Yesterday the annual Free the Grapes Direct to Consumer Symposium was hosted at the Meritage Resort in Napa. For our 50 state union, there are few, if any substances as regulated in this country as alcohol. In their words, “Free the Grapes! is a national, grassroots coalition of consumers, wineries and retailers who seek to remove restrictions on wine direct shipping. Our goal is to augment, not replace, the three-tier system with limited, regulated wine shipments from wineries and retailers to consumers.” Indeed their work is essential for our industry.
The conference offered some interesting insights on hospitality and customer relationship management from beyond our own industry as well as insights from a few successful wine industry executives describing their own best practices making the difference in their business. There were some specific details in the Iron Marketer Challenge segment and a detailed presentation of “aspirational customer service programs” from the VP of Best Buy that I thought warranted taking notes. On the heels of a timely release from Lesley Berglund’s WISE Academy, what was left untouched by the conference pointed me to this educational program.
No doubt there was great value in the day including the exhibit hall and the sponsors appearing there. The only things I thought were missing are as follows:
- 1. A much deeper and more detailed set of solutions for direct to consumer questions and needs including hospitality training, e-marketing, online presence, social media, and wine club management.
- 2. A better execution of the sessions and use of the internet/social media/networking back channel. There was no twitter search tag (perhaps because only a handful of tweeters were on during the conference?). So we created our own tag #DTC. This is as much for the attendees as for the folks on twitter who didn’t attand but were curious to listen to the day’s events. Similarly, presentations, links, power point decks, etc. could have been and should have been made available in real time…or immediately after the presentation. We’re told they will be available next week. I think there were missed opportunities here.
With 7 sessions and only 2 time slots (sessions 1,2 & 3 were at 1:30, sessions 4,5,6, & 7 were at 3:15) I could not attend more than 2 sessions. There were 3 or 4 sessions I thought could have been valuable to me, so it is possible that the deficits I listed above were detailed in a session I couldn’t attend. On the technology possibilities listed above I watched and experienced them during the Web 2.0 Expo in New York City. What a great standard they have set. And the technology is not out of reach for a Napa conference. There is an opportunity being lost that is well within our reach. Check out this fantastic post about using the back channel to add value to a conference.
I certainly understand that conferences are a bear to produce and my evaluation comes with the hope that we all work with constructive criticism to make our work in the wine industry better by leaps and bounds. There are a few conferences in our industry (Wine 2.0, WITS, WBC) that I applaud for surveying their attendees for feedback. I know as a presenter I value that response and use the feedback to prepare the next time I am in front of an audience. So it is in that spirit that I offer my thoughts here. The need for DTC training, conversations and networking is too great to go without. Thanks for working to fill that need.