The Value of Conferences
I have just wrapped up what I call the “Spring Fling.” It is that time of year between late February and early May when it’s week after week of industry and vendor conferences. The days are long, the nights are late and if you aren’t careful you are sure to put on a lot of weight.
I started this year with the weeklong Cisco Partner Conference followed by the NSCA Business Leadership Conference, 2016 Premier CIO Forum, Channel Partners, CompTIA Member Meeting and then ISC West. For most of them I participated as a board director, panel moderator or panelist, which takes commitment, but has a sense of reward associated with it. I have one more coming up — PSA Tec in May. I am fortunate that all of them are great events.
It was on my flight home from ISC that I asked myself a self-reflection question. Why do I participate in these conferences? Why do I take time away from my family and staff, and give myself twice as much work — because we all know when you get back there is a lot of catch-up to be done. But before I answered it I wanted to get some other insight. I noticed quite a few people on the plane that I had seen at the Conference so I journeyed out to get their thoughts.
The first person I spoke to was a seasoned engineer and this was his first conference. Jim found the conference overwhelming; however he had learned a lot related to new technologies and was eager to get back and share. In fact, he was required to do a three hour presentation to the other engineers on what he had learned.
The next person I engaged with was a CEO of an integration company. Sal attended three conferences a year and for him this was the only time he engaged with vendors. He rotated who he brought with him and it was typically not management. He found that he could meet with all the vendor executives at one place and save himself a lot of time. He also found it a valuable place to get cutting edge industry insight about trends in business and technology.
One gentlemen that I spoke to I had also seen at the CompTIA event and the Channel Partner conference. His response to why he was there was it is a great place to connect with his peers or what he called his “pack.” It was a place to get some great education, have fun and also share experiences about their businesses.
Jennifer was an end user of technology and she was there with a diverse group from her company. They were all there to attend the educational sessions and to roam the floor. She said it was overwhelming and it didn’t feel like they used the time wisely due to their lack of connectedness. She thought if they had a guide it would have been more effective.
Bob was a salesperson who was accompanying his clients. He indicated that each year he takes his top five clients to Cloud Partners and ISC West. It was fun; it gave them a chance to engage with their peers and exposed them to some great industry education and meetings with vendors. Bob also shared he got back a higher level of client engagement and he consistently received a new order from each client within six months.
I found what Bob was doing most interesting. In his concierge approach he had found a way to build some client and vendor loyalty while providing value and earning revenue from his investment in time.
Getting back to my own answer as to why do I participate in conferences, I will tell you when I see you at PSA Tec, May 5 where I am facilitating a Leadership Challenge Workshop!
Please connect with me on LinkedIn and I would be happy to share more insight on this topic and others.
Lastly, I would like to thank the reader community for their outreach in response to my last article “A Business Lesson From a First Grade Teacher” in the March 2016 issue of SDM. The responses from teachers’ spouses, friends and school parents were heartfelt as they shared with me stories about teachers and their daily rigor and dedication to their profession.