. So please excuse me if you see something here that doesn’t make sense.

I’ve always wondered why do more people turn up at an event conducted by a vendor like Microsoft or Cisco, but very few people turn up at events that are conducted by a user group. I guess the reasons could be many – ranging from quality of the venue to meeting expectations.

Let’s take a closer look:

Why do more people prefer to attend an event conducted by a vendor compared to an event conducted by a user group?

1. More publicity: Vendor events come with a big bang and more dollars are spend marketing the event itself. A lot of excitement is incited is done through mailers, etc and registrations start pouring in.

2. Direct interaction with vendor: Vendors, no doubt, are the most accurate and up-to-date source of information of their own products. Events conducted by the vendor rarely fail to meet expectations and are very informative and this attracts more attendees.

3. Building relationships with vendor: Sometimes customers attend vendor events to get closer with the vendor so that they can build a better relationship and receive better support for their running systems.

4. Decision makers: Business decision makers and other individuals who have an interest in the money aspects of things (RoI, slides filled with Gartner facts, charts & figures, product features, licensing) find the kind of information they need at vendor events. IT Managers and others who are not ‘hands-on’ on technology will also find a genuine interest in these events.

5. Because everybody’s there: ‘Tom, Dick and Harry are going, so I guess I should be there too.’ It is a sort of misguided perception of professional networking. This is not common, but it nevertheless could be a reason why some people prefer to ‘be there’.

6. Better venue, free give-aways and a great lunch 🙂

Now for the other side of the coin: How can a user group event be better than a vendor event?

1. Money doesn’t talk: Speakers in user group events are usually community members. Most of the time, these are ordinary people/volunteers who are end customers of the product being discussed. The presenter talks about the technology *only*. The oft-annoying ‘sales pitch’ is absent in a user group presentation and it suddenly becomes a techie’s delight!

2. Speaker’s job not at stake: A user group speaker does not work for the company that made the product, nor is he paid by them. This makes him neutral in his views and opinions. In light of their experiences with the product, user group speakers may also speak about the weaker points of a well-established product that the vendor’s representative may try to avoid or shy away.

3. More interaction: User group meetings are usually small, informal gatherings and a higher level of interaction between attendees is achieved. Experiences, views and ideas are often shared. Real world expertise is one of the key things to look out for in a user group meeting.

4. Professional networking: User groups meetings are usually held regularly and group convenes at an agreed location each time. By attending regular events, you get to know other people in the same profession and this builds your professional network. You are no longer an “island” and you can call fellow member Harry anytime to ask about that wierd problem on your Exchange cluster and in the process, you might give Harry a tip on his recipient policies!

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