Every year in October, NI-related businesses in and around Germany switch to networking mode and make the pilgrimage to Fürstenfeldbruck. Also this year: NI VIP 2017 is here!
NI’s VIP is the number-one event in the german-speaking NI community, and obviously visiting is a given for us. This year’s visit was together with my new colleague, Manuel, and some of our very close customers.
Why visit the VIP 2017?
My CFO asked me about the ROI of having two team members visit the VIP. That got me thinking: Why do we want to visit again every year? What do we gain? What are the reasons for other people, and what do they take away from this event? Here’s what I experienced and found out:
1. Meeting existing/old/new customers
The most important thing at the VIP for us is talking to customers about new project opportunities. I met customers that I worked with throughout the last year, I met customers I haven’t worked with recently, and I met potential customers that might have work for us in the coming year. I’d say that went very well.
Networking is one of the main reasons for attending that I heard at the VIP from people doing LabVIEW business (LabVIEW consultants, Alliance partners, freelancers etc.).
2. Talking to NI staff
Also very important: Meeting up with NI staff, talking face-to-face. Especially as we’re a small and specialised company, it’s important to stay in touch and keep our names and faces in our partners’ minds.
One thing is to chat with them casually to hear about their ideas and potential business cases. We talked to Lorenz Casper about Center of Excellence certifications (we might apply, or even become CoE coaches to help other companies get there). We also talked about founding and managing user groups (we were lucky to be invited to a closed-door session on short notice as we want to set one up a user group in our hometown Würzburg).
Another thing is support. As NI recently changed their sales strategy from area to account management, we were eager to meet our Inside Sales Engineers (the guys handling all our needs from the HQ in Munich) in person for the first time. That turned out to be a very nice and productive chat, I feel like we’re in good hands. We also met with Reinhard Fuchs and Dominic Zuleger, our former Area Sales Managers, who are now Account Sales Managers, to discuss opportunities, and find out whether there’s anything we can do for them. All in all, that also worked very well I think.
3. Meeting LabVIEW friends
Meeting LabVIEW friends serves three purposes in itself: Having a good time, exchanging LabVIEW titbits, and talking about potential mutual business opportunities. We had lots of fun, and actually found one or two ideas worth following up.
For Manuel, it was the first VIP. He enjoyed the “LabVIEW atmosphere” a lot, and it was a good thing to introduce him to lots of people whose name he had heard before but couldn’t put a face to. I was actually really surprised myself by how many familiar faces I ran into – this year was the first time I didn’t have even 5 minutes to myself. I went from one conversation directly into the next, and there were at least 5 people who I would have liked to talk to, but couldn’t find the time to.
Of all the people I talked to and asked, the more proficient ones (CLAs and similar) mostly come for socialising and networking.
Many of the presentations at the VIP are of limited technical content, and rather describe a company and what kind of project they did, but not so much how they did it. As mentioned above, I had a lot of conversations, and I had seen some of the contents already at the CLA Summit in Vienna and at the NI Week in Austin, so I only managed to watch three presentations:
- LabVIEW-Scripting in practice by Karsten Dallmeyer
- LabVIEW Aided Software Licensing by Domenic Foerderer
- Professional SW Development for Critical Applications by Oli Wachno
All three presentations were held by fellow CLA friends, and all three of them were very interesting on different levels.
Manuel actually watched a lot more presentations, and he liked most of what he saw.
Of all the people I talked to and asked, the less proficient ones generally do come for the presentations: Not so much for the technical knowledge, but for the basic ideas and the inspiration they can take home. And those guys not so much in touch with the LabVIEW community come to the VIP to hear about new products, new features in LabVIEW, and other NI-related news…
In order to see the keynote on the first day, we had to get up at 5 am to make the three-hour drive in time. I won’t do that again – sadly, most of keynote was of limited interest to me. Ok, I already saw the presentations at NI Week in Austin, but truth be told, I felt the same way there, too. VST, RF testing, ADAS – all very cool and impressive technologies, and there’s definitely a lot of potential for NI, but I bet that 90% of the audience don’t see anything like it in their daily jobs. Literally everybody I talked to about that – even some of the NI staff – had the same feeling.
I understand that keynotes are the place to talk about the latest and hottest stuff, but VIP is an abbreviation for “Virtuelle Instrumente in der Praxis“, or “virtual instruments in practice“, so I for one would wish for a more balanced selection of contents, somewhere in the middle between bleeding-edge and Joe Average topics.
I did like the introductory speech of Rahman Jamal, though, and also what Lorenz Casper did on LabVIEW NXG!
6. Catering and party
Second to none. The venue, the food, the band playing in the evening – there’s nothing to criticise. I firmly believe that everybody loves what NI does here, year after year.
After talking to many different people about their expectations and take-aways, I’d reiterate that the VIP is the number-one event in the german-speaking NI community. It is not so much a convention, but rather an advertising event or a trade fair.
The target audience consists of all sorts of people using NI products, and they’re quite diverse in terms of software development proficiency. NI is very successful with this approach for the event, but obviously they cannot cater to everyone. Sophisticated LabVIEW developers won’t find as much interesting content at the VIP as they can find at the CLA summits or the Advanced Users (Champions) track at NI Week.
For us, personally, the visit was very successful. We also had a blast, and we’re very much looking forward to next year!