Ideas Meet Imagination at the X=Experience


Image at Grounds for Sculpture during x=Experience


When Ideas meet Imagination.. Magic happens.

The 2014 X=Experience concluded on 9/23. It was indeed a magical experience. But, before I dive into some of the highlights of this year’s event let me share with you the purpose that drives this amazing event.

We created X= Experience in 2013 with an ambitious goal of bringing together best minds from retail and academia. The idea was to build a forum where fresh ideas could be discussed freely and openly… in a “classroom environment”. We wanted to create a truly collaborative learning experience.

We started a few key tenets – the X= Experience Formula

  1. Intimacy: We believe valuable discussions can only happen in an intimate setting (attendees know each other, everyone can contribute and exchange ideas, there is more “thinking and one-on-one discussion time”, etc.). Hence we came up with the magic attendee number of 50. X=Experience will have no more than 50 attendees.
  2. Academia + Industry Leadership: We wanted our event to have a distinct academic flavor. Any business question can be (and needs to be) approached from multiple angles – through X= Experience we wanted to bring together “multiple perspectives” that enabled each attendee view things more holistically. 10% of attendees will be from the academic world. The rest will be industry leaders from non-competitive businesses, media, research and technology firms.
  3. Invitation only Event:  It is our firm belief that meaningful conversations that trigger free thinking and collaborative learning can happen only in an “academic” environment. For the event to retain its “academic flavor” it becomes imperative to make it an invitation only event that is exclusively sponsored and hosted by NetElixir. Also, by making the event invitation-only, we can be selective about who attends (primarily based on the value they can add to the learning experience).
  4. Experience: A great venue inspires exceptional ideation and conversations. We wanted a venue that triggers the “right brain” – a venue that is inspiring and adds to the experience. Grounds for Sculpture is arguably New Jersey’s best kept secret. It is an awe-inspiring venue.. a venue where you can let your imagination soar.
  5. Exceptional Content: Great content is the soul of any event. The content needs to be relevant, unique, inspirational and “something that forces us to think beyond”. We wanted presenters to capture their “unique perspectives”.. perspectives and opinions provoke elevated thinking. Last but not least, content has to be exclusive (there is no fun in seeing a presentation for the n’th time.. repetition is boring). The challenge with exclusivity is most (if not all) presentations can’t be publicly shared. If you are “not present at the event, you may not be able to gain access to the content”.

The Making of the 2014 X=Experience

We were encouraged by the phenomenal response to our inaugural event, last year. As one of the attendees put it – “the Bar is set high”. We had to push ourselves to move it even higher. During a “team brainstorming process” we discussed each and every 2013 attendee feedback.. and came up with 3 specific areas where we felt we could do better.

These areas were: a) Content b) Networking c)”Pre-work”/Homework (after all this is a “classroom”).

Content: We had great presentations last year. However, the event lacked a “single theme”. After considerable discussions and debating, we came up with a theme that is part of our DNA here at NetElixir (we are a search marketing firm that is driven by the bigger purpose of “Humanizing Every Click“) – “Inside the mind of the online consumer”.

Networking: This essentially was the “collaborative” part of our Collaborative Learning Experience. Last year, the X=Experience was jam packed with great content.. however, we didn’t have as much time for networking. We decided to add a separate networking session before the main conference day. (Well, it had to be separate.. because adding any more networking breaks during the conference would lead to removal/reduction of some of the content.. we didn’t want to deviate from our agenda of 1 keynote+2 morning presentations + 1 Executive Panel + 1 Research Presentation). Many of our guests were traveling from outside of Greater New York/Greater Philadelphia area and they were arriving the previous night, anyway. Wouldn’t they feel a lot more “at home” (and as a result be more participative during the conference) if they knew each other a little more. Hence we decided to kick start this year’s event with a cocktail reception and dinner at Westin.

Pre-Work: Given the “academic flavor” of this event.. wouldn’t it be great to get the attendees “back to school”.. even though it may be for just a day. And, what is school without homework 🙂 Prof. Buell encouraged us to share his research paper with the attendees in advance. His research can be applied to most businesses.. and this “pre-work” would help attendees to “think through application possibilities of the research work on their respective businesses”. This is an area that we will focus more on for 2015 event.

The 2014 X=Experience

– Do you know the 4 Cures to the “Too Much Choice Problem”? (A CEO makes 139 choices every day!!)

– Do you know that reciprocal transparency in service operations (customer and service provider are able to see each other in action) can lift perceived value by 21%?

– Do you have a smart way of identifying “real customer segments” from “aspirational customer segments”?

Well, if you attended the X=Experience, you probably now know the answers to all of the above questions.

Stellar content + smart questions + unique business insights exchange — that was the winning formula for this year’s event.

We were lucky to have amazing speakers and a great group of industry leaders who comfortable toggling back and forth between big ideas and tactical imperatives .

Prof. Sheena Iyengar and Prof. Ryan Buell set the tone for an amazing day packed with exceptional content. The content forced all of us to “think beyond”. Attendees appreciated the flow of content transition from “research insights to practical ideas”. Here is a feedback from a senior retail leader  – “At any conference you are lucky if you come out with one key takeaway.. X= Experience provided me with so many key takeaways.. I need to now create an execution plan for just these takeaways so that nothing falls through the cracks”.

We feel blessed to have successfully hosted the second edition of the X=Experience. We will be uploading the ideas, conversations and select presentations on NetElixir University LinkedIn group. If you are interested in being a part of the conversation, please submit a ‘request to join”.

For me personally, it was a humbling experience. I deeply value the range and depth of conversations that I was lucky to be a part of starting from the Westin reception to the end of the event. I cherish the new friendships forged and hope to continue the conversations. I am inspired by the amazing presentations that prompted me to think beyond. Last but not least, I am amazed by the power of {purpose + passion} that enables us to collaborate and ideate without boundaries.

A special thanks to all speakers and attendees for making the 2014 X=Experience memorable.

Thank you Team NetElixir for your inspired efforts in organizing this event.

Dare I say.. the countdown to the 2015 X= Experience has already begun.

– Udayan Bose






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