SAP TechEd: A lost conference that misses more
Anyone searching for this year’s conference dates in Europe or the USA (Barcelona and Las Vegas) will be looking for a long time. The only dates to be found are in Bangalore, India, on the second and third of November 2023. The word is that European and American dates have been cancelled without replacement.
The conference in Bangalore will take place as a virtual event, with “follow-the-sun availability” – which means that interested parties are able to access the virtual workshops and sessions round the clock.
During the pandemic era, we all learned that it’s possible to hold conferences, workshops and seminars as online events rather than in conference centers or seminar rooms. We know the advantages of unrestricted schedule management, as well as saving on travel time. But we learned something else too: There is no substitute for the direct contact, face-to-face encounters and the adrenaline rush that happens when we share moments with other people.
The power of moments
Not for no reason do marketing experts like Chip and Dan Heath talk about the “power of moments”: “Our lives are measured in moments, and defining moments are the ones that endure in our memories.” Many visitors will have previously taken home with them very personal SAP TechEd moments which will not be forgotten any time soon. Those will not only include the keynote speeches by SAP Board Members, such as Jürgen Müller who last year introduced the SAP Business Technology Platform as the foundation for the intelligent company; attendees also experienced a wide selection of presentations, workshops and hands-on sessions. Where else do developers have the opportunity to expand their knowledge on subjects such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), data analysis and much more – as well as to make new friendships and motivate themselves to leave the comfort zone of their own thinking and engage with new ideas?
A prime example for successful live events: OMR in Hamburg
SAP Board Member Christian Klein himself experienced just how impressive, powerful and effective the “power of moments” can be in May this year. He sat on the stage of the Online Marketing Rockstar Festival (OMR) in Hamburg to speak with OMR founder Philipp Westermeyer about “Leading in times of transformation: How SAP is shaping a new way of doing business.” The company was also represented with a stand there for the first time. The trade fair stand, which spanned around 370 square meters, presented SAP innovations on the topics of customer experience and GROW with SAP – the cloud ERP offering from SAP for small and medium-sized enterprises.
The OMR Festival was unprecedented: The event organizer recorded more than 70,000 visitors, and the trade fair halls were almost bursting at the seams. It was an absolute visitor record – and for an industry where professional stakeholders are used to working, learning and consulting one another “online”, “virtually” and “remotely”. There must be something in the “magic of a moment”. Evidently it’s a whole other experience to listen to Boris Becker, Serena Williams, Luisa Neubauer or even Christian Klein speak when you’re sitting in the same space with them – or even in the same hall. Christian Klein will have felt that himself in Hamburg. The SAP AGM took place in Mannheim two days later. For the first time following a three-year break due to coronavirus, that event was again held in the SAP Arena, in front of thousands of spectators.
The wrong signal
2023 is the year in which the WHO declared the end of the global health emergency due to coronavirus. There is pent-up need among people – and that includes programmers and techies – for encounters, for closeness, for events, for experiences, and for contact. These elements form the basis for connections; connections that SAP urgently needs to facilitate if the company wants to achieve its goals and inspire people for the adventure of business transformation into the cloud – a journey that many find pretty exciting.
If SAP removes two established popular and live conferences from the program this year, that’s two lost opportunities for closeness to customers, more customer contact and customer engagement. Above all, it sends the wrong signal. This kind of non-communication does not fit in 2023; nor does it fit with people’s pent-up need, nor the company’s communication challenges. There are certainly good arguments for not holding events: Costs, organizational effort and coordination difficulties; but those are problems we should be glad to encounter. And it is by no means clear that they offer convincing justification for canceling the unmatchable magic of live moments.