MDM’s SHIFT Conference Delivers Change Management in Spades - Modern Distribution Management

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MDM’s SHIFT Conference Delivers Change Management in Spades

Whether you attended or not, get a general recap of what happened at MDM's Sept. 25-27 SHIFT conference and the value it provided to the distribution community.
SHIFT sign outside

As my Fall Industry Events Preview blog detailed, there’s at least one distribution-oriented conference or expo happening nearly every week somewhere in the U.S. through early December. It’s an exciting time, as I myself am attending a handful of these events, but it’s a whole different feeling when you’re attending an event that your company is hosting.

That was the case for us here at MDM last week as we hosted our SHIFT: The Future of Distribution conference Sept. 25-27 at Broomfield, Colorado’s Omni Interlocken Hotel. Hosting such an event certainly comes with some performance anxiety, but I’m happy and proud to report that SHIFT was a smashing success.

Of course, I’m biased, but from my observations and the feedback we’ve received from some of the event’s more than 200 attendees, SHIFT delivered on providing actionable change management for attendees to bring back to their business in the areas of sales and talent management, data analytics utilization, supply chain innovation and overall digital transformation — just some of the topics today’s distributors are trying to navigate amid constant disruption.

The purpose of SHIFT was simple: provide distribution leaders with the tools and insights they need to navigate uncertainty in those aforementioned areas, and to serve as a key networking opportunity for all attendees. Its execution was anything but simple. Even for a smaller, more focused event like this — in comparison to major expo-oriented conferences — it involved a myriad of moving parts and required months of meticulous planning and coordination. It required an all-hands-on-deck approach from our MDM team, and I’m proud of the work we all put into it.

Spearheaded by Tom Gale, we were able to assemble a who’s-who of experts and thought leaders pulled from distributors, consultants and solution providers who we knew would have excellent insights to share with attendees wanting to learn. Key to this was Indian River Consulting Group founding partner Mike Marks, who co-emceed SHIFT’s proceedings with Gale and delivered his own sales model session following Monday morning’s keynote. 

That keynote featured McKinsey & Company’s Kevin Sachs and Alex Abdelnour sharing new research results that illustrated distribution commerce trends that have accelerated since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, the current state of things and where they are headed. I recapped that session in a Sept. 28 MDM Premium blog here shortly after arriving back home.

Tuesday’s keynote speaker was Gartner vice president and chief sales officer community leader Maria Boulden, who focused on how distributors can rewrite B2B selling for the new world of digital buyers.

Those keynotes were just the start of each day that was packed full of content comprised of morning feature sessions and then afternoon breakout sessions that allowed attendees to follow specific tracks — Sales Strategy, Digital Transformation and Data Analytics — or mix and match between them. Some sessions featured individual presenters, and others featured panel discussions.

Other than the morning keynotes and Tuesday afternoon’s masterclass breakouts, all other SHIFT sessions were 50 minutes or less, which I think kept content moving along at a nice pace and encouraged attendees to chat and share ideas as they went from one session to the next. In an event like this that involves a firehose of thought leadership, it’s important to keep things interesting throughout, and I thought our schedule did that by making sure attendees were moving frequently.

I had a brief Q&A session with Infor director of industry and solution strategy Will Quinn that Monday morning on the topic of supply chain and productivity innovation, where Quinn shared his expertise from a career that has spanned many facets of distribution and manufacturing operations. While I’ve moderated dozens of webcasts in my time covering this industry, I hadn’t previously been on stage at an industry event, and there’s a stark difference between speaking into a webcam vs. a live crowd. It was nice to get a sample of the latter at SHIFT.

Evening receptions the Sunday and Monday of SHIFT offered a great way to mingle with attendees and speakers over drinks and dinner in an outdoor setting. The Denver area is absolutely gorgeous in late September, by the way. I enjoyed being able to meet many contacts in person who I had previously only emailed with plenty or seen on Zoom calls, as well as talk with plenty other attendees I had never met before in any fashion. I hope it was the same for others. I never heard what the final count was on takers for Marks’ well-known tequila shot he offers attendees at industry events.

SHIFT’s Sunday evening dinner reception outside the Omni Interlocken Hotel.
Mike Marks (kneeling, left) leading SHIFT attendees in a celebratory tequila shot during Monday’s evening reception.

Throughout the event, I found the SHIFT Whova app immensely useful. It put all the event’s details in one spot, allowing attendees to check the agenda, speaker details, ask questions and network right in their smartphone. I would highly encourage all event hosts to make use of such an app, which is so much better than having to print out and carry around all those details while at a show.

All together, SHIFT had over 30 speakers share their insights, and we at MDM thank them sincerely for offering their time and expertise there in person. Likewise, I want to thank all of our SHIFT sponsors for their support, as the event wouldn’t have been possible without them.

We’ll keep the SHIFT momentum going on the content side over the next few weeks by providing additional session recaps and takeaways from the event.

The event kicked off a busy travel stretch for me, as I’m attending NetPlus Alliance’s Annual Meeting Oct. 2-4 in Las Vegas, followed by the ISSA North American Show Oct. 10-13 in Chicago, PTDA’s Industry Summit Oct. 27-29 in Nashville and then B2B Online Nov. 14-15 in Orlando. 

I hope to see some of you while I’m out and about!

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