How to plan an effective partner summit

Posted by Jo Kelly

Holding a partner summit can be an effective way to bring people that matter to your business’s development to a big stage, whether that’s through your partners, those involved in your supply chain, or by joining up with other companies in your industry.

With the chance for those companies to discuss key challenges and solutions together on a bigger scale with a bigger budget, as well as showcase new products and technology, a partner summit can take your typical conference up to the next level.

So with the potential to accomplish so much for your business, how should you plan a partner summit to ensure it’s fully effective? We look at what to consider when planning an effective partner summit.

Having the right vision – key aims of your partner summit

When planning a partner summit, it’s important to first have a vision for the event. This isn’t just about visualising how it will look and considering things like your budget, theme and how many people you’d like to attend. It’s also about asking yourself, what your event is for and what do you want it to achieve?

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Is it an annual event to get all of your partners and employees together in one space to discuss the past business year, or is it to launch a new product or service that you’ll be selling or both? It’s important to also bear in mind that, when done well, a partner summit can provide the opportunity to do so much more:

  • Inspire staff across your partner network to achieve goals and aim high
  • Inform and educate your partner teams to improve training and skillsets to stay ahead of the market
  • Arm your partners with the tools and resources to surpass their key objectives
  • Brainstorm and collaborate on new ideas and hear views
  • Engage with your partners, allow them to network and build contacts to bring them closer together
  • Celebrate achievements of individuals and partners to recognise their success
  • Showcase state-of-the-art technology, like augmented and virtual reality, to provide interactive experiences that inspire and engage partners in your offerings

With all these points in mind, there are different things to consider when planning an effective partner summit. This includes your event location, venue, agenda and speakers.

Event location

As a partner summit can bring together all your partners under one big roof, it’s a good idea to hold it in an accessible central location, so that travelling distance is similar for each business. For instance, if all your partners are based in the UK, consider choosing a city which is a central point to where they’re based. Or if your partners are based overseas and the budget is tight, perhaps pick an international city that has similar flight times and costs for all those involved.

Alternatively, you might want to consider choosing a grand location that fits with a good theme that ties your event together, while highlighting your partners’ key aims or attitudes. A theme on risk-taking could be set in the famous gambling city, Las Vegas, for instance. Or, if you have the budget, you could choose a city that fits with your company image or your partners’ ideas. A group of companies with a focus on saving energy, for example, could be held in Copenhagen, one of the world’s greenest cities.

Event venue

When selecting a venue for your partner summit, you should consider practical factors, such as a big enough space to hold all your partners’ staff, alongside product launches and technology demonstrations. You should also choose a venue that provides good facilities for conference speaking, catering, and parking. It’s also important to consider venues that provide accommodation, or are at least close to some decent hotels, if your attendees will be travelling far to reach the event.

With a bigger budget, it’s a good idea to consider an impressive venue that accurately reflects the ideas and style of your company and your partners to get the best response from attendees. For instance, if your partner community consists of trendy, forward-thinking technology companies, holding the event in an old-fashioned conference hall probably won’t have the impact you desire, compared with that of a modern arena, with a striking design and impressive in-house facilities.

It’s also worth finding a venue that can accommodate space for gamification and interactive technology. For instance, areas with games involving virtual reality headset, or zones designated to social networking, with Tweet and Instagram walls.

Providing interactive experiences like this can really help bring your partner summit to life and make it stand out from the competition.

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Event agenda

The agenda you put together for your partner summit is crucial as it’s your opportunity to inform, educate and inspire your partner community. What you decide to include can also result in either exciting your attendees and grabbing their attention from the start, or causing them to have negative feelings about the event from the onset – thinking it’s all style and no substance and that they won’t get much out of it.

To keep attendees engaged, your agenda could be made up of different elements that allow them to see, hear, interact or discuss. This could include a demonstration of some new technology or a forthcoming company product, and keynote speeches on each partners’ latest challenges and lessons learnt. Your agenda could also include breakout sessions, open forums and roundtable discussions, or you could offer informal collaborative spaces where staff can brainstorm solutions to those challenges.

You could break up the day with sessions for good networking, such as allocated time after speeches and a networking lunch with a drinks reception. It’s a good idea to also end your event on a high with quality entertainment, like from a world-class DJ or pop band.

Event speakers

The people you choose to speak at your partner summit are key to the success of the event. So your big stage should come with some big voices. They can also be the deciding factor that encourages people to attend, helping your budget to go further.

When deciding on speakers, it’s worth keeping in mind that this is your opportunity to let your partners’ staff hear from those people who are making key differences to your business, who they might be inspired by in turn. This could include technology directors or business developers. You should also consider highly regarded people who attendees would feel privileged to listen to. This could include company presidents or renowned experts and innovators in your industry, who can help make your partner summit an event to remember.

Helping you and your partners put together effective partner summits

Partner summits can be an effective way to bring key people together on an epic scale to develop your and your partners’ businesses. When done well, these events can have a positive impact on attendees, changing businesses for the better, while putting you in a good position to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.

We’d love to excite, engage and inspire you and your partners with our top services in partner summit and conference events. To speak to a member of our award-winning team:

Jo has worked at CR Worldwide as Events Operations Director since 2004. She is responsible for scoping and delivering all types of events, for clients of all sizes, globally. She manages the division’s team who organise and execute award-winning events – ranging from one-off sales floor days, corporate hospitality events and incentive travel trips, to annual conferences and partner summits.