Saturday, July 14, 2012
Over the past decade, I’ve had the opportunity to attend a variety of IT channel events, from the largest industry conferences to smaller, regional get-togethers. Regardless of the show’s size or number of associated activities, there never seems to be enough time to do everything you’d like to do (let alone everything you need to do).
As an editor, I scheduled almost every waking minute at tradeshows for interviews, demos and networking. In order to accomplish that level of activity, the process often started at least a month in advance, building the event plan and agenda to maximize my productivity and achieve all the magazine’s goals. I was lucky enough to have a well-organized and successful industry mentor who showed me the way, sharing a number of best practices that helped me get the most from my travel time. He always reminded me of one key way to get value from event attendance: always stat with the proper business attitude.
Your attendance at conferences, like any work activity outside the office, should be considered an investment. Time is money and, whether you’re the company owner or an employee, going to an industry event or professional training session should result in some type of business benefit. While it’s not easy (or even possible, in some cases) to accurately calculate an ROI for conference attendance, many do develop a simple list of objectives for each trip.
With the kickoff of CompTIA Breakaway just a couple weeks away, there’s no better time to build a comprehensive event strategy for your business. Here are some of the best practices that I’ve picked up from some of the IT channel’s most prominent and successful people:
- Create an annual/quarterly event plan: Rank each event by its importance to your business and professional goals. Personal interests (such as family or friends living close by the event venue) may play a part in how some select the conferences and training sessions they’ll attend, but organizational goals typically take precedence. The research process is much easier these days, with preliminary agendas and scheduled speakers often promoted months in advance. It’s always a good idea to validate the show content prior to registering and making travel plans (agenda changes and cancellations do occur from time to time).
- Build a list of priorities for each trip: a rule of thumb is to keep it simple, selecting five to six objectives for a long conference, and one to two goals for a single day event. If you need to learn the basics of building a mobility practice to land a major contract, make sure related sessions receive a high ranking. A frequent event priority for solution providers is to identify alternate suppliers and product offerings, so attending vendor showcases and demos often top the list.
- Create a personal agenda: the vast majority of conference organizers post their agendas at least a month prior to kickoff. That allows prospective attendees to review the sessions and select the workshops and presentations that meet their priorities. CompTIA makes this process a lot easier with myBreakaway, an online tool that allows Breakaway attendees to build their own event agenda and schedule onsite meetings with other solution providers, vendors, and IT channel professionals. Of course, networking and one-on-one meetings with suppliers and channel consultants, as well as peers, can lead to beneficial discussions and ideas that help improve your business.
- Stick to the schedule and track your activities: a good event plan can get off track quickly, especially when attendees run into old friends or get distracted (or delayed) in other sessions. Of course, altering the schedule to accommodate other business objectives isn’t a bad thing, as long as their top goals can still be accomplished.
- Follow up: this is often the most important step, especially if the most important of a discussion or activity weren’t completed onsite. Successfully navigating a new vendor program or inaugurating a new service opportunity may require multiple consultations. When solution providers fail to follow through with their end of the onboarding process, they’re less likely to achieve their objectives.
Are you ready to put these steps to the test? Make sure to check out the Breakaway agenda for the latest practice-development workshops and channel business educational sessions, then register to put your individual event plan in motion.
Brian Sherman is founder of Tech Success Communications, specializing in editorial content and consulting for the IT channel. His previous roles include chief editor at Business Solutions magazine and industry alliances director with Autotask. Contact Brian at Bsherman@techsuccesscommunications.com