What’s in a Name? Apparently, Quite a Bit

Mapping objectives to events — partner summits, PABs, and executive councils — is key to optimizing your partner relationships.

For vendors, getting together with partners for events isn’t optional; it’s necessary. Taking a set-it-and-forget-it approach to managing a partner base — occasional e-mails announcing a product launch, for example — won’t foster collaboration, trust, investment, and commitment. And those are precisely the things a vendor needs to make its relationships most productive.

But which event to hold?

Put simply, it depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.

The partner summit, which can range from a gathering of about 25 people to a trade show with hundreds or thousands of attendees, provides a prime opportunity for networking and education. Here, partners can make connections with their peers, share experiences and challenges, and take a deep dive into technology through keynotes, demo stations, and breakout sessions. Meanwhile, vendors can leverage summits to broadcast their strategic plans and provide updates, motivation, and clarity to the entire partner community.

Other partner summit highlights include motivational speakers and partner experts. While the former aim to engage and inspire attendees, experts can offer personalized advice on everything from co-marketing opportunities to certification programs.

The partner advisory board, or PAB (also known as a partner advisory council, or PAC) typically includes senior leadership and key employees from vendors and from partners of their choosing. The main goal of this event is to create a collaborative environment where partner feedback can be shared and ideas can be openly exchanged — and acted upon to effect change.

Discussion points include market trends, customer needs, the competitive landscape, and program and operational improvements — all giving vendors data they can leverage to adapt their strategies and drive innovation.

PABs usually meet a few times a year, but the time between gatherings should be well-utilized. That means vendors should communicate with their advisory boards regularly, on a monthly and quarterly basis.

The third main gathering is the executive council, held once a year for a maximum of 10 attendees.

At this small, prestigious event, attendance is by invitation only. Attendees, which comprise vendor and partner senior and C-suite leaders, discuss business strategy and market insights, with the aim of driving revenue growth and profitability. Topics include future trends, innovation, and “Blue Ocean” strategies — the creation of new market spaces and opportunities.

Unlike more operational or tactical meetings, an executive council doesn’t concern itself with things like Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) sales tools, rules of engagement, or specific marketing tactics. Instead, it takes more of a bird’s-eye view.

The differences between the three meetings might seem inconsequential, but they’re not. Mismatching events and objectives can lead to dissatisfied partners. And those partners will underperform, tout competitive solutions, and/or find alternative paths to success without you.

If you want to maximize your partner relationships (and what vendor doesn’t?), take the time to understand the distinctions among partner summits, PABs, and executive councils. You and your partners will be glad you did.

Read our primer on partner events.

Channelnomics is a global analyst and research firm that helps technology vendors and service providers fine-tune their channels, win customers, and sharpen their competitive edge. For more information, visit

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