Northside: How to Herd Cats - Developing a Playbook for Competitive Intelligence Gathering at Technical Conferences


The purpose of this study is to help industry practitioners learn how to get the most benefit from attending technical conferences (organizing attendees to participate in the highest impact talks, maximizing vendor interactions, and using data analytics to identify prevailing technology trends and research partnerships). Using the SPE/AAPG/SEG Unconventional Resources Technology Conference (URTeC) as a case study, we illustrate a systematic approach to gather useful competitive intelligence information and communicate findings from a technical conference to various internal stakeholders (business units, research, laboratory). We utilize a hybrid approach involving statistical data mining and soliciting curated input from subject matter experts during the conference life-cycle (before, during, after).  Our approach relies on easy-to-use templates for practitioners to apply the methods described in this paper.  Broadly, our process flow is: (1) Identify important talks (2) Ensure proper attendance levels to cover key talks but not overload people (3) Synthesize the most important technical content (automated and human-derived) (4) Balance stakeholder needs (business versus centralized researchers) (5) Use data mining/data analytics to discover key technology and partnerships trends (6) Disseminate condensed learnings for business consumption. We found that our systematic approach maximized the value of attending URTeC with respect to the significant people-hours and direct financial costs invested in the effort because it simplified an otherwise unstructured and overwhelming effort (akin to herding cats) into a series of smaller more manageable decisions to enable a coherent dissemination of technical information to the business. Based on 5+ years of organized competitive intelligence gathering at URTeC, we recommend giving attendees (especially business and laboratory) more flexibility to interact with vendors/speakers.  We resisted the temptation to “over-book” attendees with assigned talks and allowed almost two-thirds free time to capitalize on “day of” opportunities.  The tangible outcomes of our “playbook” include the following: (1) Dominant technical topics (via text data mining) and their evolution through time (2) Paper “market share” plots vs time to track overall industry participation levels and identify the dominant conference participants (3) Affiliation mapping to identify partnerships (IOC’s, universities, service companies, independents) (4) Efficient scheme to manage personnel time (w/ different objectives and priorities) (5) Communicating company benchmarking for key technology topics (value versus relative skill against competitors) (6) Templates/procedures that could be adapted for other technical conferences.  We believe strategic coordination of conference attendance will benefit the broader industry and that sharing our URTeC “playbook” can aid companies in developing and improving their own conference participation.  Increased budgetary scrutiny has encouraged streamlining of conference participation for competitive intelligence analysis. Our personal experience affirms the value of integrating partners such as library science professionals with technical experts for formal upstream technology benchmarking and competitive intelligence gathering via technical conferences.


Location: Ovintiv Conference Room
4 Waterway Square Place
The Woodlands , TX 77380

Date: April 9, 2024, 11:30 a.m. - April 9, 2024, 1 p.m.