This week, I am joined by Iva Konecna, the Events Manager at Kentico. I secretly call her the Events Meister because she is able to juggle so many things at the same time and still deliver. I wanted to pick her brain and hear about some of the behind-the-scenes things that went into putting the excellent Kentico Roadshow schedule together.
So, the Kentico Roadshow is approaching fast—how did it come about?
First, there was the idea that came from top management based on the benefits these events should bring and reasons why we should not go for Connections or 404 (previous Kentico events). Based on some requirements and the availability of Kentico management and other employees, it was decided to go with the Roadshow. We discussed if it made sense, whom we should try to get there, and whether we should rename it, etc. It was decided that yes, let’s do it.
The brief was to try to be more local, get closer to the partners and customers. Let’s make it free and make it a one-day event to get as many people as possible because we need to educate them, especially about Kentico Cloud as it is something new, and people sometimes tend to be cautious when it comes to new things.
What order did you follow to structure the preparation of the Roadshows?
The first, most important thing was to identify times and locations, and whether we could get enough people there. We have a pretty good idea of our community and where the most engaged members are, so it was a bit easier for us to make these estimates and specify the locations. Then we had to look at which dates would be suitable. Of course, there are some external factors, like doing it before Christmas doesn’t make sense because people are finishing up projects. Or summer, when people are on holiday and not opening their emails at all. Or some public holidays, for example, doing an event around Thanksgiving, when you are expecting people to travel across states, is a huge no-no. Or other competitive events to ours, such as TFM in London.
There are also some internal dependencies, such as a product release that should appear in the spotlight at the event. So you cannot do it when the product is only in the roadmap stage. Then it’s narrowing it down to the availabilities of the key attendees, such as TSMs for that region, as it is their playground. And there’s the speakers. We have Karol Jarkovsky and Petr Palas going to every Roadshow, and they are the busiest people in the company. When we have this, we need to get this information out there as soon as possible. So it means kicking off the promotion, the announcements, setting up Eventbrite pages, sending newsletters, creating graphics so we can promote it on social media, too, and including it in all the communications we use. That’s the next part. And the announcements and social media continue up until the start of the event as we need to keep people informed and drive attendance.
Then the fun part starts for me. I actually get to look for and negotiate with the venues. And finalizing who will attend which event and making sure everybody knows about it and it is documented somewhere. Then making arrangements, such as hotels and reminding people that they might need visas. All of this takes time, back and forth with a lot of emails. Plus, talking with the sponsors. Making sure all the details in the packages are carried out. And putting together the agenda, which is one of the first things that Petr and Karol do when they are preparing the series of events. And as we are presenting case studies, it comes down to me to look through the case studies for that region and try to find something that is representative of that area and current enough to be relevant, or if they used some interesting features of EMS, to help explain the great benefits partners can gain by using them. Many partners are very familiar with the CMS, but they are not using it as fully as they could by leveraging all of the out-of-the-box functionalities. So we want to educate them by showing how the other partners use them and what it brought to their clients.
We also have the Kentico Cloud product, which is one of the stars of the Roadshow. And one of the tracks is actually dedicated to it, as we see it as the future of the platform. So it’s something we need to educate our partners on. Because it is a new thing, there is a lot of information people can read online, but it's much more digestible when you hear about it from the people that are actually using it.
Do you have some guidelines for what the Roadshow presentations should contain?
I have more guidelines for what the presentations shouldn’t contain. For example, five slides about the background of the speaker, five slides about the history of the company and who their clients are, and so on. I personally look for some practical takeaways for the audience, even if you are not talking about a concrete project and instead something more generic, such as five things to try with your content strategy you can try in the next month—at least some they can do in practice.
How do you measure the success of an event?
By getting the right agenda. We are trying to get some local people to present at Roadshows because usually these references to the types of projects they are talking about are more relevant to that audience. A project that is fine in the US might be a no-go in Australia or EMEA, and vice versa. Partners in that same region are dealing with the same types of client or legal issues. For example, I can imagine with GDPR (the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation), in the US, a partner could be talking about a local project they did, but in the EU, that project would have to be done completely differently due to this upcoming regulation. It would frustrate them because these legal restrictions would impact it.
There are some exceptions. For example, Marty Drill from Get Started in Australia. They were one of the first partners to jump aboard the Kentico Cloud train. And they tried playing with it, and they now have quite a few big projects running on Kentico Cloud. So he will be presenting in Chicago to give it a little bit of an international vibe.
How has the feedback been on the previous Roadshows?
When I take the feedback forms from the previous events, the comments were quite good. Just some suggestions about what could be adjusted, what they would like to see a little bit more of, content-wise. So we have tried to fine-tune. We want to educate people about Kentico Cloud—it is a great product, and we want to show them how they can leverage it. The morning sessions are plenary sessions, and we talk about the future of the company and strategies regarding Cloud and EMS. And we have some case studies presented, as well as partner presentations that are not just case studies but guides on how to use Kentico in particular scenarios.
Who are you targeting with the Roadshow? What are you hoping to achieve?
We are targeting our partners, prospective partners, and agencies. Those that can leverage a good platform, be it Kentico Cloud or Kentico EMS, for their clients. Of course, if there are some clients that are not using an agency but still use Kentico, then they are perfect for this.
Tell me something about the Roadshow’s program and who is presenting there.
Petr Palas and Karol Jarkovsky will kick it all off by talking about the bigger picture of what’s new and where we are going. Then, starting with the Kentico items, in the afternoon, we have Kentico presentations by the people that are really leading the development teams for both the EMS and Kentico Cloud platforms. It will be a real treat for marketers because they will be talking about a load of cool, new features on the EMS side. And we will have a presentation about the fabulous new E-commerce functionalities that are available out of the box. That being said, with Kentico 11, we have already finished an integration with Ucommerce. This is a very powerful thing that allows people to do more than our out-of-the-box solution does on its own. So there will be a presentation with Ucommerce about opening Kentico up to many e-commerce projects, which is really interesting, especially for our partners, as those are the really big deals.
One presentation I am really looking forward to is about our new Email Builder. It’s called “Drag-and-Drop Heaven”, and it’s something that will make every marketer drool. On the Kentico Cloud side, there are presentations about omnichannel delivery, which is such a hot topic these days.
We will also have a case study about a new SDK for Java for Kentico Cloud, presented by Trusted Choice. And we will have Andy Thompson, who is our MVP, presenting in Australia. As well as Marty Drill talking about his Cloud projects. In Singapore, Orchard Credit will compile various EMS projects they have done in the insurance and financial sector. So it will focus on how to leverage certain EMS functionalities specific for this sector. We’ll also have Cruce Sanders from Simple[A] presenting about content.
Are there any current issues that the roadshow is focusing on?
We will have a plenary session about GDPR with respect to various regions. Which is very good because many people still think of it as an EU problem. We are adjusting the presentation to the areas we are in to give it a more local feel.
Which places are you visiting? And why did you choose those locations?
We are starting off in Singapore, which is the first time we have had an event like this there. Then we will go to Sydney and Melbourne, as these are the locations of our biggest partner base in Australia. Following this, we will continue in Boston, which is close to our US office, and afterwards to Chicago, which was very well attended last year. It is close to the central territories and it is quite a big community, especially for the manufacturing industry. Then we will top it off with the two biggest events in the series, attendance wise—the first in London and then Amsterdam in November. A really busy tour for Kentico Roadshow this time.
Iva, thank you for your time.
So, as you can see, there is a lot to look forward to this autumn, and we are especially keen to know which things appeal to you the most. If you have any comments about the agenda, or maybe some experiences you had with the previous Roadshow, we would love to hear about them in the comments section below. And, of course, we look forward to seeing you there.