A Quick ABPM Spring Conference Recap

Four Takeaways from the World Series of Briefing Programs and Innovation Centers

This year’s ABPM Spring Conference was bigger and better than ever, as B2B engagement leaders from around the world gathered in Santa Clara to share their stories, celebrate best-in-class performers, learn the latest communication techniques and just soak up the good vibes (not to mention the nice weather).

And there were plenty of good vibes to go around: it’s clear that briefing programs have moved upstream in the enterprise, to the point where these teams not only sit at the strategy table, they’re actively shaping the corporate agenda and enhancing their team’s value proposition among sales and marketing executives teams like never before.

Clearly, we are at an inflection point as an industry.

With that momentum in mind, the Helios team came away with were these four themes that seemed to pop up in every conversation whether from the stage or in the hallways (viewed through the lens of interactive storytelling and experiences of course):

Collaboration over dissertation
Moving customers from listen-learn mode to hands-on solution building was an underlying challenge everyone talked about. The idea is break down the artificial wall of “us” and “them” to a “we” mode of architecting solutions together. Often that is accomplished through a set of reference assets and touch interactive taking place in conference rooms or workstations. But we also saw that mixed with some old school-new school techniques like training facilitators to eschew the powerpoints to lead conversations with hand-drawn illustrations created together with customers.

Experience over environment
Of course there were impressively designed spaces to show and visit during the conference, but the programming within those environments is what really takes center stage. Pure physical design – architecture, furniture/finishings, digital signage, lighting etc. – clearly has an important role to play. Everything is a cue that supports, however subtly and indirectly, an overarching brand message. But we heard time and again that this layer of program experience design is a supporting cast member, while content and how it’s shared and worked on together with customers is the undisputed star. We talked about this in an earlier post so if you’re interested to go a bit deeper check it out via this LINK.

Substance over sizzle
Many briefing program leaders went to some lengths to describe their challenges and successes making sure that both presentation content and the packaging of content around a customer visit is fresh and relevant to the visitors’ needs. Clearly, content is central to program success – done right it can unlock tremendous new opportunity value and spark broader conversations that lead to larger deals; done wrong (ie. all about you the host and how great your solutions are) they can constrain opportunity. The simplest remedy? Proactively putting in place a relationship with an internal/external creative resource to produce media when needed at the right price point, and then having thoughtful and compelling interactive/media vehicles with which to bring that content to life for customers in immersive ways.

Linking with events and sponsorship
This final piece we went actively looking for at the ABPM – and as it turned out wasn’t that hard to find at all – were those briefing leaders who extolled the virtues of linking up with their events counterparts to understand the go-forward event strategy and calendar so that both sets of live, in-person customer touch points could be understood and leveraged together. Coming from the brand experience world, the Helios team anticipated this; whether done in a targeted manner for a high-value prospect or as a built-in process for all customers, many if not all briefing programs we spoke to were actively engaging their events leadership. And having the right demos and digital tools that can travel back and forth between briefing centers and events is an increasingly common and common-sense investment. We’ve talked about this dynamic in depth here: LINK.

Inflection points in any industry mean change and disruption, a pivot away from tradition, which requires we all learn new things while holding on to tried-and-true best practices. As briefing program leadership continues to play a more strategic role and move closer to the center of business planning, the common embrace of these kinds of ideas insures that this critical momentum will continue even in the face of changing customer needs and behavior.