In a world where most events have gone digital, the biggest fear is that you’ve seen one virtual conference, you’ve seen them all. However, I’ve seen increasing improvement throughout the year, with Sage Sessions CRE Online coming in strong.
While I didn’t get a chance to attend Sage Sessions CRE Online as it was happening, which took place on November 12, I can get the feel of how it went by reviewing the on-demand content. People who had registered for the event can access the content through December 12.
Let’s take a look at the form and function of Sage Sessions CRE Online, how it stacked up against other events I attended this year, and what it signals for other Sage online events.
Sage Sessions CRE Online featured excellent mix of sessions
The biggest mistake I’ve seen conference hosts make — whether it’s in person or online — is to lose sight of what the attendees want in an event. From speaking with our customers, the biggest thing they want from a Sage event is interactive learning. Whether it’s hands-on learning or peer-to-peer interaction, our customers have said they want an actual learning experience and not just a sales presentation.
The same is true for keynote speakers. Conference attendees do like hearing from keynote speakers, whether they provide motivation, inspiration, or knowledge. But cramming so many keynote speakers into one event — especially when there’s no other event content going on during that session — can take away precious time from what the attendees are actually there for.
By all accounts, it looks like the Sage Sessions CRE Online organizers put great effort into not wasting anyone’s time during the event. From the beginning to the year to now, I’ve seen conference organizers go from having one or two sessions at a time in a virtual environment, to this event having multiple choices of sessions to attend during each time block.
This is the beauty of a digital event, and the Sage CRE team seems to have figured it out. If a digital event is going to provide you with a link to watch on-demand content when it’s finished, then there’s no reason to panic about double-, triple-, or even quadruple-booking session slots. I know I’ve been to many a Sage Summit when there were multiple sessions going on at the same time I wanted to attend, and I just had to be disappointed. This is not the case here.
The sessions were divided into several topics: General, Break Out, Support, and Roundtable Discussion. General sessions were the keynotes and the ending Happy Hour networking session. Break Out sessions were explanatory sessions that showed highlights and helpful hints about Sage CRE products. Support and Roundtable Discussions were interactive sessions where the audience drove the conversation.
The general sessions were short, sweet, to-the-point, and had great impact. Nancy Harris, the executive vice president and managing director of Sage North America, was the morning’s featured speaker. I don’t remember anyone from that high up in the Sage ecosystem ever speaking at a Sage CRE-specific event, so that was a really nice touch. And Tim Lambert said the ending keynote speaker, Issac Lidsky, the chairman ODC Construction, was as inspiring as he was informative.
The Break Out sessions at Sage Sessions CRE Online had the highest chance of being a flop. This is where the sessions could have been an endless stream of “buy this software” — something that Sage customers can see at any time during numerous webinars throughout the year. Needless to say, this is where I was most impressed by the content for this virtual event.
Some sessions, like “Extend your estimating solution with eTakeoff and Buyout” leant itself to judging a book buy its cover. However, according to the session abstract, the session featured new features to the two Sage Estimating add-ons. Reviewing new functionality is a topic customers want to hear about in a solution they’ve known about for years.
Two other Break Out sessions caught my eye: “Sage 100 Contractor customer-requested productivity boosters” and “Sage MyAssitant Success Stories — how to automate notifications, tasks and reports.” What more could you ask for in a conference session than highlighting improvements and successes by the same people who are attending?
As with any conference — especially virtual ones — there were a few glitches, but nothing show-stopping. The “Sage 100 Contractor customer-requested productivity boosters” session had some audio issues, but nothing that the presenter Brandi Khasho, couldn’t power through, and in which the attendees dealt with in good grace . And in the other one, while everything was going swimmingly for host Dennis Earnshaw, it sounded like Darth Vader took his phone off mute right before the Q&A began.
However, something magical happened at the end of the Sage MyAssitant Success Stories session. After a while of Earnshaw sharing how they’ve seen customers use the alerts system for Sage 300 CRE, the attendees started sharing their own success — without being prompted. We’ve seen this time and time again with our customers. When you get them together — either in person or on a webinar — they love sharing what they’ve accomplished and what they think can help others.
In Part 2, find out about the Support sessions, how the Sage Sessions CRE Virtual event compared to other digital events, and what this holds for future Sage virtual events.