Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Can't Miss Events in 2009

We are just about 6 weeks from the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, and I thought it would be a good time to remind you why events like this are so important to us as partners. There are only a few events on my “cannot miss” list any more:

1. Quarterly HTG meetings
2. ConnectWise Partner Summit
3. VentureTech Network Invitational
4. Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference
5. HP Americas Partner Conference (when held)
6. SonicWall Peak Performance (when held)

Certainly there are a number of other quality events that occur in the channel each year, but to be honest, if I don’t pick and choose I will be attending an event or two every week. And as our organization has matured, it has become more important to select the events that will make the largest impact on our company that is possible. There is a real cost, and a significant opportunity cost to be out of the office, on the road attending events. So why are these six my picks?

HTG quarterly meetings are the backbone of my community involvement. At those meetings each quarter I get to focus on my business – checking out the benchmarking numbers that show how I did relative to the group we participate in, HTG as a whole, and the industry. It also gives me a great big batch of best practices and fresh ideas to evaluate, as well as a quick evaluation by the other 11 members of my group as we go through the peer board review. The days spent at HTG are the best investment I can make in terms of working on my business.

Since ConnectWise is the platform we run our business on, attending their partner summit is a no brainer. There is no one single thing that can impact my business as deeply and quickly as tweaks made to the PSA tool we use. So attending their event, rubbing shoulders with the other users there, and learning how to get the most from that product is a great investment of time. ConnectWise is the operating system of our business, and we need to continue to raise our effective utilization of the software to drive process and success in our business.

VTN is a great distributor affinity group that gives me a unique touch with key manufacturers and distribution executives. This is the one venue where I can shake hands and have dinner with executives from the major vendors in the industry. It also is a great place to hear quality content and be part of a large community of partners who are mature and focused. Supplemented by two quarterly local chapter meetings, VTN gives me a broad look at the industry and allows me to connect at a different level than any other event I attend.

Microsoft WPC – the next upcoming event I will attend – is all about building relationships broadly across a large organization. It would take weeks of time on campus in Redmond and airplanes criss crossing the country to be able to see and meet with the number of people I am able to connect with in 4 days at WPC. There is no other gathering where I can get access to the quantity of a vendor’s staff that Microsoft provides at WPC. Mornings allow access to executive keynotes that provide a roadmap for the future. Afternoons are filled with breakouts, but sprinkled in all of the open spots are one on one’s and small meetings with program managers, product folks, field team and a variety of others from the Microsoft company. If you just attend WPC for the content delivered from main stage and breakouts, it is a good value. But if you really take advantage of the time to connect with people, it is an unbelievable opportunity to build relationships with key people across that organization that can be fantastic resources for you to leverage and work with to grow your company. There is no question that the success of HTS has been influenced heavily by our attendance at WPC. We have connected with dozens of Microsoft teams and staff who have helped us grow our company in a lot of areas. It takes a consistent presence and a lot of effort to schedule meetings, connect at receptions and events, find people at parties and lunch, but it is well worth it if you do it well. Of course, there is also the benefit of getting to know the partners who are typically the movers and shakers in the channel because those are the typical attendees. That gives rise to partnering opportunities and other lessons that happen as we build relationships with folks from around the world.

HP and SonicWall are also key partners for HTS and thus on my list of much attend events. They do not hold their conference each year, so it is not as regular as the other events I attend, but when they happen, I will plan to be there. A lot of the same reasons that I called out about WPC apply to these events as well. Great places to connect and grow your relationships and ultimately your business.

So the real question is – which events are on your “must attend” list? I know that WPC is a rather expensive event to attend, but the venue is always superb, the event and content very well done and the opportunity to create relationships that can make a significant difference is there for the asking. Things are tight, which means there will be less people there to compete for the meeting slots and opens the door for more interaction and connections. It will be too late when you hear the feedback that Microsoft put on another fantastic partner conference. We are on the dawn of some great new products with Windows 7, Exchange 10, Office and on the list goes. Can you afford to be in the dark about all that is on the horizon? Don't be one of the partners who says they want to have a deeper relationship with Microsoft but then fail to execute on one of the most important things they deliver to the channel each year - WPC. Your call - just don't talk out of both sides of your mouth at once......

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