This year, we’ve all sat through virtual conferences – attempting to stay engaged and pick up nuggets of helpful information while multi-tasking our days away. So when we started planning our 2020 Virtual CEO Summit, I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical. How could a virtual event possibly compete with the likes of eight prior CEO Summits held at places like West Point, Harvard Business School, and Penn’s Wharton School of Business?
I was wrong. Our Ninth Annual CEO Summit turned out to be one of our best and most engaging events thus far! So, what about it was special? How did we create an event that had our CEOs asking for more?
1. "Humanized" Content
When planning the event, the list of topics we wanted to cover was relatively easy to come up with – leading through uncertainty, managing talent during COVID-19, and planning for the next year. But how do you go about making something like annual operating plans relevant to everyone in the room? Moreover, how do you make these topics exciting and engaging? The answer lies in 'humanizing' content. Talking frankly through real challenges and being transparent and vulnerable in your approach creates dynamic and relatable content.
When our Operating Partner and former portfolio CEO Jean-Marc Levy delivered examples of how his annual operating planning process rallied his employees behind different initiatives, our CEOs were abuzz with ideas. When Ryan Caldbeck spoke openly about his personal challenges and how that translated into the type of leader he grew into, we couldn’t get enough. When our keynote speaker Damon West shared his lessons from spending ten years in federal prison, we were all on the edge of our seats! One of the secrets of successful content is to pepper it with real-life examples and unapologetic honesty, essentially ‘humanizing’ it for your audience.
Out of these real conversations came a desire to have more focused discussions around difficult and complex topics. At Edison Partners, we plan to meet this need for real content by rolling out virtual morning coffee talks in 2021, so stay tuned.
2. Dynamic Chatter
What made our CEO Summit so special was the ability to build upon one another’s ideas in real-time. Unlike in-person events, where you typically wait until the end of a session to ask a few questions, virtual events are the perfect forum to have dynamic, ongoing conversations over chat. Many times during our event, our speakers stopped and responded to audience questions and comments, making the discussion much more relevant. Furthermore, different audience members were able to connect in real-time, rather than waiting for a separate networking session. In fact, the CEO Summit chatter was so robust that our audience requested continued conversations via a CEO Slack channel. Live chat was so central to the CEO Summit’s success that we’d love to find a way to incorporate it into all events, both virtual and in-person, in the future.
3. Team Environment
In a virtual world, it’s difficult to hang onto the benefits that are realized when you put smart, talented, and experienced people together in a room. However, our CEO Summit did just that. From our panel on aligning your board on a strategy to breakout discussions on exits, each portion of our CEO Summit was designed to bring together different viewpoints for thought-provoking discussions. After all, it can be a little lonely at the top. It’s nice to know that other CEOs have faced similar challenges and can offer a variety of solutions. From the swag we sent out in advance, to our fruitful discussions, to the ability to connect with other CEOs from around the world, the CEO Summit was a strong reminder that we’re all on the same team.
Edison Director Network member Bill Capuzzi, gohenry CEO Alex Zivoder, and our keynote speaker, Damon West, showing off their Edison swag in excitement of our 2020 CEO Summit.
And the main reason our event was such a success: Edison portfolio CEOs. Thank you all for your efforts to build companies of scale and substance. We invest in growth CEOs that share our ethos.
That was never more evident than at this year’s CEO Summit. You proved, once again, that we can accomplish anything together.
With so many great ideas coming out of this event, be on the lookout for more ways to connect in 2021. In the meantime, click here to check out more videos from our 2020 Virtual CEO Summit