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How to get the most value from attending a conference

It’s not too difficult to tell which exhibitors or attendees will get big value from a conference. You can see it in their openness to connect. They are well prepared. They ask questions. They reach out to meet people. They put themselves in the middle of the action. They come open to learn and explore. They are curious and excited about the potential. They want to find new opportunities to make money, grow business and build relationships. They enjoy social networking.

One of the comments I often hear from people looking to attend our ChannelNEXT event is… “What’s in it for me?” There is no way of knowing what anyone will get out from attending any conference but I believe that you will only get out, what you put in. In my experience, if you attend in a passive “spectator-type” manner, then you will not get the most value. However, if you attend with curiosity and fully participate, then you tend to get a lot more value.

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At our conferences, we bring together the best industry experts, business coaches, vendors, VARs, MSPs and ITSPs under one room for a couple days. We offer many activities to connect all parties to learn, explore opportunities and build business partnerships. We hope that this will ultimately lead to building deeper relationships and growing business amongst the delegates. However, it’s entirely up to each delegate to leverage the opportunity to the fullest.

It’s good to keep in mind that if the exhibitors had nothing of value to sell or if the channel partners had no customers to sell to, then neither party would attend the conference. As such, the potential to find some business opportunities is 100% realistic. Sometimes the problem is the inability of the exhibitors to articulate their value proposition. Sometimes it’s the channel partner’s closed-mindedness or lack of attention. That said it has to be the responsibility of each person to get what they want from the conference.

The next time you attend an event, try to leave your pre-conceived expectations at the door and enter with an open mind to explore new opportunities. Exchange ideas with everyone at the event and share the experience with your colleagues. You simply never know whom you will meet or whom they may be able to connect you with. Don’t forget to embrace the experience fully. If you are preoccupied with other matters, then you will never know what you missed. If you are IN the room, be IN the room!

Always ask yourself one question… “What do I want to get out from attending the conference?”

From an exhibitor’s perspective, here is a partial list of possible wants:

I want to….

  1. Find new partners
  2. Generate awareness about my company and product
  3. Get feedback about my company and product so I can improve
  4. Find experts and resources to help build my business network
  5. Learn about my competition and how I measure up
  6. Build stronger partnerships and relationships with my current partners
  7. Better understand my partner’s business and challenges so I can help them grow
  8. Exchange ideas with my peers
  9. Learn about the local channel market
  10. Generate some news media channel PR

From a VAR, MSP or ITSP perspective, here is a partial list of possible wants:

I want to…

  1. Find new solutions to sell to my customers
  2. Get ideas and find tools to improve my business
  3. Find other VARs, MSPs and ITSPs to build business partnerships
  4. Learn from my peers
  5. Get advice from business experts
  6. Build better relationships and partnerships with vendors
  7. Exploit the latest business trends
  8. Learn how to better market my business
  9. Learn how to improve my leadership skills and fine-tune my business vision
  10. Learn how to hire and retain the right employees

Try making a list like this of what you want to get from the next conference and work diligently during the conference to get what you want! It can be as many items as you wish, just try not to overreach.

Remember, conferences are simply remote workplaces where like-minded people come together to learn, share and build relationships. Just learning without sharing or exchanging ideas with others is not enough. It is like going to a movie with your friends and not talking about the movie after. Sharing makes the experience that much better.

Julian Lee