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Top 50 Innovative Event Pros 2013: Scott Schenker

Microsoft's new general manager of worldwide events previously transformed SAP's Sapphire Now conference, bringing it online to allow for year-round engagement.

By Mitra Sorrells June 12, 2013, 7:00 AM EDT

Scott Schenker, general manager of worldwide events & Microsoft Production Studio, Microsoft

Photo: Vetala Hawkins/Filmateria Digital

After leading a three-year transformation of German software company SAP’s Sapphire Now business technology conference, Scott Schenker took a similar position with Microsoft in February. Working out of the company’s Seattle headquarters, Schenker leads a team responsible for the execution of events for partners, customers, and employees, such as the Worldwide Partner Conference, TechEd programs, and Microsoft Global Exchange.

For now, Schenker, 49, is getting to know his new employer. “I want to learn. I want to see. I want to understand,” he says. “There’s nothing I’ve done at SAP that I know is perfect for any other place. The approach we take—to being targeted, to being relevant—is usable, but the ideas are not usable on their own. I need to understand the audience and the company and the objectives. From there you come up with transformative ideas.”

“Events are awesome, one of the ­deepest and broadest ways you can experience a brand, but they are never the only way.”
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At SAP, Schenker turned Sapphire Now into an “always on” platform for year-round engagement. His strategy extended the impact of the three-day event in Orlando to the sapphirenow.com site that includes content from the conference along with a steady stream of new ­materials created at hundreds of other SAP events. His goal: to create connections with ­customers and partners, any time and any place. “Events are awesome, one of the ­deepest and broadest ways you can experience a brand, but they are never the only way. And even when you talk about an event, the activities that lead up to and follow it are almost as important or more important than the day of the classic event itself,” Schenker says.

Prior to leaving SAP, Schenker was focused on fine-tuning this year’s Sapphire Now. “We want to very consciously make sure we are not getting stale or comfortable or old,” Schenker says. While it may sound counterintuitive, one of his ideas was to reduce the amount of education sessions. “There are 36 days of content if you came to Sapphire Now and went to every single session. But you are only there three days. That’s an overwhelming amount of content. How do I ensure relevance and access to essential content if I’m giving folks 10 times more choices than they have time to absorb?  So we are preparing to make some important adjustments so it’s not about 36 days of content; it’s about three perfect days of content.”

Aside from his day job, Schenker writes on his blog, Janus Dialogs, which he started in May 2012. He uses it to share ideas he finds on “the fringe.” “Whether it’s Occupy Wall Street or the rise in audio I’ve talked about recently, everything that is at the fringe or hasn’t found its purpose yet, there’s probably something to be gleaned from that.”

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