Ariba took a gamble with the online conference format this year. So far, after the first day, I've got a mixed impression of the "virtual" approach. On one hand, I think the keynotes (with video) were extremely polished. But on the other, the break-out sessions lacked the energy and interaction of a live, in-person event. They were, well, webinars. In any event, I'll toss out a laundry list of the positive and negative elements of the first day in this new format:
First, the positive:
- Bob C. pulled off a much better online keynote than in person (good energy, no sweating, etc.)
- In general, excellent outside speakers (and good to see the whole thing was not even close to being an Ariba advertisement -- in fact, the event so far has been 90% educational and only 10% commercial; many in-person events sponsored by for-profit pay-to-play conference providers are far more commercial in nature).
- Technology has improved since Procurement Leader's virtual event that I participated in a while back -- it's not perfect, but it's getting better.
- Bob Handfield was as insightful as ever (more on his breakout later this week).
Next, the negative:
- Networking -- in these virtual events, you talk to people you know, versus those you don't (and friends and colleagues do not make introductions to others like they do in person). I fear online events will never feature the same quality networking as in person conferences.
- Joining a live event in process was not seamless (synching the PPT feed and voice).
- Ariba information -- Ariba is not disclosing much about new products, solutions, etc. They dropped a few hints (which I'll cover in a follow-up post) but nothing overly significant of note.
- Deal closing and relationship building -- From a shareholder perspective, I have concerns that virtual events do not provide the same opportunity to close or further deals that are already in progress (despite sales people lurking in every virtual corner you might click on). I suspect this is a major reason why Ariba is "doubling-down" and taking LIVE on the road. But food for thought for other companies who move to virtual-only events.
Stay tuned for more specific coverage from LIVE throughout today and the rest of this week. I'll dig into specific keynotes and breakouts of particular note that are worth sharing with the Spend Matters community. But in the meantime, I'd be curious to hear any comments from readers on what you thought of the virtual format and Day 1 in general.