How to hold a business event and not turn it into a conversation with a coffee break

How to hold a business event and not turn it into a conversation with a coffee break

After several years of successful and not so successful cases in consulting, we realized that as long as there is no intermediary between business and scientists, developments are not interesting to business. We held the first event, which was supposed to connect business with science, and science with consulting reality.

Disclaimer: we are consulting scientists. And I will speak primarily from the standpoint of science. But we did an event for our potential customers, it worked, so I’m sharing this experience. If any of the following seems strange to you or, on the contrary, too obvious, I would be glad to receive feedback from more experienced readers in the comments 🙂

Since 2015, we have been engaged in applied economics, publishing articles in top-field journals and trying to ensure that these results help business and the state to improve processes.

We had several successful and very large-scale cases in economic consulting, but a stable flow was still far away. And although in science we have achieved almost everything we could wish for, work with business takes place according to completely different laws. From that moment, we began to invest not only in development, but also in the product itself.

Oleksandr Nesterov, associate professor of HSE, super-finalist of the “Leaders of Russia” contest, or simply the person who started it all

Why the developments of scientists end up in the shadows

There are many things in business processes that can be improved with the help of scientists. Here I will not talk about fields such as engineering, chemistry or software development, when there is a final material product – there the idea of ​​involving scientists in business does not seem strange. I write about economists and mathematicians who optimize processes and help companies save money and achieve their goals.

Over the past few years, we managed to work with various businesses and the state. We were able to save the company 2 billion in the 2019 crab auction and then gave Rosrybolovstvo recommendations on how to conduct new auctions (we cannot guarantee their use). We became the authors of a new algorithm for university admissions in 2025, which took into account the mistakes of past seasons and which should provide better results for both students and universities. Our employees are engaged in optimization in retail (transportation tasks, location of warehouses and scheduling). And since 2019, our colleagues have been compiling the match calendar for the Russian Premier League to make tournaments more convenient for players and more profitable for organizers.

It sounds great, they were happy for each case like a child :)) But their success is difficult to repeat: the case is either very rare or unscaled. This made us very sad. Often, consulting a company (not rocket-science, one of the retail giants) resulted in months and even years of free negotiations with vague requests.

Any major changes in business processes are met with resistance, even if they make a profit as a result. In order for a business to introduce some science-based solution, it is necessary to:

  • he had a need for it (most often there is a rather vague, far from TK description in the style of “go there, I don’t know where, bring something, I don’t know what”)

  • a match has occurred with a team that can fulfill the request

  • it is also desirable that these changes do not force the redesign of all related processes, then any optimization initiative will be bogged down

  • And most importantly: a connecting link is needed. You need a person/team who will consider the need, find a ready-made solution and turn the technology/article into a product.

Why was the event necessary?

Mathematics and economics help solve social problems, but it is not obvious to people. Example: Online visa slot booking systems. There are many other similarly arranged booking systems, their weak point is resellers who divert part of potential customers and money. Their number can be reduced to a minimum if the reservation mechanism is properly built and the traffickers are deprived of the opportunity to receive arrivals. This is a job just for matheconomists who understand how to make the market “customer-friendly”.

About a year ago, we had an idea: in order to change this, we need to try to systematically tell people from business and government agencies about the projects in which the potential of economic science can be revealed. And at the end of 2023, we met Olena Pushkova, the head of the Pyro agency, she is engaged in events for science. Together, we put it together into a coherent concept and decided to hold such a meeting.

Format

It wasn’t a warm-up to sell our services, it wasn’t a roundtable discussion, and it wasn’t networking big people for social media posts.

It was our first organized attempt to talk about what good can come from the symbiosis of economic science and business. One of the difficult stages of the preparation was the search for contacts – we wanted to invite to the event people who, on the one hand, had already achieved a lot in business and management, and on the other hand, were ready for active participation. They had to be interested in thinking on the scale of big changes, and we managed to find them.

We gathered about 50 guests and the vast majority stayed until the end. There were a couple of people who left with strong negativity, but why is another story :)) I’m just writing honestly, we also often catch hate.

There were two parts:

Part 1: Panel discussion

Our scientists spoke, their speeches were supplemented by the moderator – Ihor Rizdvyany, guests asked questions)

Topics of speeches:

  • What is math economics and how it helps business and the state (we talked about our cases with auctions and the university admission system)

  • Operations Research – Optimization in retail (we talked about what mathematicians are already doing and what can still be done)

  • Economic consulting abroad – our employee talked about how Nobel laureates do their consulting firms and why it works in America and Europe, but not here yet.

  • The concept “University as a marketplace” – about what a higher education institution can look like, in which science solves business problems, and business makes science in demand and relevant

your modest author of the article at a not very round table with the general director “Technopark” – Oleg Yakimov and the director of market access”Biocad– Valentin Dodonov

Part 2: Round tables

backstage 🙂 Dmytro Yalov – the vice-governor of the Leno Oblast, is speaking

During the coffee break after the first part, arguments began about the application of our solutions in various areas of business. For example, one of the comments sounded like this:

Your auction story is a good one. But it can be too “model” and mathematized. Is it like real life?

And so, at the round tables, we invited the guests to reflect and recall cases from their practice when they lacked the help of scientists.

To make the discussion more effective, we tried to seat people with different expertise at the same table – some were entrepreneurs or heads of innovation departments, some were representatives of science and technology parks, some were people from ministries.

It went really well – everyone unexpectedly got involved, put forward hypotheses and argued constructively. I was especially pleased with the following feedback:

In the first part of the event, I didn’t quite understand why you were telling us this, but now I understand – it’s not about selling ready-made, packaged services – it’s about trying to bridge this huge gap between science and business.

Role success story

A cool moment in the first part is a piece of Oleg Baranov’s speech, where he talked about why economic consulting works abroad, but not here. In addition to working at Vyshka, he is still affiliated with Power Auctions LLC – one of the world’s leading consulting agencies in the field of auctions. According to him:

When Larry Auzubel (one of the leading experts in auction design) had the idea to create such an agency, I started working from a small room at home. And a few years after a series of high-profile auctions, we moved into an office for 50 people.

And this is not the only success story from economists: Paul Milgrom (with whom the aforementioned Auzubel worked), the current Nobel laureate, also started his economic consulting agency – Auctionomics. It was his knowledge and skill that played a key role in the famous cellular auctions (you can google spectrum auctions), when Great Britain was able to recover 2.5% of its GDP thanks to the right design of the auction.

It took more than two months of constant work by us and the main organizer to prepare the invoice, presentations, performances, and most importantly, the beautiful guests. By the time of the photo, I have hardly slept for several days, everything is in good spirits :))

Caution: entering the territory of subjectivity

It is very difficult to break the inertia of the general belief about the economy and some other things. It looks like this: if you start talking about auctions from a scientific point of view, you will most likely not be understood. Because the first thing people think of when they hear about tenders/procurements/auctions is bad reputation. We hear something like “everything is so difficult and bad that you might as well not even try.”

But we believe that the task is solved. We collected feedback after the event: people who initially came with a slight disbelief later told us that we managed to convince them.

The main thing: usually a technobroker is one person. It helps the company with its virtual phone book of top customers and understanding of who to sell what to and when.

He is hard to find (easy to lose), he is a rare fish in his niche. But the main thing is that he cannot understand everything. It is unlikely that the contacts of a person who sells software for IT companies will also be very useful to you in your field far from software.

And we found a solution – these are measures of this format. Through them, you artificially, with your own hands, create a new “mini-market” for your services. Potential clients tell themselves what they need, and potential executors will look at the range of tasks and evaluate their complexity. Yes, in the second part of the Event, we together received the contacts of all those people who were interested in working with us.

The magic is that we would never know what the pain points of the heads of these companies were not for the round table.

More…

Thanks for reading! Some of the statements (especially at the end) were the opinion of the author of the article only, you can and should argue with them. I will be glad if you share your experience of conducting events for clients in the comments 🙂

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