Harvest insights by having topic discussion tables at analyst summits

Most large analyst summits (aka as analyst conferences or days) are organized the same way: main tent presentations, breakout sessions, 1-on-1s, demos and booze-and-schmooze receptions/dinners. Breakfasts and lunches are typically organized by putting an executive at a table so that analysts can ask questions. Here is an idea for a new approach: topic discussion tables.

This is not a brilliant new idea, but a variation of the IT manager-centric “birds of the feather” tables at many analyst conferences. In this idea, the analysts are not invited to ask executives questions but to discuss amongst themselves an idea or issue (e.g., how rising energy costs will impact a particular market, how the vendor can expand globally beyond BRIC, or exploiting FireFox instead of being Internet Explorer centric). The vendor domain experts or executives are participants in the discussion and are asking questions instead of being the center of attention and answering questions.

Analysts from Gartner and Forrester will likely object or not want to participate in these sessions because they will not want to share their insights or data in front of competitors. That is ok because there are plenty of smart people with interesting insights that work at the other firms. Because the analysts at smaller firms will know these sessions are their chance to shine and stand out – potentially leading to contracts or additional executive interactions – they will likely prepare and bring their A game to the table. This could actually force Gartner and Forrester analysts to participate in the sessions rather than check email and vmail. While there is a small chance of grandstanding, savvy analysts know that participating in discussions rather than doing serial mini-speeches will bring more positive attention to themselves.

SageCircle Technique:

  • Solicit ideas from business units before the analyst summit. Winning topics will have a domain expert and/or executive signing up to sit at the table to moderate the discussion
  • Develop a short description, questions, and desired outcome for each topic
  • Send an email to the analysts with the topics, ground rules, and how to sign up for a topic
  • Assign a note taker (AR or other support staff) for each topic
  • At the beginning of the session, remind analysts of the ground rules (e.g., no grandstanding, no lurking)
  • After the conference send an email to each analyst at a table with a personalized thank you for participating in the particular topic

Bottom Line: Putting a small group of wickedly smart analysts around a table and turning them loose on a topic is an easy way for vendors to harvest market intelligence and insights on important topics. In addition, the analysts themselves will enjoy the discussions leading to positive associations with the analyst summit and vendor.

Question: AR managers – Have you tried this technique? What was the outcome? Analysts – What do you think of this technique? Would this be something you would prepare for and enjoy?



  1. This works fine when it’s a small group of competitors who know and respect each other. It also works really well when everyone at the table/in the room works for the same firm. Conversation “hijackers” can quickly reduce the value of this unless the exec knows how to work a table/room.

  2. Hi abnerg, Thanks for the comment.

    Completely agree with you that to be the most effective, executives and AR need to leverage best practices for keeping the time from being taken over as a platform for grandstanding.

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