Tips For Getting The Most Out Of A Channel Conference
Event season is here and for many of us that means (a lot of) time out of the office. As an IT service provider, you could spend the entire year going to industry events — and some do. But if you’re serious about success and want to use these events to build your business and your network, there’s homework to be done upfront. Here’s a short list to help ensure you get the most out of an event:
Engage the sponsor. It never hurts to send a note to the sponsor and ask if there are any panels you can participate in, speakers you can introduce for them, or press you can meet with. Give them a reason to engage you as a VIP versus just an attendee.
Block out your time. There’s nothing worse than going to an event and spending all your time on calls that in many cases could be done another time or simply skipped had you just managed the calendar better. Before an event — adjust your calendar so that you can actually be present and engaged.
Download the agenda. Sounds simple, but downloading the show agenda before you leave your office and planning out your “takeaway” time is a must. Build yourself an itinerary to ensure you’re able to attend the sessions of the event that will be most valuable to you, and block them in the calendar.
Don’t skip out on lunches and socials. I am not a fan of rubbery chicken, Salisbury steak or cold cuts, but sitting at a table with folks I don’t know for a meal has turned out to be insightful and profitable for my business. Of course, the lobby bar and local coffee stop are always great too.
Bring staff. If there’s too much at the event for one person to take in, bring along a trusted employee or two to divide and conquer. You may even get the vendor, show sponsor or distributor to fund the extra head or give you a discount if you play it right, and plan for it.
Network pre-, during, and post-event. There’s no greater resource than your peers. Build time into your schedule to network. Ask for the attendee list and reach out prior to those you want to meet. Use LinkedIn and social media to engage if you can’t connect via email. After the event — follow up directly or have a member of your team write up a quick note for you to send. Don’t forget your business cards and be willing to share your learnings with others.
Talk business with your vendors. Sure they’ll take you to dinner, but find time to engage during the day too. Vendors tend to have a good chunk of downtime at events they are not hosting so plan ahead and make the time to ask business-building Qs such as: “What more do you offer that I am not taking advantage of?” or “How can we grow this relationship?” The answers may surprise you.
Take notes and share your experience. No matter how good your memory is, there is a lot of information flying around an event. Take notes and gather information sheets (snap a photo if you’re not interested in carrying around paper) so you can easily recall everything once you’re back in the office. Most smart phones include voice-recording apps, which are great for general session keynotes and breakouts. Be sure to share what you’ve learned with your staff and colleagues. If you’re “social,” post a few takeaways on Twitter using the event hashtag or twitter handles of speakers and vendors in attendance.
Make time to review what you learned. It is all too common to leave an event with a ton of business-changing ideas and return to an office that requires your immediate and undivided attention. Block some calendar time to review your notes and turn words and ideas into actions.
Vendors and channel partners alike often complain about the lack of “value” they get out of industry events, but when pressed — most didn’t take time to prepare or get involved. Don’t just show up and be a body in the room. Have an agenda. Get engaged. Be seen. Be heard. Be present.
How do you work conferences with you colleagues? What are your conference best practices? Share in the comments section below.