Wednesday, April 03, 2024

How to Best Blow Off an Analyst at a Trade Show

Having been an industry analyst for a couple of years now, I think I'm starting to get it down. We just returned from another huge trade show where we get the opportunity to talk to dozens of smart people doing very smart things. Despite our best efforts to schedule meetings in advance, inevitably some of them don't come together at the last minute. Some of those conflicts are handled well. Others less so. 

In the interest of aiding anyone on the other side of the meeting schedule who might want to know the best way to blow off an analyst when something more important (like a customer meeting) comes up, I am providing this simple primer. Techniques range from best to worst, in that order. Yes, I have experienced them all.

Best: Reschedule in Advance

As little as a day before or even the morning of, you send "I'm sorry, a conflict has come up and I need to reschedule." The odds are slim of your friendly neighborhood analyst having another opening to reschedule to, but this gives them a chance to reuse that time for walking the floor, catching a presentation, seeing a demonstration, or (!) eating a meal. Bonus points if you offer to schedule a call after the show is over to catch up.

Next: Reassigned at the Booth

The friendly neighborhood analyst shows up just as a major customer unexpectedly walks into the booth. You apologize and assign someone else to show off the booth. "I'm sorry, I really wanted to have a chance to talk with you, but my customer just showed up. Perhaps this sales person / booth expert / intern / CEO can show you around the booth instead?" Friendly, reasonable, and still informative. Bonus points if you actually schedule a call after the show is over to catch up.

Next: The Squint and Ignore

When your friendly neighborhood analyst shows up, you take their contact information into a closed conference room to let the assigned executive know that he/she/they have arrived for their scheduled meeting. Your executive exits the room, squints confusedly at the analyst, shakes their head, and re-enters the room. The best way to handle the Squint and Ignore is to apologize that you have no real control over the executive's schedule and move into Reassigned at the Booth mode. The worst way to handle the Squint and Ignore is to shrug your shoulders and stare at the analyst until they slink away.

Next: The No-Show

Sometimes meetings aren't scheduled at booths, usually when the clients don't actually have a booth. And sometimes the client simply doesn't show up, leaving the friendly neighborhood analyst standing awkwardly in a public place, staring at their phone in the hopes that no one can see their shame. There are very few ways to recover from the No-Show, but a phone call, text, or email apologizing profusely and explaining that you didn't merely forget that the meeting was planned can help. The worst way to handle the No-Show is to completely ghost your friendly neighborhood analyst then call a week later to ask for help on a quote.

Next: The Wave and Disappear

The friendly neighborhood analyst shows up just as a major customer unexpectedly walks into the booth. You wave at the analyst and enter a closed meeting room with the customer and do not respond to communications from the analyst. The analyst is left standing awkwardly in your booth, not knowing if you plan to come out of the meeting room or not. A simple text is all that is required to move from the Wave and Disappear to Reassigned at the Booth or even Reschedule, but you should already know that, right?

Worst: The Open Disdain

We, the analyst community, mostly understand that we are the sideline reporters and not the star players. However, even sideline reporters are treated with common decency by the players and coaches (until they write a tell-all book, at which point this analogy falls apart because friendly neighborhood analysts would never do that to our clients and friends). So when we show up for a meeting to hear lines like, "it's ok, you can interrupt, they're just analysts" or "sorry, someone more important just came in" or "we just don't have time for you today" sans explanation, it sets a tone that's hard to recover from. We try our best to always be impartial and not let such treatment impact our reporting, but if we have room to squeeze in one more reference to something interesting, Open Disdain may mean your technology isn't on the top of our list. (In fairness, Open Disdain booth operators typically do not value analyst report mentions.)

Bottom line, treat analysts as you would have analysts treat you. We're eager to learn, grateful for your time, and understanding of our position in the pecking order. I look forward to scheduling a meeting with all of my fabulous clients and contacts at the next show. And if you can provide a chair to sit on while we talk, that would be glorious.

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