By Steve Cerocke
Spending time at an industry conference is always a good way to focus on your business by meeting people that share the same challenges and by learning about best practices and technologies you can leverage. To take full advantage of these types of opportunities, a little preparation and strategy will insure your time spent is successful.
Last week I attended a conference put on by ConnectWise, the software developer of our management system, and the week before I spent three days with our peers and vendors at our quarterly focus group meeting.
ConnectWise has developed an ecosystem of IT managed service providers, vendors and industry experts focused on the success of the industry, so their annual conference is a big deal. Our focus group is an industry specific group that supports the IT MSP business community with structured quarterly meetings focused on best practices, financial and operational excellence.
The key to getting the most out of these types of conferences and meetings is preparation and strategy, so let’s look at some things to consider before you head to an outside event.
First, I highly recommend attending industry conferences and association events or joining an industry focus group. These events provide opportunities to work on your business and a way to learn about technologies and solutions that can help you build your business.
Do your homework
If you are planning to attend a conference where multiple vendors present, do some preliminary discovery to figure out who you want to spend time with and what questions you want answered. Vendors often send sales people to these events, but the more technical vendors often have at least one expert onsite. Many conferences provide ways to set up scheduled meetings prior to the show. This can be a great way to make sure you have the time and the right people to meet with.
Focus and energy
Some people treat conferences as an off-site party. If you want to get business done I would suggest you bring focus and energy. With multiple vendors and break-out sessions, this is a chance for you to dive into strategy, changes and opportunities in a setting where you won’t be distracted from the daily work routine.
Network and engage
This is the most valuable component of conferences and focus groups. Come prepared with your challenges and be prepared to engage peers with deep business discussions. Practice giving and receiving advice and solutions. This is not easy for some people, but most events set up opportunities that foster networking. The key here is to engage, reach out to start conversations and quickly move on to the next one if there is no value being exchanged.
Off-site, industry specific events and group meetings can be some of the most effective ways to work on your business instead of in your business. Take time to attend them with a focus on strategy and specific goals to maximize your time.
Steve Cerocke, founder/president of IQ Systems Inc. of Reno, can be reached at 775-352-2301, ext. 1001, or firstname.lastname@example.org.