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Three Takeaways that Upgraded NTT’s Annual Research & Innovation Summit

 By Stephen Russell

There are plenty of companies today pursuing technology innovation. Whether it’s to harness the power of AI, commit to sustainability or net-zero carbon emissions, reduce energy efficiency or simply improve user or customer experience, the examples are endless. However, many companies tend to look at innovation from the lens of more immediate impact – i.e. months or maybe a few years into the future. There are fewer companies that are looking at long-term innovation. The type of innovation that won’t just make a nominal impact, but that could truly change our world.


Recently, I had the privilege of attending Upgrade 2024, NTT’s annual research and innovation summit. Since NTT is a client, I have seen firsthand the impact of the company’s commitment to fundamental research and R&D. NTT dedicates more than $3 billion annually to research endeavors and the Upgrade event is a perfect opportunity to see this commitment in action.


The event also presents the opportunity for NTT to showcase this commitment to press, influencers and industry analysts. At Upgrade 2024, the Wireside team curated an experience around the event designed to educate, inform and engage with key contacts. In total, more than 30 press, influencers and analysts attended Upgrade in-person. Here are a few key takeaways that made this event a success:


Content (Still) Matters – Upgrade 2024 featured more than 20 exhibits and several sessions all geared toward shining a spotlight on how fundamental research and R&D will one day Upgrade Reality. The event was split into three tracks – AI & Machine Learning, Security & Privacy and IOWN: The Internet Powered by Light (NTT’s sustainable, optics-based IT infrastructure being built to enable larger-capacity communication, faster information processing and the enablement of advanced solutions & services). The topics aligned quite nicely with major themes being discussed in the media today. Additionally, with the exhibits, keynotes, panel sessions, 15-minute breakouts on specific topics and one-on-one interviews (more than 60 occurred over the two-day event), the press, influencers and analysts had a variety of ways to engage with NTT throughout the event. This allowed us to tailor their experience with the content of Upgrade, leading to conversations that helped dictate the direction of current and future coverage.


Create an Optimal Experience – How many times have you gone to an event and the one takeaway you had was that you couldn’t get a cup of coffee when you really needed one? I know, it may seem like a small thing, but those small things have an impact on the overall event experience. Our goal was for every press, influencer and analyst to leave Upgrade 2024 with a positive impression of the event, NTT and Wireside. To do this, we had to create a unique experience specifically for press, influencers and analysts. This started from the first touch point (our initial save-the-date pitch) and has continued well after the event as we conduct our follow up. Most importantly, we made sure each member of our press, influencer and analyst contingent was taken care of throughout the event. This included personalized itineraries, private parties and conference sessions, coordination of travel logistics, tailored interview and demo tour experiences and more. At the end of the day, people want to be treated as if they are the most important person in the room. Our curated experience at Upgrade helped press, influencers and analysts feel that way.


Don’t Forget About Long-Term Story Telling – Hosting a successful event is one thing, but often times many are so hyper-focused on the event itself that they don’t take the necessary steps to continue engagements after the event concludes. This is where long-term story telling comes into play. In the case of Upgrade 2024, we hosted a group that was a mix of targets whose first exposure to Upgrade was this year’s event and others who have attended this and other NTT events over the past few years. For the contacts that attended Upgrade in the past, they had an opportunity to see firsthand how the event itself has grown, how certain technology innovations have progressed over the past few years and how NTT’s commitment to research and R&D has continued to advance. This is long term story telling at work. Now, with the event recently in the rearview, our team is executing a plan to create several touchpoints over the next year. By Upgrade 2025, these contacts will have an entire year of engagement built around a story of how NTT is fostering technology innovation now and for the future as a result of its fundamental research and R&D pursuits.


Upgrade 2024 is proof that events built upon how technology innovation will impact our world in five, ten or even 15 years down the road, resonate. The engagement between NTT and press, influencers and analysts at this year’s event was inspiring and I am very much looking forward to continuing the story about how fundamental research will Upgrade Reality as we approach next year’s event.




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