Tips for getting the most out of IT Nation or any conference for that matter. I’ve been going to IT Nation for the last ten years so I hope you’ll get something out of my experiences. Even if you are not a Connectwise partner you can use this tips for any conference you attend.
Getting Ready – Before you go
Book your flights and your hotel room. I usually book the hotel as soon as possible and get the flights a little later hoping for a less expensive farther out.
If you can stay at one of the “conference hotels” at the convention center. All the action is happening at the conference. There really is no reason to go anywhere else. You don’t need a car, just use a Mears shuttle or Uber.
Before you leave for the conference do whatever you can to simplify your life. For example, I am on a ton of email aliases so I can keep my finger on the day to day operations in the business but I don’t really need to be. When I travel I remove myself from almost everything I can so that I am not so easily distracted.
Make sure you have and pack your business cards. Conferences are a great place to build relationships with other MSP’s, Vendors and the conference hosts. If you’re not involved with a peer group, this becomes especially important. Don’t just exchange business cards but try to build a quick rapport with the person you are speaking with. If you want some tips on building rapport check out episode 3 of the IT Provider Network Building Rapport with Employees, Customers and Prospects or get and listen to “How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less” by Nicholas Boothman. It’s about a 3hr listen so you may be able to get it read on the plane ride down.
If you don’t yet use Audible, you should. If you signup with the link on the show notes for this episode you’ll earn me a couple of bucks and you’ll get 2 free books when you sign up. You can find the link and the show notes at itprovidernetwork.com/itnation
Download and configure the Conference App. This will be your conference playbook. By getting it ahead of time you can plan the sessions you want to attend and not have to worry about carrying a bunch of stuff around a very large Convention Center.
Speaking off sessions. This will be my tenth or eleventh IT Nation and in my opinion, there are three type of speakers
- Connectwise Educators – These sessions are usually done by a Connectwise employee either with or without a customer. Usually, these are how-to type sessions about how to use the software better.
- Connectwise Partners – These sessions are usually done by a Connectwise partner either with or without a customer. They usually have some good content that is loosely associated with the product or service they are selling. It isn’t a sales pitch session.
- Thought Leaders – These are some of my favorite sessions. Broaden your mind and listen to something or someone that doesn’t always look at the world where IT is at the center of it.
Your Unpaid Board of Directors
Think of IT Nation as an unpaid board of directors. Figure out topics you need help with and lock them in your memory. Use these questions as icebreakers when you network at the event. Don’t just be a taker though, give your advice freely and completely. Don’t give people BS answers give them everything you have. Remember you can tell 100 people your secret sauce and only 1 of them might actually act on it. Execution is the secret to success and most people don’t have the discipline to do it.
And lastly, before you go, think about signing up for a pre-conference workshop or helping out with the IT Nation Gives event. Sea Level Consulting, Gary Pica / TruMethods, Marketopia, IT Glue and others have pre-conference events for a small extra fee.
IT Nation Gives is a philanthropic event when Connectwise shuttles you a location in Orlando and a group of MSP’s and Connectwise employees work to help an organization that helps people. Last year we painted an entire apartment for three vets that lived there, the year before we worked at the Orlando Boys and Girls club. IT Nation Gives is basically a four-hour event. It will make you feel good to participate and start off the conference with some good karma. You can get more information about the IT Nation Gives event on the show notes at itprovidernetwork.com/itnation
At the Conference
Get settled into your room. I always like to get my suitcase unpacked and hang up some shirts so I don’t look like I just rolled out of bed. Once you are settled in – get out of your room and start networking and getting the lay of the land.
I’m forwarning you, bring some comfortable shoes, the Orlando convention center is HUGE and depending which hotel you are staying in you could have quite a walk to the events.
Find the registration desk, get registered, and confirm the agenda then get into the welcome reception!
Don’t Screw Off …too much
Attend as many sessions as possible. I have seen a bunch of people over the years that have blown off whole conferences. Your prerogative but you aren’t growing your business by going to Disneyland. Have fun there is plenty of time for that at night. I work hard then I play hard!
Make the most of the breaks to meet peers and form relationships. Remember those questions you put together before the event. Now is the time to use them.
Attend the Vendor Pavilion and Demo rooms. ITNation is a great way to look at other solutions that might help you increase your profits or become more efficient.
Take advantage of the Show Specials – some great deals can be had at ITNation but only buy what you need not what you want. Make sure the purchase makes sense for your business.
Attend as many of the after parties as you can. They are another great way to network and because there is alcohol involved, there might be some looser lips.
Take some Selfies
If you can, take a selfie with the keynote speaker. You might be thinking this is nuts but the more pictures you have with thought leaders the more you can use them as social proof for your marketing campaigns.
And lastly, make sure you head to the bar. Lots of great friendship building, coopetition and vendor relationships happen at the bar.
When you are back at HQ
Get on LinkedIn and make an electronic hookup with your new connections. Always include a note reminding them where you met and offer to share something you found very valuable at the conference. For example, “Bob, I saw the new offering from BoltMSP, if you missed it you can check it out at www.boltmsp.com”
Depending on your business and whether or not you think you will either sell to or partner work your new contact, think about adding the contact into your CRM or PSA. This may or may not be applicable for you but if you see value in it add the new connections into your CRM or PSA. Make sure you code them appropriately as a partner, vendor or competitor.
Reflect on what you have learned at the conference, put together a presentation for your team. It’s important that you share your new knowledge with your team. Make them feel that you are thinking about them and took the time to document some key highlights from the conference. This will cement the really good stuff in your head and allow you to teach your team. If you came back with an idea you want to implement document an action plan and execute. Remember anyone can get ready to get ready but to be successful you need to put thoughts into action. You need to execute.
It’s A Wrap
That’s it for Episode 22 of the IT Provider Network. If you’re heading down to IT Nation keep an eye out for me. I will be with my team at the IT Nation Gives event and I will let the mailing list know where I am at least one of the nights. If you not on the podcast mailing list sign up at the itprovidernetwork.com
Have a great day and remember We Are IT!
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