It's been just over a month since our first-ever virtual OMP Conference. An event that would have taken place in sunny, exotic Miami were it not for this nasty virus that’s been canceling all our plans for over a year now. And let’s be honest, everyone is sick and tired of all these remote meetings, seemingly endless Zoom calls, and online teambuilding activities. It’s just not the same. When I joined OMP’s Communications Team last December, I was immediately involved in organizing this first virtual conference. Right from the start, it was clear that everyone involved, whether colleague or customer, was passionately committed to making the event work. As a newbie to the company, it was a great way to learn that while OMP is a tech company, the human aspect always prevails.
Being involved in the organization, I had a front-row seat witnessing how OMP builds real and honest partnerships with customers. Some even turn into friendships as it turns out. When I asked a customer in the metals industry attending the conference if he would be willing to provide us with a testimonial afterwards, he answered: “It will be my pleasure to help you and my friend Paul Vanvuchelen.” It made me smile to find the attached picture of him with our Director of Customer Solutions enjoying a nice cold drink together.
Brella, the online platform hosting the conference, allowed us to share ideas, discuss trends and experiences, and talk to customers about their success stories and challenges. Colleagues pointed out that this type of one-on-one networking was even more efficient than walking around and chatting with strangers at an in-person event. But as I already said, it’s just not the same. Real-life interaction simply provides a deeper connection and understanding, and makes it easier to respond to facial expressions or body language. And let’s be honest, it’s also so much easier to get away with a witty or ironic remark.
While helping prepare some of the presentations, I learned how our project teams have kept their fingers on the pulse of this community of customers throughout this disruptive year.
As with so many other things, project go-lives also had to go ahead completely virtually. Not easy, but the most important lesson learned is that a project will always be successful if we help each other overcome hurdles. Aside from attentive follow-up, careful documentation, and many virtual meetings, the good team spirit between the OMP project teams and customers is built on the core values of mutual respect and trust.
In an attempt to combat Zoom fatigue during the conference, we combined prerecorded and live presentations. When my colleagues Philip Vervloesem, Senior Vice President Business Development, and Jan Snoeckx, Associate Director Product Design, made their live presentation they asked my colleague Maya and me to be their audience in an otherwise empty auditorium. Talking about what our customers can expect from OMP in the near future, they also tried to bring out the human aspect and keep the interaction with attendees going.
I remember, for example, that when Jan was sharing OMP’s plans for the next-generation user experience and how the cognitive reasoning models behind it would work, he started talking about the pink elephant experiment. “It’s simple, I invite you to not think about a pink elephant for at least 30 seconds,” he said. Maya and I looked over at each other and smiled because, of course, we were both thinking about this large pink animal. And although everyone following the presentation in their home offices probably had the same reaction, it still felt a bit strange we couldn’t exchange a knowing glance with the rest of the audience.
During their presentation, Philip and Jan invited the audience at home to interact live, responding to questions and giving their opinions. Seeing so many people participate, following their answers appearing on the screen, and witnessing Philip and Jan’s reaction to it all was engaging. At the end of their presentation, Philip launched the final poll asking participants to say in one word what the conference theme of United in Unison meant to them. As the word cloud grew, it was so gratifying to see the biggest word to emerge, and therefore the popular choice, was “collaboration”.
While some attendees indicated that they liked the format because there was no need for travel, our survey after the event clearly revealed that most prefer face-to-face conferences. My co-organizers also told me they missed the characteristic atmosphere of in-person events. The feeling of being all in it together with colleagues from offices around the world, seeing immediately how customers respond to presentations or demos and finishing up with a nice reception, is something I still need to experience myself.
Although that is still to come for me, I still felt proud to be part of the core organizing team as we worked together from the ‘control room’ at the head office. Of course, there were some technical issues as in every other online meeting or event. Don’t tell me you never had to tell anyone to un-mute, but with more than 700 registrants, the event definitely exceeded our expectations.
Witnessing these presentations, testimonials, product demos, and councils from a front-row seat in my first months at the company was an enriching experience. One that confirmed that although I started working for a tech company, the heart of OMP is the passionate people and real, honest partnerships with customers. What will our next conference look like? Who knows? Whatever the format — in-person, virtual or hybrid — I look forward to fully experiencing the interaction and sense of collaboration that come with it.
See the conference aftermovie to get a taste of what went on behind the screens.
Part of the Communications team, Lore likes to shape interesting OMP stories into captivating content for audiences of all kinds. With a passion for the written word, she is in awe of the elegant nuances of language.