ALL HANDS ON DECK! In just 10 days, Continuum will be hosting Navigate 2014, our inaugural user conference, in Boston. With can't-miss MSP networking opportunites like Navigate just around the corner, we want you to make sure you're properly prepared for these lucrative prospecting and relationship-building industry events. Navigating conferences can be rough waters. That's why we've assembled a useful guide so you get the most bang for your buck at the next IT channel event you attend!

Our very own Ray Vabrel, Director of Technical Account Management, currently contributes to SMBnation’s blog with his ‘Breaking Bad’ series. Ray’s blog posts focus on developing new practices and approaches to, as Ray puts it, “… get things done.” We're so sure Ray will steer you in the right direction at your next conference that we're sharing an excerpt from one of his latest posts, “Breaking Bad Part 6: Navigating the SMB Industry Events Landscape.”

4 Steps to Ensure You Get The Most Out of Your Next Industry Event:

1. Survey the Events Landscape. 

Literally map out “the lay of the land,” and research all of the events that are currently available. A good place to start is associations and peer groups, as well as your vendor and distributor partners. Ask yourself, “What are my goals?” and “What events are currently out there that I want to attend?” Regarding goals, make a list of what you personally and professionally hope to gain by attending each event, and then share with your team. This way, you can collectively decide what everyone hopes to achieve by attending an event, especially if you are looking to send staff with you or in your place. 

Navigating the amount of industry shows can be daunting, even if you are just looking at those offered by your association and vendor partners. To help, check out the list of the Top 100 2014 partner conferences on The VAR Guy web site here (this list also includes Continuum’s Navigate User Conference (Sold Out) to be held Sept. 21-23, 2014 in Boston ). Registration is required to view the list; it’s free, and worth the extra step. Another is the 2014 Technology Tradeshows & Conferences listing provided by mobile platform provider ChannelEyes. This list is exhaustive and covers the majority of IT events throughout the world.

2. What are Your Reasons for Attending?

In the first step, I mention that goal-setting is important when it comes to the trade show maze. Once you and your team have clearly defined these goals and expectations, develop a playbook of what you hope to accomplish during your time at the event. Are you looking for new products to offer to your customers? What products do you want to see demo’ed? Are you looking to hire new techs and want to set up interviews? Or, maybe you just want to start out by creating and building solid connections with other like-minded MSPs?” The best-case scenario is you return to your desk armed with useful information and knowledge that you can implement into your everyday business operations and best practices.

3. Budget: 

Create a separate trade show/travel budget if you haven’t already done so. Don’t load up the front end of the year so that you don’t have any money left by the busy fall season. Consider cost. Is the event close enough where you can drive rather than fly? If it lasts more than one day, do you have the funds for lodging, meals and other reasonable travel expenses? Don’t procrastinate when it comes to registration. Many events offer early bird specials with significant discounts for signing up early.

4. The Pre- and At-Show Plan:

So you have decided which shows to attend, and you and possibly relevant staff members are on-site. What’s your “plan of attack?” Some of the things you can to plan prior to the show are meeting with your staff and coming up with a plan.

Scout the agendas for each show that you and your staff are going to attend. Then, decide who the best person is for each. For instance, if the event is a vendor road-show that’s based on product updates and revisions, then send a tech. If it’s an association event that will cover myriad topics, then that’s an event for the CEO or the managing partner. If it’s more sales-focused and includes new product pitches and strategies, then send your best sales person. 

You can decide ahead of time if you are all going to stick together, or split up to “divide and conquer” the show floor and sessions. Many of the events list their agendas ahead of time, allowing you to earmark the specific ones you want to attend. If you decide to bring employees with you, have them take notes at the sessions you want them to attend, and then make it a point to discuss what each individually obtained from the event. You might plan a show wrap up dinner once back in town to compare notes and evaluate the event. Is it one you’ll want to attend next year or scratch it?

You can also decide how you plan to navigate the exhibit hall portion if it’s a larger vendor-based show. Some of the smaller road shows or one-day conferences don’t have an exhibitor component, so if you want to start small and just get a hint of what’s available, starting local for a one-day event might make the best sense.

For Ray’s complete article, click here.

There you have it! With Ray’s insight and experience traveling to conferences himself (literally, we never see this guy), you can come up with a great action plan before attending your next industry event. Just remember to plan it out!


Want more of Ray's words of wisdom? We've compiled his best blog posts into this eBook!