As I left San Jose following our third annual Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in June, I was riding high on the rave reviews I heard from a good number of the 4,100 attendees at the show. More than a dozen attendees sought me out at the show to tell me it was “the best show” they had ever attended. Not the best e-retailing show, but the best show-ever.
Such anecdotal evidence, of course, is not good enough to form objective conclusions about the quality of a conference. People attending a show are often caught up in the moment and their opinions change upon reflection. And when people meet face-to-face at an event, they sometimes tell you what you want to hear.
That is why we send out e-mails one week after the show to all attendees asking them to complete a 10-minute online survey soliciting their grades (Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair or Poor) on each of 43 aspects of the conference-from the session content to the food-and on each of the 105 speaker presentations. By waiting a week, we get a more dispassionate response. By making the survey anonymous, we get a more accurate one.
Given that, I am thrilled to report that the results of this year’s survey, which was completed by one-fifth of paid conference attendees, echo the comments I heard at the show. Indeed, the overall grades for IRCE 2007 were higher than the very good grades received by the previous two Internet Retailer events. The grades (see the table) are not perfect; nothing is. But they are as close to perfect as conference organizers can rightfully expect. The conference got an overall rating of Excellent from 30.2% of attendees, Very Good from 46.6%, Good from 16.9%, Fair from 5.6% and Poor from 0.8%.
These scores were not achieved without enormous efforts throughout the year from our entire conference team. That includes the four conference team leaders: editor-in-chief Kurt Peters, who with the help of his entire Internet Retailer editorial staff put together the conference agenda; Eileen O’Neill, our conference operations director, who directed the overall staging of the conference; Steve Rogers, our exhibition director, who put together the largest e-retailing exhibit ever assembled; and Michelle Suchomel, our web director, who oversaw a nearly flawless conference registration process. I supervised the marketing of the show, but the tireless efforts of these IRCE team leaders are responsible for making my job something of a no-brainer. It’s easy to sell an outstanding product.