IBM Think 2018: Reinventing the Flagship Conference

 

The Challenge

The world of technology is changing at warp speed, with companies like IBM at the forefront. With the confluence of market shifts, including the way the market categorizes tech, together with the intrigue around AI, it was imperative that IBM re-evaluate their global conference model. The model of solution-centric, siloed events had to be turned on its head, and a customer-first model developed.

GPJ partnered with IBM over the course of several years; combining events, morphing strategies and adjusting business models to ultimately land on Think 2018, IBM’s first singular flagship event, bringing together several of its formerly vertical conferences. The shift to a consolidated, aspirational, IBM experience was not easy – and certainly didn’t happen overnight.

The Solution

Think had to align with the current and future tech market around Cloud + Data + AI, and to tell the end-to-end IBM narrative under one roof. The focus was on how IBM clients were using a myriad of technologies to truly change the world. The teams looked at everything from sponsorship offerings to branding; from curriculum to the types of engagements that were showcased on the floor…always staying true to the vision of Think serving the greater good through knowledge and education. Nearly every program was altered: labs and certifications were expanded, traditional “peds” were replaced by more inviting technology demonstrations, all engagements on the floor led with a meaningful story that showcased a business result, followed by the deeper technical information. The entire event was designed with the attendee in mind, creating a variety of environments which allowed for individualized experiences.

The Details

The Think experience and content were organized and designed for specific audiences and organized by campuses. With multiple distinct audiences, it was paramount for each group to have a “home base,” where they could find what they needed and to dive deeper into IBM solutions as told through immersive stories and case studies. The campuses also paid homage to IBM’s commitment to technology education, which is something the company is deeply committed to.

Throughout each campus, eye grabbing, story-driven activations were the cornerstone, moving attendees to action, allowing flexibility for customization and personalization, while at the same time being driven by the IBM technology. Each campus was designed to house all the elements needed so that attendees could remain in their “home base,” but could also wander and explore other campuses. Campuses were each anchored by a large theater, where aspirational content was delivered, as well as a Think Tank, where deeper dives on the topics could be had. Each campus also included smaller theaters for concurrent, niche sessions as well as a lounge area, food and beverage and relevant demo stations that remained consistent throughout the event, so attendees who wanted to learn more about a specific technology always had a way to get directly to it.

 

The Welcome Experience

The Welcome Experience made a grand, introductory gesture that conveyed IBM’s leadership and dynamism in technology-enabled business transformation. The Welcome Experience set the expectation and framed the entire experience, with inspirational stories rooted in how IBM is helping to change the world with its technologies. From here, attendees could explore the campuses, which included Services, Cloud and Data, Business and AI, and Modern Infrastructure.

Networking and Partnerships

Think 2018 provided attendees ample opportunities to engage, network and connect with IBM executives, experts and business partners in areas like Think Park, a central area for attendees to relax and recharge. Intentionally planned areas like the Inner Circle, the Business Partner zone and the Executive Center offered catered experiences for knowledge sharing, where attendees could grow their network and learn how to propel their business forward with IBM and IBM Business Partner innovations. Attendees were given what they needed, where they were, so they never had to leave the venue.

 

The Results

Over 30,000 global thinkers gathered in Las Vegas from March 19 to 22 to explore how to make the world of business work smarter. Think campuses brought tailored learning (over 1,500 sessions) and targeted networking to a new level. Communities came together to learn, solve and connect on the innovations that are changing the way business and the world works.

By the Numbers

  • Over 90% of attendees visited the 4 campuses (24,662 unique attendees)
  • 120+ demos, 20+ activations and 100+ Theater and Think Tank sessions available
  • Think Academy: 10,500+ lab session attendees
  • 5,500+ executive 1:1 meetings
  • Top social trending and share of voice with over 600K live stream views on IBM Cloud Video
  • Over 80% of attendees said they would attend Think 2019