Drunk on Keynote Kool-Aid

The lights, the music and the smooth-talking and often-motivating CEO whose job it is to get an audience of current and prospective customers pumped for the festivities ahead - yes, it's easy to get drunk on keynote Kool-Aid.

All conferences have keynote presentations, but when tech companies host their own events - solely to update audiences on their platform's latest bells and whistles, or the recent overhaul to their solutions - everything is turned up a notch. The keynote, for instance, is a bigger production, with singers, acrobats - you name it, really. Not to mention that at the conference (world, symposium, appreciation event - whatever it's called) itself, the swag is better, the lunches are yummier, the venues are nicer and the after-hours parties are over the top (in the best way possible), with no expense spared. Oracle, for example, has hosted everyone from Elton John and Billy Joel to Journey and Aerosmith at its appreciation event.

On the conference floors, technology partners also clamor for the attention of passers-by to explain their integrations with the host company or to sell attendees on some other add-on that's only possible through their relationship with the host. Inside the meeting rooms, speakers are invited to show how their enterprises used platform A, B or C to improve their bottom lines. The tech companies sure do know how to treat their guests, and it can be dizzying for both newcomers and veterans alike who are eager to impress their employers with their now-extensive knowledge of the platform they are already using or are thinking of migrating to.

In order for business professionals, however, to leave these lavish events with more than just hangovers and branded items for their colleagues, kids or spouses, they must concentrate on asking tough questions. One may want to keep a journal of the frustrations they have with platform A, B or C over the year and bring those notes to the event - making sure each of the items standing in the way of his or her digital success is addressed in some manor, whether it be from one of the many staff members available or through group sessions. Some savvier conference attendees even bring wish lists with them, to get the ear of employees who can either walk them through solving those needs or introduce them to new functionalities. If the wish list items are not satisfied, the platform user should demand a formal way to request those functionalities be included in future upgrades.

What's Next on the Digital Agenda?

See a list of must-attend tech events at webmag.co, Website Magazine's digital pinboard for events, jobs, infographics, videos and more.

Although these events are meant to dazzle (and do they), that's not to say there isn't some real innovation being released. At Sitecore Symposium in Las Vegas this summer, Sitecore released a new feature (among more major platform upgrades) that marries the art and science of analytics, letting content writers take their "best guess" at how a test will perform, using a sliding scale to predict the outcome. Not only will content writers (an increasingly important role in every enterprise) learn what is resonating with their audiences, but Sitecore's platform will start to learn from those users too. Additionally, brands can start to recognize those on their team that have a tendency to "guess better."

At NetSuite's SuiteWorld earlier this year, NetSuite announced a new user interface that was the work of three years of usability research with its customers, and just might set the bar for how business applications look and work moving forward.

The point is, as captivating as CEOs can be in their keynotes, or as mind-blowing as having a private Elton John concert would be, tech companies hold these (often) invite-only events to educate, sell and update current and prospective customers on their products. They are working for you, so go ahead and enjoy everything they have to offer, but remember to do your due diligence when it comes to crossing off your grievances with the platform or asking for upgrades that matter to your Web success.