Meetings and Corporate Events

Your time, not to mention your money, is precious, so which local business conferences or events offer the best bang for the buck? In this look at meetings and corporate events, IB presents 10 "happenings" that area businesses should consider attending, sponsoring, or otherwise being a part of – for reasons ranging from depth of business value, to pure networking opportunity, to unique chances for business promotion. Our main criteria are that the event take place in Greater Madison, be held from March through late December at one of the area's key venues – Monona Terrace, the Alliant Energy Center, and the Fluno Center, among others – and be worth your while.

So with apologies to Sonic Foundry's Unleash Users Conference 2012, May 6-9 at Monona Terrace, and to the Epic Users Group Meeting, to be held September 10-13 at Epic Systems' Verona Campus, we want to focus on events open to the general public. An additional mea culpa is owed to notable events held last month: WMC's Business Day at Monona Terrace, and the Business Women's Expo, at the Alliant Energy Center.

Also in this presentation, we dive into an increasingly important aspect of event planning – the post-event analysis. Here then, is a brief synopsis of our top 10 remaining business events for 2012.



This annual CEO-CIO symposium, put on by WTN Media, is based on the premise that chief executive officers and chief information or technology officers must be joined at the hip to drive business value with information technology. This year's event, set for March 7 and 8 at the UW's Fluno Center (late walk-up registrations are accepted), features prominent Wisconsin CIOs sharing knowledge with their peers, but it also draws CEOs, COOs, and CFOs seeking to advance IT's role in business strategy, innovation, business intelligence, and other aspects of business. The insights of presenter Tom Koulopoulos, founder and CEO of the Delphi Group, are an annual highlight.


2012 Business Expo and Small Business Conference

Presented by the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, this spring event provides an opportunity for area businessmen and women to connect with prospective customers, and reconnect with existing customers. The 2012 conference will be held on Tuesday, April 24, in Exhibition Hall at the Alliant Energy Center, kicking off with a breakfast program themed "Building Our Future – the Next Generation of Madison Business." Presenters include Dr. Bettsey Barhorst, president of Madison College, Michael Johnson, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, and Jennifer Alexander, president of GMCC. They will focus on the connection between education and business, and on the work being done in Greater Madison to prepare young people and young adults for the workplace of the future.


Future Technologies Conference

This annual conference, the work of the WiscNet organization, is designed to keep Wisconsin's public and private technology professionals, many of whom are key technology decision-makers in their respective organizations, one step ahead in this ever-changing industry. They will gather to share technology solutions, especially if they are transformative, on May 8 and 9 at Monona Terrace. WiscNet, a nonprofit organization that introduced high-speed Internet to Wisconsin's research and education community, will conduct a technology leadership panel and host a May 8 luncheon featuring a keynote address by Lawrence Lessig, director of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics at Harvard University.


Brandworks University

The promise of MBA-level marketing, complete with a world-class faculty of private-sector practitioners, has been a hallmark of Lindsay Stone & Briggs' annual Brandworks University. The 22nd annual event will run from May 15-17 at Monona Terrace, and focus on new challenges associated with product launches and the relaunching of failing brands. If you want to know things such as what intellectual capital is impossible to rip off, this is the place to find out. In the process, you'll meet presenters like Scott Bishop, director of customer engagement with, and Dr. James Longuski, a college professor and author of How to Think Like a Rocket Scientist (yes, he's an actual rocket scientist!)


Digital Healthcare Conference

As WTN Media's companion to the Fusion symposium, the DHC has explored the wonders of electronic medical records, delved into how EMRs help hospitals become more cost efficient in the age of health care reform, and explained how they help reduce errors in the provision of care.
DHC 2012, the 10th year of the conference, takes place May 22 and 23 at the UW's Fluno Center, and will explore topics like the merging of health information exchanges with the Affordable Care Act's insurance exchange, population health and "tele-medicine," and the medical version of herding cats (getting reluctant doctors to embrace health care IT). The DHC is not just for IT-focused medical pros, but also for consumers, purchasers, and researchers.


Extreme Networking Event

In the fall, the local conference and event schedule picks up with the king of all networking programs – In Business magazine's Extreme Networking Event. This year's soiree will take place on Wednesday, Sept. 26, at Dane County Regional Airport, nearly three months after publication of IB's annual Executive Register of civic-minded business executives. The "ER," which last year featured more than 900 local business leaders, provides the invitation list for Extreme Networking Event, an evening of business (and pleasure) chatting, cocktails, and some of Madison's finest food vendors. All the more reason to update your online profile on the IB Madison website if you haven't already done so.


World Dairy Expo

In America's Dairyland, it should come as no surprise that a five-day event, World Dairy Expo, pays homage to one of Wisconsin's vital industries. The expo, an international dairy trade show, features elite cattle (best of breed), a celebration of champion dairy products, and the latest in cutting-edge farm technology. Slated for Oct. 2-6 at the Alliant Energy Center, the expo is designed for dairy producers and their industry partners, and has grown to the point where expansion has become necessary. The theme for this year's showcase is Market Fresh, an ode to the harvesting capability that marks the modern dairy industry.


Business Best Practices & Emerging Technologies Conference

This conference, put on by the UW-Madison E-Business Consortium for business and technology professionals and executives, will be held October 4 at Monona Terrace and feature parallel tracks in IT, supply chain management, and marketing. While this year's conference still is taking shape, it has drawn prominent speakers throughout its history. Examples include: Peter Sachse, chief marketing officer for Macy's and CEO of; Dr. Mahender Singh, supply chain research director for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; John Morgridge, former chairman of Cisco Systems; and Marissa Mayer, vice president of location and local services for Google. There also is plenty of Wisconsin flavor, as state business powerhouses like American Girl, Kohler Co., and Manpower have given attendees additional takeaways.


In Business Expo and Conference

This event made its debut last year, as entrepreneur and Fox News contributor Amilya Antonetti provided an inspiring keynote address, and representatives of 100 local businesses showed their wares at booths throughout Exhibition Hall at Alliant Energy Center. This year's expo, scheduled for Oct. 17 at Alliant, is still taking shape, but IB once again plans to present a healthy complement of local business experts for value-added breakout sessions, honor deserving organizations during our Business Sustainability Awards luncheon, announce the winners of the inaugural Fittest Executive Challenge, and host a post-expo networking reception.


Early-Stage Symposium

The Wisconsin Technology Council began this event to link investors with Wisconsin entrepreneurs, offer some tips on how to pursue private equity, and even help businesspeople to hone their elevator pitches to would-be financiers. With the state Legislature dragging its feet on a state-leveraged fund-of-funds program to boost early-stage capital deployment in Wisconsin, the 2102 event, set for Nov. 13 and 14 at Monona Terrace, could take on added meaning. The 2011 symposium attracted 450 attendees and 65 investors, and in the spirit of the 2012 summer games in London, the WTC again will provide a platform for early-stage companies to present to investors, also known as the "Elevator Pitch Olympics."


Post-event analysis

Being hard-nosed beforehand can prevent hard lessons afterward

By now it's become a cliché in event planning that the process of evaluating how you've done begins long before the event, but Janet Sperstad, program director for the meeting and event planning degree program at Madison College, adds review recommendations.

To capture important feedback like the opinions of attendees, their consumer behavior during an event, and the conference programming they absorb, planners must engage in some hard-nosed negotiation with hotels and venue management. Not every hotel or venue is equipped to provide such detailed business intelligence; you'll want to work with ones that do. Put the necessary contract language in stark terms. "If I don't get this in a post report with my bill, I don't pay my bill, " stated Sperstad. "Usually, that's the thing that drives it."

In the contracts, how detailed should the data be? However the feedback is gained, it should uncover things like: How much food was consumed? How many covers were taken off plates? How much food came back untouched? Is there an overage on each each day's meals? How much audio-visual was purchased? What were the behaviors of attendees around sleeping rooms?

When did they check in and check out? What is the breakdown of the total room block, the daily occupancy, the number of no-shows, and the number of cancellations?

"Some planners will just look at a lump sum on the bill, yet people can opt out or opt in to a dinner or reception, and the hotel can really help get a bead on what people are doing and when are they doing it around sleeping rooms and food and beverage," Sperstad added. "Knowing what our attendees are doing, we can better use our time and resources."

A vendor partner may exact a higher price for such data, but unless the value-added charge is exorbitant, it's worth it. "This is your biggest negotiation tool," Sperstad said. "If we know 50 of our folks are going to head to the bar afterwards, we can find out how much spending they do in the bar during that time because our event was there. That is where they help us understand the full value of our business."

There are a variety of ways to capture important data. During the event, you might employ an audience-response system on your smartphone or a handheld module. After the event, you might rely on an in-depth, post-event electronic survey that was designed long before the event began.

Said Sperstad, "When you really think about post-event analysis from the logistical side, you want to start early in the process as you develop those objectives and highlight what you really want to measure."

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