Recently I was asked by Dell to moderate and host their North America storage customer advisory panel (CAP) session (twitter #storagecap) that followed their 2012 storage forum (see comments about 2011 storage forum here) event in Boston (Disclosure Dell covered my trip to Boston).
This was an interesting event in many ways because it was a diverse group some of whom were long-time EqualLogic and Compellent (both before and post acquisition) customers of various size or customers of Dell who have yet to buy storage from them.
Beyond the diversity of types of customers and their relationship with Dell, what also made this event interesting was that it was live streamed with professional produced video and audio in addition to twitter and other social media coverage. However what made the event even more interesting IMHO was the fact that being a live event (watch replay here) in video with audio as well as on twitter, the attendees were urged to speak freely with conversation among themselves providing feedback and commentary for Dell.
Sure there were songs of praise when and were deserved, however unlike some made for social media vendor events that tend to be closer to sales pitches, this event also included some tough love feedback and comments for Dell, their products, services and events planner.
Dell Storage CAP illustrators aka @ThinkLink
Oh, did I mention that other than some members from the Dell social media team (@dell_storage) who were in the room to help facilitate and coordinate the event itself, the real discussions were free and independent of Dell employees (other than to remind not to avoid going into NDA land while live on the video and audio feed). Dell had @ThinkLink doing live illustrations capturing as images the discussion themes, topics and points of interests during the events that you can see examples of in the following images.
Dell Flickr images from the Storage CAP session
Kudos to Dell for having the courage, conviction and confidence to have a customer advisory panel event live streamed, that also allowed the attendees to speak their mind free of a script or talking points guide. The session included having each participant taking a turn of putting themselves in the general managers chair and saying what they would do, why, and how they would address customers and prospects. After all, its one thing to sit in the cheap seats, playing arm-chair quarterback saying what you want, it’s another saying why you need it, what the priority and impact are or would be and how to get the message to the customer. Some of the topics covered included Appassure for data protection, Compellent, EqualLogic and other recent acquisitions, products, service, support and community forums.
Thanks to all who participated including @ThinkLink (illustrators), Dell Storage social media team (@dell_storage), Alison Krause (@AlisonDell), Gina Rosenthal (@gminks), Michelle Richard (@meesh_says) and particularly the participants Pete Koehler (@petergavink), Roger Lund (@rogerlund), Luigi Danakos (@nerdblurt), Dan Marbes (@danmarbes), Jeff Hengesbach (@jeffhengesbach), Steve Mickeler (@shmick), Ed Aractingi (@earactingi) and Dennis Heinle (@dheinle).