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The Value of User Group Meetings & Symposia | Justification for your Boss

by Sanji Bhal, Director, Marketing Communications

At various times throughout the year we hold User Group Meetings or Symposia to bring together current customers, individuals looking to address their problems with our solutions, and those that are simply interested in hearing about our products. We hold these meetings locally in various locations in the US, Europe, and Asia, and in conjunction with international conferences.

With the multitude of ways we can communicate with each other today—social media, video and tele-conferencing, and various online channels—what is the value that these meetings bring to the most important people in the room, the attendees? I decided to get in touch with past delegates to hear directly from them and here’s what they said. Perhaps it will be useful in helping you justify future participation in our meetings (or those held by any other vendor/group).

Value-attending-Sym2

Continued Education

This was the resounding response from everyone that I spoke with. Not only did delegates feel they learned more about the software they had already (which means a better return on investment in ACD/Labs’ software for their organization), many really enjoyed the opportunity to learn how peers in other organizations and even other industries addressed similar challenges. We often get so caught up in getting the work done that we don’t have time to think how we might approach a problem differently—we end up working in a bubble. Taking ourselves out of our usual environment but still being immersed in work-related discussions can offer an opportunity to think and solve our own problems or adopt ideas from others and adapt them to our needs.

Attendees also valued hearing about applications of ACD/Labs software outside their direct area of responsibility/expertise. One individual commented “I had no idea that your software could support all these other workflows. We thought you only did NMR but having heard the presentation about chromatography tools from another company made me think our separations group really need to see this.” This idea of bringing information back to colleagues was reiterated by many. Exposure to scientists with different expertise and focus not only helped people understand their colleagues’ challenges better but led them to collect information to help other groups and departments within their organization.

Another participant from a local meeting remarked, “I know we have robotics equipment sitting idle. After seeing the Katalyst D2D presentation, we can investigate how we might start using that hardware again.” This is potentially further added value for an organization from existing investments. This ability to expand our thinking of how existing workflows might be further refined or changed is made easier in an environment when lots of different ideas are being discussed and shared.

The overall feeling from everyone I spoke with was that these meetings provided exposure to cutting-edge science and are motivational from a scientific viewpoint.

Preview of new functionality and future plans

These benefits from attending a symposium are perhaps obvious. While we always make a point to ensure customers are front and center presenting how they are solving their problems in interesting ways with the help of ACD/Labs software, as a vendor we also use these meetings to share new functionality and workflows. We are privileged to expose an interested community to tools that can further help them, and in return collect real-time feedback.

Several people also talked about being able to plan for future updates and releases based on an understanding of new and soon-to-be-released functionality as well as feeling that this was a perfect place to contribute to future directions the software might take and influence development priorities. Since a portion of our development is always based on customer feedback and requests…this is spot on!

Networking

Symposia and user meetings bring together scientists with similar interests and a common focus for the day enabling networking between peers both in different organizations, and for some large companies it can also be an opportunity to meet with people from different departments within the same organization. Furthermore, it is an opportunity to hear from influential scientists and big thinkers from other organizations exposing delegates to different cultures and alternative ways of approaching a problem. These meetings often result in the informal exchange of ideas and because the delegates are usually from a relatively small local area, perhaps also a community of like-minded individuals that they can form mutually beneficial relationships with.

Join the Tribe

Alluding to my last point, spending time with people that have invested with the same vendor—sharing successes, discussing failures, exchanging current challenges, and perhaps also future plans helps to build community. I’ve heard that it’s not uncommon for conversations to continue after the meeting. In fact, in a heartwarming conversation with colleagues in China I heard that their recent symposium generated such a sense of community among the delegates that it has resulted in the creation of a forum, on social media platform Weibo, to continue exchanging ideas and to further strengthen professional relationships.

And More…

Delegates mentioned many other benefits from attending local meetings including in-person technical support from our technical support staff—a place to ask questions and get answers. A few people admitted bringing along their most pressing problem to discuss.

When asked why choose a local meeting and not a larger organized conference, the answer was resoundingly that these meetings are more accessible. It’s like a regular workday, you’re just not going into your usual lab or office, and importantly for many, the rigmarole of financial justifications and travel requests are eliminated.

Jonathan Shackman, who has been using ACD/Labs software for some time, summed up the sentiments of many. “It was quite valuable seeing other people’s successes using the software, as well as discussing issues with implementing it in large, enterprise networks.  It’s exciting to see what’s just over the horizon in development.  With powerful software, there’s always more to learn, and interacting with other users is the best way to discover new, more efficient ways of using it.”

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