RD Summit 2018: What you missed and…

…why you should put Customer Experience at the center of your 2019 Initiatives

If you have been to as many conferences as I have been to recently, it is safe to say, that after a while, they are all pretty much the same – just in a different location with different people and a few familiar faces. One hopes to walk away inspired and with new ideas and products to consider– all good but one becomes more selective about which session(s) to attend and what products to actually incorporate in their own practice. Let’s be honest, however, it’s the people that make industry events worthwhile – not what the event host is trying to sell you.

So what made RD Summit 2018 so unique? It may be 12,000 people descending on an island, the generous Brazilian hospitality, the Latin rhythm, or maybe it was simply because the event was so well executed.

Image Courtesy of Winning by Design

Quick aside: If you aren’t familiar with RD Station, it is a leading digital marketing platform provider based in Brasil. The company hosted RD Summit, the largest digital marketing event in Latin America. When Guilherme Lopes (one of the five co-founders of the company) invited me to speak at the event on Customer Onboarding, with a focus on ‘One-to-Many,’ I accepted the opportunity to explore a new culture and learn about business practices in Brasil…and to make new connections of course!

Here is what I observed, why the event is so special and why it continues to grow at a rapid pace, year-over-year.

Start putting the employee & customer experience at the center of your event – not selling!  You know when you attend a conference and you feel like you are being sold to, to the point where you just want to leave? Well, this event didn’t feel that way at all…since it was so not sales-like, it did lead me to the expo hall to find out more about the new products that RD Station released during the event – marketing that American companies should consider as they plan their 2019 events.

Feel the energy.

Diversity & Inclusion: The organizers made every effort to be inclusive of multiple needs including numerous food trucks for various dietary needs, interpreters for multiple languages, including sign-language across sessions, and a private room for nursing mothers. They also made an effort to have an equal distribution of men and women speakers (60/40 ratio?) which was refreshing for me! Lastly, efforts were made to keep waste down by offering all attendees cups to reuse over the three days for water and beer…kudos for mainly avoiding water bottles! (I see so much waste at conferences in America and it is so upsetting – especially in Las Vegas).

Customer Inspired Activities: One of RD Station’s biggest fan had an RD Station image tattooed on her body…this devotion inspired RD station to include a tattoo boutique for all attendees. While I didn’t get one (so tempted!), many people did. Imagine the kind of following this company has created – one that was started by listening to one customer’s love, and now emblazoned on countless other fans.

The music, people, energy can’t be captured in a photo but this image captures the size well – Photo Credit: @JrPelissari
Jacco firing up the crowd

The Speaker Experience: While I don’t speak Portuguese (yet), the RD Station team made sure I was well-taken care from my Visa to enter the country, to transportation and hotel needs. Guilherme personally made sure I knew who my audience was as I prepared for my presentation and the marketing team was with me before and after the event to make sure I knew where to be and when. The speaker gifts were super useful as well (international plugs, cell phone chargers, clickers & other fun swag). I also really appreciate when conferences offer speaking coaches to ensure one has a lasting impression on the audience. Your speakers are there to educate and inspire your audience. Make sure you enable them to do that.

Thank you for coming to my session on scaling customer onboarding!

Customer Appreciation Event: The company hosted a customer appreciation event at their office the day before RD Summit kicked off. I happened to be at RD Station that day hosting a Customer Success workshop for their employees and afterward ended up engaging in the festivities. It was so exciting to see the customer enthusiasm at the headquarters, learning the RD Station Way while celebrating being a customer. Once you prove your market fit, it is your customers that will help you build your company. Thank them and leverage their voice in a special way together. Planning this type of event around a major industry event is a perfect way to get them excited about what is to come at the conference.

Channel Partners are Unique: Treat them that way. RD Station hosted a partner only event the day before the summit started. I attended for a few hours and was in awe how well the event was executed in parallel with the customer appreciation event happening at the same time in a completely different location. And yes, the founders managed to attend both events and to be present for their customers and partners.

I am only now able to really take in what a special week I had in Florianopolis and just how well the company pulled off such a large event on an island. It was every employee that was present, willing to help and acting as an ambassador of the event that really made the experience magical.

Special ‘Thank Yous’ that made the event extra special for me –

Samba Dancing at Lorencorocha – Ostras Mariscos

Guilherme LopesLaryssa D’Alama, and Leonardo MirandaThis team welcomed me as soon as I arrived and gave me a tour of the island, followed by a lovely dinner in an old Portuguese village. Then we went to a local Samba dive bar (image above)…it was so refreshing to experience the island from a local’s perspective as I am 100% sure I would have never found the locals’ secret Samba bar on the beach or tasted my first Caipirinha on my own! They also invited me to host a customer success workshop at their headquarters on leveraging difficult conversations to advance customer relationships. Had I not been with these three superstars, I wouldn’t have been able to see through their lens just how much RD Station values their customer and channel partner relations. — Your open arms throughout my journey will never be forgotten and my home awaits you when you visit the SanFrancisco, Bay Area.

These troopers role-played and engaged in difficult customer conversations. What fun we had!

RenataCenturion & JaccoVan Der Kooij: I happened to be seated next to a man who had a flight mishap & somehow ended up on a United flight to the same event. That event led to me being invited to spend an afternoon with him, Jacco, and his outgoing partner in Brasil, Renata. I hardly knew these two but they invited me to hop into their cab & join their world as an apprentice while they inspired some of their customers in Florianopolis. Seeing how they are transforming future Sales leaders was truly eye-opening for me and I am thankful for your trust. If you need a dose of positive energy and non-conventional thinking you should check them out on social media…and on their website, Winning by Design.

Jacco & Renata – Photo used with permission.

My Canadian & US Travel Buddies: Chad HorenfeldtSaood ShahMark Organ, Jen (Mark’s wife),  and Patrick Lawler. We shared laughs, food, Ubers, stories, presentation dry-runs, and a very long journey home together. Saood & I had an extra special bonding experience missing our flights and commiserating over the constant harassment at the US border for either not looking American enough or for having names that are ‘different.’

Saood, Mark, Patrick & Emilia – Sleep deprived & just being silly…

…it’s these people and experiences that I hold dear & will always think back on fondly.

Events are about content, learning best practices, and the people…it is the relationships you build that leave the lasting memories.  As @diliwar said, “Thank you, Brazil for your infectious energy. Heading home. Rooting for you all change-makers!” 


Abrigada Team RD Station for this incredible immersion in what customer experience is all about.




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