What’s up with Dynamic Communities, DAC, refunds and events?
Highlights (if you are too busy to read the whole thing):
- Within the next two weeks, all of our Summit North America refunds will be paid, and our Summit EU refunds will be issued based on what we learn in Q1 2021 and the ability to floor our event in Europe.
- DAC Platform will be live on January 4th, 2021, and we have been blown away by the community support from partners
- We are working toward Summit North America for the week of October 11th in Houston, pending vaccines & Covid-19 updates.
For a little context, anyone I have not had the chance to meet yet, my name is John Siefert, and I took over Dynamic Communities as the CEO 90 days ago. I arrived at the company with a head and heart full of ideas based on the awesome legacy of this business. A business that was founded by Andy Hafer, and supported by a very talented group of folks, both employees and volunteers, over the last decade and a half.
Then, the weekend before I started, I learned that the Community Summit North America event (which had turned virtual per Covid-19) had only one entry point for community members/users to join at $749. There were over 500 sessions on the 2.5-dayagenda. A few things leaped to my mind:
- Damn, that is expensive for a virtual event.
- Sheesh, that is a lot of sessions for a couple of days.
- Holy cow, 25% of the sessions were from partners called “showcases” where they expected several users to be in attendance for lead generation based on their sponsorship.
So I (literally) spent the Saturday and Sunday before I started trying to create new entry points for the event–with a free pass where all users could check out the expo area, partner showcases and keynotes, and a “plus” version where someone could purchase a “greatest hits” package of sessions across user groups (i tried to do it by user group but the technology did not let me).
The Monday I started, I added that thinking to a press release folks were creating, and we got things all set on the registration website. Did that save the virtual event? Nah, it made it better, but it was still a physical event agenda forced into a virtual event setting–and with less than 30 days in front of the event, there was not a ton more we could do.
Through this process, it became clear to all of us that virtual events are just “OK” and we needed to look for other ways to serve the community. So, we got to work bringing the Decision Acceleration Community to life as an investment into the community with a goal of making it much easier for people to find, access, share and engage with content and people digitally. This began with taking the 500 sessions from the virtual event and loading them into a beta version of the DAC and getting that to all our attendees by the Tuesday following the virtual event.
As we were developing the DAC, the reality of the damage done to DCI’s relationship with the community began to set in. After about a month on the job, I sensed frustration through chats with community folks, video calls with MVP’s, some partner calls, and a few others. Frankly, it seemed like many people were a bit confused with where Dynamic Communities had evolved caused by a lack of clear communications through the year (and maybe even before 2020). I also learned there were promises made regarding refunds for Summit NA and Summit EU that had not been fulfilled. As a new CEO, that was a jagged pill to swallow and is completely unacceptable. So, while we were working on DAC, I also started working with our investors (who, by the way, have been incredibly supportive during these unprecedented times) to define a plan to make good on those promises.
By way of context, as a live event company, where 85% of the revenue comes from registration and sponsorship to fund the company, not hosting the live events left the company in a very tough spot. A company like ours spends about 95% of the expenses on the live event before it opens. That includes everything from venues, marketing, and our event systems to our payroll and more. Anyhow, we did not receive much relief beyond credits for next year from our suppliers and venues, so the majority of the money collected was spent. As you can imagine, COVID put massive pressure on our company’s liquidity, which is why the company downsized several times, including the announcements in November regarding the reorganization around DAC. There is no way to sugar coat it – letting go of that many people who have served DCI for so many years really sucked.
Even though we have been in this tough spot, our new leadership team at DCI and our investors, including Andy Hafer and the team at TZP worked together to make sure we could make good on the promises made to the community. Before the end of the year, all of our Summit North America refunds will be paid, and our Summit EU refunds will be issued if the live event is unable to floor in 2021. Further, TZP stepped up big time and infused DCI with the incremental capital to both sure up our liquidity and provide the fuel to serve the community in a new and more modern way.
As we worked through all of this, DAC, under the leadership of CTO Steve Arend, VP of Operations Tricia Mallett and new DAC Community Director and Microsoft MVP, Aaron Back, continued to develop the platform from the ground up, while our sales team has been working with partners to bring them on board. We will be launching on January 4, 2021, officially, and you can learn more about the platform here.
Finally, we are focused on Summit NA 2021 in Houston as the event industry pundits are saying events will come back in early Q3. We are working on the week of October 11th, and confirming dates with the venue and hotels–of course, all of this is pending the vaccine and general Covid-19 status. However, we are outlining a socially distanced strategy (if it is necessary at that point), new layouts for education and academy classes, a revised ‘show floor’ approach, and more. All of this will be shared in the coming weeks, and we will host a short webinar explaining the details.
In all cases, there will be a new cadence of communications on our website, through DAC, and in social media to ensure we are proactively communicating plans and approaches, so we minimize anything that feels like a surprise.
As the new guy at 90 days, I want to say a sincere thank you for hanging in there with us. It has been tough on everyone, and we are trying hard to do the right thing. Obviously, it has been hard on many of our former employees, and I want to thank them for all of their effort and passion for the community.
I will be sharing thoughts weekly in this blog–and happy to connect one/one with anyone interested.