“…but not if you’re a competitor!”
An interesting e-mail discussion thread was generated early this morning among IT Evangelists at Microsoft. It all started with this forwarded e-mail (thanks, James, for blogging it).
In summary – A Google product marketeer e-mailed a set of attendees registered for a Google event, politely asking them not to attend because they are competitors. Ouch.
Like many of us, this struck me initially as quite amusing. I mean, c’mon! Who or what company would dare to send out such an e-mail to some of their event registrants?! Are they really that concerned about what we might hear? Or is it because they’re afraid we might heckle the presenters or somehow preach Microsoft’s products to their attendees?
To that latter point, I should mention that we (Microsoft employees) are well trained on how to behave ourselves in such a situation. We must always be very clear about who we work for. In fact, I and many of my team mates even go as far as to always “wear the logo” into events that are put on or sponsored by competitors, so there is no chance for mis-representation. We must not cause trouble, and must always be polite. Represent the company.
I’ve sat through competitive presentations where the speaker decided to take advantage of having me there; making funny comments at Microsoft’s expense and then apologizing to me (sort of – though often mainly just for effect). I’ve been in other events where the speaker was mis-informed about a particular topic; maybe pointing out features of our older products in relation to theirs. In both situations, I basically just “sit on my hands”. Smile. Nod. Appreciate the humor (like I appreciate those very funny PC vs. Mac commercials). And then if needed, and after the event, privately and constructively correct any inaccuracies directly with the speaker or via e-mail. But never never ever be confrontational or rude. “Smile and wave, boys. Smile and wave.”
Getting back to the e-mail… it also did occur to me that perhaps they have some other reason for not wanting us in the seats. As you may know, a big part of my job at Microsoft is to speak at events. (Give me a roomful of geeks, and I’ll get on stage with my laptop.) I know that if we’re spending big dollars to get “cheeks-in-seats”, we certainly would like to believe that those cheeks are going to learn something useful, and even better, someday spend some dollars on Microsoft products as a result. From Google’s perspective, they’re probably right in assuming that email@example.com won’t spend a dime on their products. And if seats are limited, it’s even more important to get the right cheeks (as in “correct” cheeks, not “opposite of left” cheeks) in the seats.
So.. was the Google guy right/correct in sending that e-mail?
Should any company go so far as to have open registration to a free seminar, and then ask certain people not to come?