The EEA Networking Conference & Expo, held in June at the Doubletree Hilton in Tarrytown, NY, provided an intimate forum for discussion, strategy and the exchange of ideas related to enterprise engagement. The two-day event, sponsored by the Enterprise Engagement Alliance (EEA), attracted more than 200 attendees, exhibitors and engagement experts for educational sessions on engagement, the debut of EEA’s Curriculum & Certification and numerous one-on-one discussions to exchange ideas.
Paula Godar, Director of Brand Strategy at Maritz, attended the show and explains that it serves an important need. “Engagement is enormously important to our business – and more importantly to the business of our clients. They need employees and channel partners who can deliver on the promise of their brands in a way that engages and delights their customers. People are truly the heart of business, and businesses that can engage the hearts and minds of people will win.”
Godar says she was encouraged by the strong attendance at the Conference’s educational program – “it represented a good mix of companies in our industry and others, and the instructors were knowledgeable and passionate.”
Beau Ballin, Director of Marketing for MotivAction, says he especially liked the educational offerings that focused on channel partners. “While the incentive industry has significant expertise in channel marketing, the notion of a curriculum, a common platform from which to speak and a laser focus on the topic is promising.”
The Expo portion of this year’s Conference was also very engaging for participants, providing the opportunity for a lot of one-on-one interaction between exhibitors and attendees. Nearly 100 Hosted Buyers were encouraged by the show’s structure and layout to spend quality time with exhibitors who could lend considerable support to end-user incentive, recognition and engagement programs.
Allyson Krichman, Director or Merchandising & Sales Operations at Rymax, says that the show was good opportunity “to interact with the partners that we work with, the different brands,” adding “I do love talking to my peers and hearing their thoughts on the industry – that’s one of the ways that we grow as companies and as providers.”
Randy Nobles, President of Eagle Recognition, reports that, from a Hosted Buyer’s perspective, the time with exhibitors was very good, adding that the people who represented the vendor companies were extremely knowledgeable. “This is the best format for interacting with vendors I’ve experienced,” he says, “and I especially enjoyed the interaction time with them. This is largely a missing element in other shows.”
Following the precedent set by last year’s wildly successful debut, overall response to this year’s Conference and Expo was also highly positive. “The expo provided an incredible opportunity to network with industry peers,” says Beau Ballin. “It provided a kind of ‘pulse check’ on product development and a look into a promising future for the engagement curriculum.”
Nonetheless, event planners also saw indications that those who attended the educational sessions to learn about the strategic deployment of engagement, loyalty and performance improvement efforts weren’t necessarily those who benefited the most from the opportunities for dialog offered by the Expo portion of the show. Consequently, beginning in September 2011 the EEA Curriculum & Certification program – which comprised the majority of the educational content at this year’s event – will be marketed separately. Conference organizer Marcus Evans will be putting together webinars and live events to support the curriculum, and these will be sponsored by leading incentive companies and other companies.
This will allow next year’s event – rechristened the “EEA Rewards and Recognition Networking Expo” – to concentrate more specifically on increasing the dialog between Hosted Buyer attendees and distributors of motivational products and services, providing a more focused opportunity to discuss new ways to advance the effective use of rewards and recognition while still incorporating an interactive education program for buyers and sellers.
For more information on 2012 EEA events, go to www.enterpriseengagement.org