The Good, the Bad, and the Better: A Review of the 2017 GAIN Conference

by Marc Hausman

Recently, Marc Hausman, CEO of Strategic Communications Group, Inc., which runs Modern Marketing Today, attended the 2017 GAIN conference, hosted by Government Marketing University.  We asked him to share his observations – the good, the bad, and the better – with our readers.  Here’s what Marc had to say:

Let’s imagine what I am about to write is in a whisper as I suspect my opinion will be unpopular:  most industry conferences are a waste of time and resources for exhibitors and attendees.


The content offered is typically regurgitated fare delivered by speakers, panelists and presenters who lack experience or polish.  Curse you PowerPoint!  I am happy to go the rest of my days without hearing another rambling review of five bullets per slide.

The conference experience can be worse for vendors.  They are often relegated to a poorly attended exhibit area where sales reps huddle around checking sports scores on and scoping the occasional prospect.  Buyers prefer not to be sold to – by Email, on the phone and in-person.

There is value in networking and professional connections at conferences.  Is it worth day(s) out of the office?  Does it make up for the scramble to catch up on deliverables?  I’m not the only one who wonders.

It is with this mindset that I strode in to the Hyatt Regency Reston this past Friday for the annual GAIN conference, hosted by Government Marketing University.  I was there to represent Modern Marketing Today, Strategic Communications Group’s (Strategic) online buyer community comprised of business-to-business and public sector marketing and sales professionals.

My assignment from Modern Marketing Today’s managing editor, Jenna Sindle:  as part of our sponsorship of GAIN, write a recap of the event for the site.  Oh yuck…cue up some mood music of impending doom.

Imagine my pleasant surprise when GAIN far exceeded expectations.  The attendance was top notch and included the best government-focused marketers in the mid-Atlantic region.  The networking rocked, and I had the chance to catch up with clients, prospects and other valuable industry contacts.

The speakers were pass-able.  Yet, kudos should be extended to the organizers who did their best to inject creativity into an agenda that could have very easily been staid and dusty.

So…here is my honest review of GAIN – the good, the bad and the better.

The Good

Lisa Dezzutti of market research firm Market Connections delivered an informative presentation on trends in event marketing and relevance to public sector customers.  Market Connections’ research reports are top drawer and often reveal changing preferences and perceptions among government buyers.

Here are a couple of slides from Lisa’s talk:

The Bad

Many of the other speakers prattled on about best practices in content creation and account based marketing.  Have a strategy…tell a story…establish metrics.  Blah, blah, blah.  This would have been timely and insightful if the calendar read 2012.

Plus, too many of the speaking slots were gifted to sponsoring vendors.  Admittedly, most did their best to cut back on the sales pitch.  Yet, the conference suffered from a lack of industry representation on the agenda.

The Better

Brocade’s Federal Marketing Lead Ginger Kessler accepted a “Mission Impossible” by delivering a roast of the audience entitled “A Day in the Life of a Government Marketer.”

As I have performed stand-up comedy as a hobby for a decade, I recognize and appreciate the challenge of writing content that appeals to such a niche audience.  Ginger pulled it off…and then some.  Her remarks were entertaining and her delivery style personable and engaging.

Well played, Ginger.  And kudos to the GAIN organizers for stepping outside of the usual.

A Concluding Thought

Hosting a conference is a Herculean task that invites lots of criticism.  This post is a tame example.

GAIN pulled it off in 2017.  The event will return next year.  Bigger.  Better.  More valuable.  And, guess what?  Even though I despise most conferences I’ll be back too.  GAIN is a must attend.

A version of this article originally appeared on Hausman’s The Strategic Guy blog. Want to stay up to date with the biggest issues facing government marketers?  You can subscribe to Modern Marketing Today here and The Strategic Guy here.