SAP targets 30% conference attendee increase with new event strategy

Global technology company SAP is forecasting a 30% rise in attendees at its annual conference in 2011 after launching a new event strategy to engage delegates more effectively.

SAP has a new event strategy for its Sapphire Now conference
SAP has a new event strategy for its Sapphire Now conference

The annual Sapphire conference – renamed Sapphire Now – has moved from being a "moment in time" to a "365 day a year experience" for delegates, according to SAP's senior manager of global events Mathias Sondermann.  

The business technology conference is running in Madrid on 9-10 November and Beijing on 15-17 November, and has already held its US event in Orlando, Florida, on 15-18 May.  

Virtual  

Key changes include a virtual experience for delegates unable to attend the live event, placing the key note speaker into the middle of the exhibition floor and introducing 'micro-forums' for 12-15 people wanting to discuss a specific topic.  

"It is all about changing the way people behave," said Sondermann. "Moving from listening to participating, and not just at the physical event but also virtually."  

In 2010, more than 50,000 people attended the event, with 16,000 joining the live conference in Orlando, Frankfurt and five satellite sites across the world, and 35,000 participating online.  

The new direction launched last year and Sondermann said incorporating a virtual side means "extending the people we can reach". The previous conference in 2008 attracted 9,600 attendees in the EMEA region.  

No threat  

"We didn't see it as a threat to the physical attendance and revenue from that, but as a way to continue talking to our audience," he added. "We expect a major increase [in attendees] of at least 30% this year."  

SAP works with Grass Roots on the programme and the agency's global development director Debbie Donaldson said it was essential use the "right language to understand how people interact with the brand".  

"It has to be very relevant and about what the customer wants to see – innovative and essential," she said.  

Sondermann and Donaldson were speaking at Grass Roots' Meetings Industry Forum 2011 event on 1 July at the Marriott London Grosvenor Square.

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