Is it just me or does the annual return of “conference” season remind you of the old Looney Tunes Rabbit Season, Duck Season shorts with all of the competing, similar, but yet mangled and confusing messages about what you should be focussing on, what conferences you should be going to, and what you should be hunting for?
For the younger generation, the classic “rabbit season, duck season” was a “hunting” trilogy of Warner Bros shorts starring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Elmer Fud that began with Rabbit Fire in 1951, that was the first to show Daffy as a flawed, greedy, vain character who always, secretly, wanted the spotlight (and not just a screwball comedian who wanted to make you laugh).
In this particular episode, where it is supposedly rabbit season, Daffy lures Elmer Fudd (the hunter) to Bug’s burrow and convinces Bug that a “friend” is there to see him, seemingly aiming to take out the competition. High jinks ensue until Bugs manages to trick Daffy into saying it’s actually duck season, at which point Elmer tries to shoot Daffy. Then the two find increasingly creative ways to turn the tables until the hunter decides its rabbit and duck season, at which point both realize how stupid they were and work together to make it “Elmer” season …
So why do I think of this cartoon?
Well, first of all, many vendors spend a lot of the year trying to eliminate their competition from your consideration by claiming that the competitor’s product is lacking key features you need for efficiency, value, or ROI (Daffy tricking Elmer into hunting Bugs); then, during Conference Season, the competition (Bugs) strikes back with slicker messaging that encourages the buyer to turn on the vendor that may (or may not) have led them astray; then the original vendor (Daffy) starts copying the message of the competition, with a few twists to get the attention back; and the marketing and messaging dance continues until the buyer (Elmer) gets simultaneously so confused and so angry that he wants to eliminate both vendors (Daffy and Bugs) from consideration, at which point the vendors need to team up (or at least call a temporary back-room truce) in some way to trap the buyer back into buying at least one of their solutions, and if there isn’t complete overlap, preferably both!
As far as the doctor is concerned, this misses the point of conference season, which is supposedly to educate you about the offering and the value you can get from it. Which would be great if that was what the majority of events did, but over the years, I found that less and less of a reality at the bigger shows by the bigger vendors and conference players. Starting with the latter half of the last decade, the events at many of these players have become less about education and more about how spectacular of a show the vendor or conference group could put on as vendors, professional organizations, and conference groups tried to show value by showing how successful they were, instead of just keeping it simple and showing how successful you could be with their technology, education, processes, or platforms (built up from the technology and processes of their sponsors).
I don’t know about you, but I’m a little bit saddened by it — I know it’s been a staple in the enterprise software world for a while, going back to the old trade-show mentality where if you couldn’t afford the poshest venue and the biggest suite, then obviously you weren’t successful … but isn’t Procurement supposed to be about your success and not theirs?
Although it means regular work is less guaranteed, the doctor is actually quite happy to be independent now as it means he can pick and choose what conferences and events he does, and more importantly, does NOT have to even consider going to as, this year, he’s only seen ONE event by a top suite vendor he’d actually like to attend. (Compare this to the early and mid teens where he was quite interested in going to almost all of them … )
Now, I should say, this viewpoint, which is the doctor‘s and the doctor‘s alone, is lobbied primarily at a subset of the big vendor conferences and the big conferences / trade shows and not the smaller vendors or smaller workshops. There are still plenty of smaller and best-of-breed vendors putting on great educational events, many of which even us analysts don’t hear about until it’s too late, that are more than worth your time and money to attend. (Heck, sometimes even us old dogs and cats who’ve been in this for over two decades will learn a new trick.)
In other words, given that your time, money, and patience is limited, don’t fall for the hype and instead look for the education that you need to make the right decision as to what platform, product, process, or service your organization needs next and whom you should buy it from. And enjoy the fact that you know you don’t have to go to everything or anything if it’s not relevant!