Behind the Scenes with Krystina Gustafson

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How do you curate great content for 10,000 digital innovation leaders who have high expectations for learning something new that will help them navigate the fast-changing retail environment? We caught up with Krystina Gustafson, Shoptalk’s senior vice president of content and chair of its advisory board, to hear about her approach for creating industry-leading content. With a solid background in business journalism (CNBC), Gustafson understands and appreciates how critical it is to provide content that touches on the industry’s biggest challenges and opportunities, has substance, is unbiased, and is relevant to Shoptalk’s audience. She is supported by a seasoned content team with deep experience as researchers and analysts.

We ensure that our speakers are authentically interesting, mindful that the audience is really interested in the “how.” We ask our speakers to scratch below the surface to go beyond what you can read off their corporate websites or press releases.

Customer-Centric

Gustafson says that all Shoptalk content is created through the lens of the audience. It’s a senior-level crowd, and all speakers are at the VP level and above. Gustafson says that “Shoptalk appeals to the game changers in the industry, the entrepreneurs and digital innovation leaders who champion change in their organizations,” and who are eager to absorb content focused on the now, the new and the next. She explains, “ Our goal is to create a narrative that addresses the biggest disruptions and transformations going on in the retail industry today, and what they will mean for the future. We shape our agenda by constantly reading the news and research reports, talking to investors and our advisory board, and listening to audience feedback.”

She adds, “What we’re really trying to achieve is to make sure our content focuses on three tenses. The “now” is tactical content with solutions our audience can implement into their businesses immediately. The “new” is what’s emerging that they can experiment with, like generative AI. The “next” is the metaverse or Web 3.0 — technologies or capabilities that aren’t ready to be implemented at scale but that shouldn’t be dismissed. We never want to dismiss innovation because even if a technology might not work in today’s environment, there are components of it that could have meaningful long-term impacts. Like the metaverse, for example — even if it never truly takes off in the way it’s been hyped, its underlying technologies like blockchain and augmented reality are likely to be relevant down the road.”

In all cases, the goal is to make Shoptalk content actionable, useful and thought-provoking. “We start by creating a content briefing that is an amalgamation of what we want to lean into more heavily this year and how we can present content in new ways and new formats. The intent is to infuse the experience with newness that matches the energy level of our audience.”

On Stage

A cynic would assume that speakers at B2B conferences are sponsors. Gustafson is the first to point out that what differentiates Shoptalk is the caliber of speakers selected for the fact that they have something intrinsically valuable to say, “ We do not pay any of our speakers, and no one can buy a spot on our agenda,” she adds. “We ensure that our speakers are authentically interesting. We identify the most interesting leaders, mindful that the audience is really interested in the ‘how.’ We ask our speakers to scratch below the surface to go beyond what you can read off their corporate websites or press releases. We ask them to bring their experience and expertise to life. They all have distinct stories to tell. What challenges did they face? What success have they seen?” In other words, curating Shoptalk content is to go beyond the obvious and reveal deeper insights and thoughtful perspectives on the strategy and tactics of the business of retail based on real-life experience.

Gustafson adds that the content veers more toward the strategic since both speakers and the audience are senior and intelligent. It’s a tall task, as there are six concurrent sessions a day, and her job is to make sure each one is great. All this rich content is offered around Shoptalk’s new Meetup one-on-one, customized meetings. And speaking of Meetups, the deadline is March 3rd. to register LINK for this innovative approach to ensuring you will meet someone who wants to meet you!

End Notes

So, in the end, why does anyone go to a multi-day conference, put up with the hassle of unpredictable flights, hours of travel time, and the overall investment to spend four days with 10,000 highly energized, optimistic entrepreneurs? Simple answer, it’s smart fun. It’s a big informational party with a purpose. With the double-opt in Meetups, attendees are guaranteed to connect with others, which ups the level of the entire Shoptalk experience.

When asked what is her foremost wish for what attendees feel when they leave the event? “That it was valuable, and they can’t wait to come back next year,” she says without hesitation. Join us there for some valuable, smart fun!

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