I don’t think any client ever hears me say “focus on the value” enough times for the most part – but I will accept that there is a time and a place for running events that don’t directly add value creating ideas into the pipeline.
One great example of such a time is in helping to broaden and expand a program by running an event that is broader in scope than your standard event in order to engage the most amount of people possible and give as many as possible a good experience of using the methodology.
One recent client in the aerospace industry actually did this quite well – as part of their initial pilot period they ran both value enhancing events, but also ran one event for a senior marketing VP which was much ‘softer’ in nature – focusing more at understanding the characteristics of a new market they were thinking of attacking. The value events drove some great results and perceived ROI despite being reasonably technical in nature and as a result had low participation rates. The non-value event got a fair amount of ideas on all sorts of subjects related to the new marketplace. Whilst it didn’t generate any actionable ideas, it did however generate a lot of interest in the tool from potential event sponsors and enquiries about how it could be used. The client then pointed to the ROI figures from the value-driven events to convince future event sponsors of what could be achieved with it.
I think companies nowadays should drive a mix of events – and as with so many things in business, I suggest using the trusty 80:20 principle for figuring out the correct split of value to non-value: 80 % of your events should be focused on driving new and novel value for the company. 20% of your events should be focused on topics/methods designed to market the innovation program to a wider audience and thus expand the overall reach of innovation within your company.