“Every great story deserves a great storyteller!” – Futurist Jim Carroll
The manufacturing company Ammega – in the business of manufacturing machinery for the packaged and consumer goods industry – had a bit of a problem.
Trade show spending was shifting – attendance was down at the major events it regularly went to. It was becoming increasingly difficult to engage and interact with people on the show floor – attention spans were becoming scattered. Fees to participate were rising as the companies involved tried to adjust their business model post-pandemic, responding in part to continued rising inflationary costs. Overall, it was becoming increasingly difficult to tell their story – one involving new equipment and processes that could streamline many ongoing operations – in a way that made sense.
Ammega decided to do something totally different – they decided to reinvest their traditional tradeshow spending into a small, intimate leadership meeting with several hundred key customers at a resort outside of Atlanta. They’d have key executives as a captive audience for a few days – some business sessions revolving around their story, a few rounds of golf, some intimate dinners. Expensive, but worth it in terms of ‘face time.’ To set the tone for the meeting – one full of disruptive opportunity – they brought me in for an opening keynote kickoff, knowing that getting things off on the right foot was critical. My keynote covered a wide range of trends, including those involving packaging, manufacturing process, consumer, and food trends and so much more – with a message that closely aligned with their key tone for the meeting.
I told this in the form of a story – the story of how the packaging, manufacturing, and consumer goods industries would head into an entirely different future – and how those in the room could discover opportunities within those trends. Because every great story requires a great storyteller – and I don’t mind saying, I’m pretty darned good at it! (Today’s post is a little bit self-promotional, but I think I’ve earned it.)
The feedback from their head of marketing, who drove the initiative for holding this key customer offsite event?
Everyone thought you were wonderful. You were our highest rated speaker on our post-event survey (which is what I expected). You really have a great stage presence!
Here’s the thing – in today’s fast-moving economy, mindshare matters. In a complex and fast competitive landscape, positioning your product or service offerings to your customer or client has become more of a challenge than ever before. That’s why organizations continue to invest in large-scale or intimate customer-client events like Ammega did. It’s an opportunity to tell your story, position your products, outline your value proposition, and build relationships.
For more than 30 years, I’ve been helping organizations deliver their key strategic message at these customer or client user group meetings with a highly customized keynote based on detailed industry and issue research. It works, with repeat bookings being the ultimate marker of results delivered. SAP has literally booked me dozens of times for such events – the current CEO of SAP North America would be pleased to give you a resounding reference on my work. Clients who have arranged for my insight at these sessions have included SAP, McKinsey, Schnieder Electric, Nikon Japan, Baker McKenzie, Nestle, Microsoft, Hitachi, Aligntech Zurich Insurance, and many, many more. Hundreds, actually – with topics in high tech, legal, finance, medical and dental, manufacturing, automotive, and more.
Each of these events has involved a different story. Professional service firms like KPMG, Ernst Young, and Baker McKenzie have arranged for me to speak at critical client events on topics ranging from the acceleration of business to the emergence of new legal risk issues. Zurich Insurance had me share my thoughts on the future of risk with their clients – corporate and legal risk managers – at a global risk management summit in Switzerland. Schneider Electric engaged me to open a user group conference, with a message focused on the future of manufacturing including the impact of the Industrial Internet of Things. Nestle Purina had me in front of 500 co-op clients, mostly farmers or within agricultural communities, with a keynote on how to deal with the potential ‘Amazonification’ of the agricultural feed and animal products industry, as well as insight on the future of agriculture. Siemens Energy has me as the keynote speaker at an event for major energy/utility clients, with a talk that focused on the acceleration of the energy sector, including renewables, microgrids, battery storage technology, and industry transformation
And ultimately, SAP. They have booked me for dozens of events (+40!) throughout the world for keynotes focused on business transformation, digital innovation, and opportunities for streamlining insight and accelerating business operations. The events included multiple keynotes shared with the North American CEO, as well as detailed customer panels based on extensive consultation and exploration of customer success stories
When I look back, it’s a heck of a lot of stories. How many? Digital Equipment – oldtimers will remember them! – booked me for a 7-city ‘roadshow‘ back in 1993 to tell the story of the emerging Internet.
Bottom line? Stories matter.
Effective stories matter more!