Saturday, October 23, 2010

Are You Ready For The Big Shows?

This was originally written and published on the ConnectWise IT Nation blog. A special thanks to Christy Sacco for helping pull these tips together.

Here it comes. The biggest week in event action for 2010. The HTG Q4 meetings ahead of the ConnectWise Partner Summit. It doesn’t get any more action packed and important than this week. So the question is – are you ready? Not for some football – but to get the most value out of a very long, tiring, expensive and draining week. We all spend far too much time and money on events not to prepare properly. But more often than not, that is how many folks come to an event – totally unprepared to maximize the value they will receive. Most of the value from industry events comes from the preparation that happens ahead of time. If you just show up (and don’t get me wrong – that is step one), you will miss much of what could be in store for you. You have to be intentional to maximize your time and investment.

So where does one start to prepare? First you take care of the necessary travel, lodging and registration tasks. Plane tickets booked – check. Hotel room reserved – check. Registration site completed – check. You would be amazed at how many forget these core tasks and show up without a place to stay or no registration completed. Seems pretty basic but never hurts to double check the dates and times and verify things one last time.

Once you are set to attend it is time to begin reaching out to see who else will be on hand. Some events have online tools to schedule meetings and such. For HTG – you pretty much know that everyone will be there so this is not as big a requirement. But if there are people you would like to connect with – send an email well before the event and begin to process of finding a time to meet. Schedules become very full at events like this – so the early bird often gets the appointment. I find this kind of one on one face to face meeting as the most valuable part of any event. That is where you get the straight scoop.

Here are some other areas to consider as you prepare to get the most from your time. Don’t wait until the last minute – start today!

• Pack plenty of business cards. Order new ones if yours have an error. (Plenty of places turn them around quickly.)
• Review the agenda prior to arrival and identify the best sessions to attend.
• Review the vendor sponsor list and make plans accordingly (set appointments with your current vendors and seek out new ones).
• Attend the vendor exhibit hall and seek out 3 new vendors to learn about.
• On that same note, be selective in which vendors you engage with socially. If you have no intentions of ever engaging with a vendor, don’t let them buy you drinks all night or take you out to a steak dinner.
• Set goals.
• Attend the social functions.
• Wear your company shirt. This is especially impactful if you have multiple people attending the event. It is important to market your company to vendors, speakers, industry media and others just as you would prospective end users.
• If you are part of a community – be sure to wear your group shirt on the day with other community members. (Friday is Orange Shirt Day for HTG!)
• Introduce yourself at meals.
• Ask questions in sessions.
• Stay for the whole event. Why would you spend money on airfare to cut out before the event is over?
• Let your office know you will be out of the office and mostly not accessible. You can’t do both well.
• Take advantage of opportunities to speak to the media or be on a panel.
• Take an interest in people as people. Ask open ended questions to get people talking about themselves. Think of 3 questions, in advance, that work for you to break the ice in any setting.
• Thank vendors, speakers, and the event hosts for making the event possible.
• Write things down. You won’t remember them if you don’t.
• Complete the post event survey. They really do value your feedback.

Be sure you come to the event with some specific goals in mind. If you can’t define why you are attending, it probably is a poor investment of time and money. Write those goals down, share them with your team at home and the people you will associate with at the event. And then focus and make sure you achieve them. Vision without execution is hallucination. Don’t just think about goals – execute! Examples may include meeting 5 new people, bringing back one new thing to implement or introducing 3 new people to each other.

Finally – the biggest mistake people make when attending an event is to go as a sponge. They soak up all kinds of information and never do anything with it post event. You need to write down things that matter. Preschedule a meeting with your team at home to review what you learned. Write an event attendance report that highlights the people you met, the companies you need to follow up with, the tasks that need to be accomplished and anything else that needs to be done. It has to be done to have any value. So many dollars are spent on events these days with so little impact because attendees never go back home and share or execute one thing. It really begins with one thing – identify the most important and go knock that one down first. Then move to the next one. But do something. Otherwise just stay home!

No comments: