With all of the IT events that take place around the nation every year, it can be easy to say "no thanks" when invited to a peer group or user conference. It can be just as easy to accept the invitation, but send one of your technicians in your place. This is not to say that your techs shouldn't be attending these events. They should be. But so should you.
After spending some time at the HTG and IT Nation Conferences in Orlando earlier this year, I was able to get an inside track on the true value that can be taken away from these industry events. So, here are three key takeaways that can come out of IT industry events. if it's possible to do so, make some time in 2015 to get out to an IT event and really take advantage of what's available to you.
#1 - Network, Network, Network
The importance of networking with industry peers can't be stressed enough. Come prepared with a list of your pain points and successes. You never know who you'll run into at these events, and there's a good chance that a handful of people in attendance have gone through some of the same hardships that you may be dealing with. Find out what they did to resolve their issues and, if it applies to your company, apply the same strategies. Often times the most valuable insight doesn't come from the panels and keynotes, but rather the conversations that you'll have with other industry professionals that see the IT world through your lens.
Much like someone may have the answers that you're looking for, you may be able to offer some insight to others looking for guidance. The IT industry is ever-growing and ever-changing, being able to lend a helping hand to someone could help elevate you as a thought leader within the channel. Soon, you may find that you're being asked to offer some insight on a panel or host your own breakout session at an upcoming event.
#2 - Learn About Industry Products
Sometimes the help that you're looking for goes beyond any advice that can be offered up from a peer. Perhaps your in-house help desk is growing at a rate that is becoming too much of an expense for you to continue to manage. Well, if you're at an event that offers a technology showcase or booth sessions (almost all of them do), you'll be able to search for a solution to your problem. Instead of scouring the internet for a solution, you'll be able to have a face-to-face discussion with representatives who know their products inside out. You'll be able to ask any questions that you may have about the product and have them explained to you in full detail until you completely understand what is being offered.
Maybe you find the fit that you're looking for. Maybe you realize that you're better off sticking to your current solution. Either way, you'll have a better understanding of what is available and how it fits into your MSP business.
#3 - Gain an Understanding of Where Your Business/ the Industry Stands
As valuable as it may be to meet new people and learn about new products (and there is value there), one of the biggest things that you can take away from an IT event is knowledge. Attending breakout sessions and keynotes will help provide you with a solid foundation of information on the industry that you are working in. As a Managed Services Provider, your clients are going to look to you and your employees as experts. You should know where the industry is heading, what are the biggest concerns and what to expect in the future.
Maybe you already know about some of this stuff. That's fine. Before you register, take a long look at the schedule and highlight the sessions that you know will hold value for you and your employees. Taking notes can be very helpful as well. As valuable as this information may be for you to hear, it's even more valuable if you're able to take it back and share it with your other employees or even your clients. Often times full presentations or slide decks will be made available by the host of the event afterwards.
Finally, IT events can serve as a measuring stick for you and your business. Maybe you're seeing that your Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) is lagging when compared to the other MSP owners that you're talking to. Perhaps it's the opposite. Either way, you'll leave with a better understanding of where your MSP business stands in comparison to others in the industry.
Make it Happen!
So, if you can say that you're actively attending IT events and taking advantage of all that they offer; keep it up.
If not, it's time to ask around and find an event that fits the needs of you and your business. You'll be amazed at how much you're able to learn and grow in such a short period of time.