UB Insider #76: How Qualtrics’ Summit Gets Magic Johnson on Stage

About this episode:

This week saw the fifth annual Qualtrics X4 Experience Management Summit, where a record 7,000-plus attendees saw presentations from guests like Angela Duckworth, Tony Hawk, Arianna Huffington, “Magic” Johnson, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Liz Wiseman. Mike Maughn, head of global insights for Qualtrics and organizer of the event’s main stage events, talks about how and why the tech company brings in famous guests, what Qualtrics learns from each summit, and what they hope people take away from it.

Subscribe to UB Insider or download this episode on Apple PodcastsStitcher or Google Play.


[The following has been edited for grammar and clarity.]

Lisa Christensen: Hello and welcome to UB Insider. I’m Lisa Christensen, online editor at Utah Business magazine. This week saw the fifth annual Qualtrics X4 Experience Management Summit. I am here with Mike Maughn, head of global insights for Qualtrics to talk about exactly what it takes to put on a tech summit of this magnitude. Welcome.

Mike Maughn: Thank you so much. I’m glad to be here.

Lisa Christensen: This is the fifth year that Qualtrics has been doing this. Do you feel like a veteran at this point?

Mike Maughn: You know, it’s always changing. You’re always innovating. We learn lessons every year but the conference has grown ten times in size since we first did it. We had 700 customers our first year and we weren’t sure that anyone would come back. We hoped they would because we gave them a great experience. This year we have 7,000 attendees.

I don’t know that you’re ever a veteran when you’re growing quickly and almost doubling year over year. You get to a point where you’re getting more and more people and you’re continually raising the bar on who’s speaking. We’re very grateful to have the experience that we have and recognize that we have to continue to change our process to focus on our customers to create great experiences every year.

Lisa Christensen: Maybe you could tell me some of the things, as you mentioned, that you had to change and adapt to this year in order to make this the best summit yet for these attendees?

Mike Maughn: This was our first year in the Salt Palace. We outgrew every other venue in the state so we needed to come here. As you have more people, you have more scale, you also have a lot more content. You have a lot more customers and it’s about finding a way to give people the same experience that they’ve grown to love and recognize. You want to treat every customer and individual with great care and attention while still delivering things at a massive scale. So it’s constantly figuring out how to do that in the very best way possible.

We focus on how to highlight everything that our customers are doing and we really want to create an atmosphere where people can meet each other. We want attendees to have the opportunity to interact and learn lessons. That’s one of the greatest blessings of the X4 Experience Management Summit is that our customers in all of these different industries are able to come together and say what are you doing? What am I doing? What are the challenges you face? How can we figure that out? Let me learn from what you’ve done. It really sparks a lot of creativity and a lot of best practice sharing and helps people to innovate to get to the best place possible.

Lisa Christensen: It’s interesting that you would talk about the challenge of scaling with the growth of this because that seems like that’s also been one of the recurring messages of this Summit: how to help companies who are using Qualtrics to grow.

Mike Maughn: Absolutely. We drink our own wine, as they say, in using our own products to help ourselves in that way. So we understand what that takes, what it means, what it looks like.

I think that there are two ways to look at how organizations are using Qualtrics as they scale. One is that they started using us to solve very simple problems, and now have implemented Qualtrics to solve some of their most complex issues. The other is that companies start using Qualtrics in one or two departments and then it grows to a global use case as people use the experience management platform on a global scale and use it to solve many of their problems across the world. We talked about American Express yesterday morning. They have 30 different global units using Qualtrics in 14 different languages and it all started with one small team of five people in New York using it.

Lisa Christensen: This year is the fifth Qualtrics Summit, but in previous years it’s been called the Qualtrics Insight Summit. This year it’s the Qualtrics Experience Management Summit. Can you speak to that change? Why the change of name?

Mike Maughn: A year ago at this conference we launched the Experience Management Platform. The Experience Management industry has just blossomed and Qualtrics in many ways pioneered that and sort of owns that industry. Experience management is the same as any customer relationship management in that every organization in the world has a system.

Every organization in the world needs a customer relationship management or CRM system. Every organization in the world needs an XM or experience management platform. We launched the Experience Management Platform and the response has been incredible. The growth has been incredible. And as we focus on helping organizations create the best customer experiences, employee experiences, product experiences and brand experiences, that is why experience management is all that it is. X4 stands for those four core experiences of business: customer, employee, product and brand experience.

Lisa Christensen: You mentioned as we were speaking earlier that your primary focus in the planning of this massive event is the main stage. The main stage events are incredible this year. You had Arianna Huffington, Tony Hawk, and Lin Manuel-Miranda – my coworker actually delayed a vacation by a day so she could stay and hear Lin Manuel-Miranda. Magic Johnson was here. Many high profile guests, not to mention, lots of product announcements, news and updates from the company. How do you go about determining who’s going to come?

Mike Maughn: It’s a fun process to figure that out. One thing we talk about is always raising the bar. Two, we don’t want to go with people that everyone knows. Three, we want people who have pioneered amazing experiences. And those experiences go back to those four core experiences of business. So we look at people who have built iconic brands, who are well recognized for providing unbelievable customer experiences, who develop unique and interesting products, people who do amazing things for their employees.

Arianna Huffington is a media legend. She started The Huffington Post. In addition to that she has launched a company called Thrive Global that talks about productivity and wellness. She’s on the board at Uber which is dealing with massive employee engagement and employee experience issues and she has been, in many ways, at the forefront of that. And those have damaged Uber’s brand in many ways but it’s still a great company. A lot of wonderful people work there.

So how do we talk about applying the lessons of experience management in a very real way? You have people like Arianna who can come and give you a firsthand look at what these people and these organizations are doing. You look at Lin Manuel-Miranda who transformed what we thought of a Broadway experience. He really reimagined what that experience looked like. No one had done it quite like he’d done it, which is part of why Hamilton is such a phenomenon. And we want to give people an experience. Hearing Lin Manuel rap in person is very rare. He’s obviously no longer performing in Hamilton. So we want to give our attendees an experience but we also want to hear from people who have pioneered unbelievable experiences.

Lisa Christensen: How do you decide or determine the ratio of guests who are using Qualtrics in different ways and then guests who are more known for their pioneer efforts in some form or another? For example, yesterday you had Angela Duckworth, who is, I know who she is but I listen to a lot of nerdy podcasts and I read a lot of economics books. She’s not exactly the same kind of household name as, you know, Tony Hawk. So how do you determine that kind of ratio and mix of users and pioneers? Not to say that Ms. Duckworth isn’t a pioneer, she’s doing pioneering research, but there’s kind of a different message that’s coming from those kind of people.

Mike Maughn: I don’t know that I necessarily look at it that way. I think it’s a very similar message. Tony is sharing a similar message from a different point of view. Angela’s is different from her point of view, but both are a pretty cohesive message about creating unbelievable experiences. Angela just just ran the largest study in history on children in education using Qualtrics. That’s unbelievably pioneering. She works with the best CEOs and leaders in the world to help them develop grit and to help them understand it. People had been trying to figure out for decades who was going to drop out of West Point and no one could figure it out. Angela came in with her Grit scale and could predict it immediately.

We talk a lot about this idea of prediction, right? Anticipatory service. Yesterday we heard from Alex Honnold, who just free solo climbed El Captian in Yosemite – meaning that he climbed over half a mile into the air with no ropes. To do that you have to be someone who isn’t about reacting to what goes wrong, you have to predict and make sure nothing goes wrong in the first place. Angela is doing stuff like that. Tony is doing stuff like that. Alex is doing stuff like that. They all bring a very different lens on that same message. All of these people are bringing their own lens to the topics to help people create new experiences that change how they live, how they work, how they interact with coworkers, family, etc.

Lisa Christensen: How do you use the insights and the feedback that you get from attendees to help craft the right set of lenses for the next year?

Mike Maughn: We love feedback as we’re a feedback company in so many ways. Feedback is core to being an experience management company and doing what we do. We’re always looking to provide our companies the best experiences possible and one of the amazing things that we do here is called Dream Team. dream Team is where any of our customers, at any point, can reach out and say hey, I need help with whatever. We have a team of dozens of employees who are here on site to respond to any need that people have. Now some of those are simple and some are much more complex. Some of them are frivolous and some of them are very serious. We had a wonderful woman and customer this morning who is in a wheelchair and was having trouble getting around because the hallways were crowded. Well of course, we were on that immediately. We try to do as much as we can for our customers to make sure that they’re having a great experience – something unforgettable. We aim to give them a story that they’re able to share, something they want to talk about. It’s really fun when you can make people that happy.

Lisa Christensen: How do you hope that people who have listened to Arianna Huffington, Angela Duckworth, Tony Hawk, or Magic Johnson will take those messages and lessons in pioneering and trial and error and success and apply them into their own corporations or their own work?

Mike Maughn: Part of what we want to do here is inform, educate, entertain and inspire. So I want people to go home from here better at life and better at their jobs. Not everything that we do here is meant specifically to help you use Qualtrics better. Everyone that comes here will know how to do that. But I also want you to be able to go home and say, I can be a better dad now. I can be a better wife. I can be a better son, brother, coworker, friend. There are lessons I learned here about how to interact with people.

Arianna spoke yesterday about the importance of self care in terms of productivity. She is famous for starting the sleep revolution and getting people to recognize the importance of rest, which is ironic given of course this event and the lack of sleep we all have as part of it. But those are important lessons that make you more productive at work but also make you a better person in the home and among your community and friendships. It’s important to us that we give back during these sessions and during this event. We don’t just want to talk to you about us. In fact, we talk very little about Qualtrics. Our goal is to give back to the community of Qualtrics users, of customers, of potential customers, whoever’s here. We want to give back in a meaningful way where we provide things that educate, inspire, inform and entertain.

Lisa Christensen: Well thank you so much for speaking with me. I’ll let you get back to helping run this thing.

Mike Maughn: Thank you so much. I really appreciate your time.

Lisa Christensen: You can find more about Qualtrics and the Summit at You can also find out more about us on our website, Drop us a line at or reach out to us on social media at @utahbusiness. Thanks for listening.