ITNation Connect 2023: Maximize Your Time As An Attendee
Attending industry events like ITNation Connect can be a big investment for technology services business owners.
As vendors, we begin preparing for annual events like ITNation pretty much immediately after we attend the previous years’ event. Here are some of the ways we prepare for an event in order to ensure we get the most “bang for our buck”.
ITNation Connect is a great opportunity to network, learn, and showcase your expertise. To make the most out of this investment, it’s crucial to approach the event strategically. While you may not be considering where you’ll be in five or ten years, many technology service provider owners go on to start software companies. Many choose to grow through M&A. Events like ITNation provide great content from the stage, but many attendees say they value the interactions with their peers at events more than the show sessions themselves! ITNation Connect has an entry price of US $1100.00. You’re on-site for three or four days, adding at least $2000.00 in travel expenses not including air travel – for each member of your team that is attending! Add this to the time you spend out of the office as opportunity cost – you are physically unavailable to support or generate revenue while you’re sitting in sessions. Event attendance is expensive, so read on to learn how you can find equal or extra value from your time spent in Orlando.
Set Clear Goals
Before you pack that bag for ITNation Connect, take some time to define your objectives. Are you looking to establish new partnerships, gain insights into emerging technologies, or expand your client base? Having clear goals will help you navigate the event with purpose. Write them down, bring them with you.
Preparation is Key
Familiarize yourself with the ITNation Connect agenda, speakers, and attendees in advance. Log in to the app and identify the sessions, workshops, and keynotes that most align with your business interests and goals. This way, you’ll make the most of your time and focus on what truly matters to your business. Find other MSP attendees in the app that have already accomplished the things on your “to do” list, and seek them out to have conversations. The app usually provides ways to contact other attendees, so you can pre-schedule convenient times to meet with other MSP owners, or the vendors you’d like to meet with.
Have an Elevator Pitch Ready
A concise and compelling elevator pitch is your ticket to making a memorable impression. Clearly communicate what your technology services business does and what sets it apart from the competition. Your elevator pitch should be succinct yet informative. Set a timer and practice. Have your team do the same.
Bring Plenty of Business Cards and a Sharpie
In today’s digital age, business cards may seem old-fashioned, but they remain a vital networking tool. Ensure you have enough cards to distribute to potential contacts. You don’t need to drop them in the fish bowl, but you may want to give them out to your peers when you meet with them. Don’t want to carry a big box of business cards? I recently ordered an NFC Business Card from VistaPrint. Simply tap them on the phone of the person you want to share your contact information with!
I always bring a Sharpie to make a note on the back of any business card I’m given. A card with a high-gloss finish won’t always allow you to write on it with a pen.
At the end of my trade show day, I go back to my hotel room, send picture of those business cards back to my assistant in the office to log into our CRM, and connect with anyone I wasn’t already connected with on Linkedin.
Engage in Active Listening
During sessions and presentations, be an attentive listener. Take notes and absorb the valuable information being shared. This not only demonstrates your respect for the speakers but also ensures you leave with actionable insights. Don’t be afraid to leave sessions that aren’t providing value. If you’re not sure that it’s the right session for you, seat yourself at the back of the room so you can leave quietly. Is it a keynote by a business “celebrity”? Show up early if you want to make sure to get a seat.
Quality over quantity should be your networking mantra. Engage in meaningful conversations, and try to understand the needs and challenges of the people you meet. Building genuine connections is far more valuable than collecting a stack of business cards. Remember your intentions for the event! Make sure you ask everyone you meet how they are approaching the problems you want to solve. One conversation can often provide enough value to justify the time and money you spent attending.
Tracie Orisko always scopes out the quiet spots at conferences before attendees arrive. She’ll guide anyone she’s speaking with to one of those spots to ensure that the conversation isn’t interrupted. You can steal a page from Tracie’s playbook! (And if you follow her on Linkedin, you can probably steal her spot!)
Want to have better conversations? Breakfasts are ideal. Join a table of people you haven’t met yet. It’s hard to network at a nightclub – and by the time the party roles around, nobody wants to talk business! If you have more than one person attending the event, divide and conquer instead of sitting at the same tables for meals!
Don’t hesitate to ask questions. Remember your intentions? Make a list of open ended questions that you can ask that will encourage people to give long, thoughtful answers! Actively listen to the response and ask follow up questions. This shows genuine interest and can lead to deeper and more meaningful conversations. I always like to ask someone how I might be of service to them in the future. Often this question provides me with opportunities to give referrals to people in my network. The more referrals I give out, the more referrals I receive!
Share Your Expertise
When appropriate, showcase your expertise.
Offer insights or solutions that align with the challenges discussed. Demonstrating your value and expertise can leave a lasting impression on potential collaborators or clients.
Remember, one day you might be in the market to acquire a competitor. Friendly relationships with other MSPs can be collaborative, not competitive. One of my competitors bought my second business – if we hadn’t been friendly already, I doubt the transaction would have been as fast or as favorable.
Aspirations of starting a business that will sell to or through MSPs one day? Be nice. One need only to look at the Reddit forum to see how the industry turns on people they deem to be unpalatable. A very important phrase someone taught me midway through my tenure at Managed Sales Pros was: “You could be right.”
Utilize Social Media and Big Up Other Attendees and Vendors
Leverage platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter to share your experiences and insights from IT Nation Connect. Engage with event hashtags and connect with other attendees online. This not only expands your digital presence but also strengthens the connections you’ve made. The more people you can tag and compliment, the better! Like a vendors swag? Take a photo of it, post it online and tag them! It never hurts to have an appreciative partner! Was a session impactful for you? Post about it and tag Connectwise and the speaker. It’s great for the speaker: they might get another booking from it. It’s great for you: showing the event organizer what you appreciated about the event means a higher chance of more sessions like that the following year!
Attend Booth Time
Many events, including ITNation Connect, have dedicated networking sessions or social events, and they’re usually held in the vendor hall. These provide a more relaxed setting to meet and connect with fellow attendees. Take full advantage of these opportunities to foster relationships. Remember, the event relies on vendor sponsorship to make the event less expensive for you. If no-one talks to the vendors, the caliber of the event deteriorates the next year when they don’t have enough sponsors. Running an event is expensive. That cup of coffee you took two sips of and left on the table likely cost about what your airport Starbucks did. Take a moment to thank vendors for sponsoring, and if you want brownie points, introduce your peers to your favorite vendors right there on the floor. Ian can tell you how being a good partner to his vendors paid off post-exit. The vendors he supported with references, referrals and introductions at events now send him leads for his consulting practice. Be appreciative of the vendors and show them some love.
Mind Your Manners
Keep your hands to yourself.
Watch your booze intake.
If you wouldn’t put it on your own tab, don’t put it on a vendor’s tab. Accepting a drink from a vendor is perfectly acceptable and expected. If you’re not planning to do business with a vendor, don’t run up their bar tab. Don’t think they don’t notice just because they have IPO money. They do. And it’s talked about.
Don’t bring up “third rail” conversation topics like politics or religion. Support who you want, but we’re here to talk business. I cost myself a client saying something negative about a past President at an event this year. While some might say “Good, I don’t want to do business with people that….insert thing here,” most of us can’t afford to alienate half the market!
Don’t be the person we’re all gossiping about when the event ends.
You don’t want to forever be “the guy who who punched the waiter at the bar” or “the guy that got banned from the event for touching someone inappropriately” or “the girl who passed out on the bathroom floor” or “the girl who threw up on the bus after the block party”.
Follow Up Promptly
After IT Nation Connect concludes, don’t let the momentum fade. Send personalized follow-up emails or messages to the people you connected with. Reference specific points from your conversations to show that you value the connection.
Reflect and Apply
Take time to reflect on what you learned at IT Nation Connect and how it can be applied to your business. Implement any actionable insights gained from the event. This ensures that the knowledge you acquired translates into tangible improvements for your business. Remember your intentions. Did you achieve them?
Be receptive to unexpected opportunities or connections that may arise. Sometimes the most valuable interactions happen spontaneously. Stay open-minded and adaptable to make the most of every encounter. Missing the bus to the party doesn’t have to be stressful. Make some new friends and hop in an Uber.
Keep track of the contacts you make and the conversations you have. Consider using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system or a simple spreadsheet to manage this information. Staying organized ensures you can nurture and leverage these connections effectively. Richardson & Richardson has a follow up process for event attendance, if you’d like a copy of it email Ian Richardson!
Evaluate Your ROI
After the dust settles from IT Nation Connect, evaluate whether you achieved your initial goals. Consider the connections made, knowledge gained, and potential opportunities identified. This assessment will help you determine the value of attending similar events in the future. Many people will continue to attend events for the social connections alone.
By approaching IT Nation Connect with professionalism, curiosity, and authenticity, you’ll be well-equipped to forge meaningful connections and gain valuable insights for your technology services business.
Remember, this event is not just an occasion to attend; it’s an opportunity to elevate your business to new heights. Make the most of it!
If you’re looking for more advice on how to maximize your event attendance, Channel Program just launched a three-part livestream series to help MSPs navigate event attendance for maximum ROI. You can register for it here!
See You At ITNation!
Both Ian and Carrie will be onsite at ITNation this year, and we’re looking forward to seeing you! Want to chat with one of us while we’re there? Email us! We arrive on Monday and leave on Sunday.
While you’re waiting, enjoy These “Ghosts of ITNations Past” Posts from blog posts I wrote at Managed Sales Pros:
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