For the past five years, I’ve participated in a number of Infusionsoft’s conferences. You’d find me mostly behind the scenes, only sometimes speaking, and often producing content of some kind during the conference. Each time I attend these conferences, I see why people attend over and over again.
I recently returned from PartnerCon, which is Infusionsoft’s three-day conference, exclusively for their consulting partners who have an interest in being current with the latest and most privileged news at Infusionsoft. I authored a recap for every day of the conference (read them here, here and here), but what didn’t make it in those posts was the value that every attendee received.
For semantics, let’s agree that PartnerCon attendees have a “vendor” relationship to Infusionsoft. They use our software extensively, they pay for it (including certifications) and provide software-specific services to each of their clients. Examples of vendor-hosted conferences include MozCon, Inbound and Dreamforce (although, Dreamforce is really in its own category).
I observed that the attendees were significantly engaged into the content, constructively applied the Infusionsoft-dispensed advice to their own businesses and spent a lot of time away from their hotel rooms by networking and collaborating.
By the end of the event, I saw a lot of smiles and truly, delight, on all of their faces. The conversations I eavesdropped on were productive and focused on short and long-term plans for the partners’ businesses and their use of the software. I saw many attendees sharing inside best practices, tools and tips with each other all over the FireSky Resort property.
Surveys sent to attendees after each day reflected extremely favorable ratings on the content and overall experience. I don’t have the official stats, but I can tell you no one gave any low marks during their time. (And trust me, I’ve been to conferences where I was brutally honest with them; surely these attendees could have been if they felt the need to be.)
Did the attendees of PartnerCon receive value from attending? I would definitely say without a doubt that they did. To qualify this, I want to expand into how conference-goers determine value from an event. I’ve summarized six major considerations that might influence your decision to attend a vendor conference:
- Total Cost to Attend
- Content & Speaker Relevance
- Attendee & Peer Relevance
- Venue Quality & Experience
- Networking Opportunities
- Vendor Satisfaction
Let’s see if I can help you better understand these six points.
6 Factors to Consider When Deciding to Attend a Vendor’s Conference
1. Total Cost to Attend
First, you want to calculate the cost of airfare, hotel stay, transportation and meal expenses. Second, you want to calculate the opportunity cost of not attending.
If you are able to sell two, three or four more clients from the lessons learned during your time at the event, will it be worth it? When you know the Customer Lifetime Value (LTV), you can quickly determine the ROI of attending a conference. We’re talking strictly dollars here, but that’s the intent of this question.
Simply, when considering the cost of attending a conference, consider the revenue you can generate following the event.
2. Content & Speaker Relevance
It’s important to carefully consider the value of speakers and main points of their sessions. Why? Just because you like the session topic it doesn’t mean the speaker can really connect with the audience. And just because you see a recognizable speaker, there is no guarantee that they can deliver the content powerfully. An example of this: if President Barack Obama spoke at a software company, how relevant would that be to attendees?
When unsure, assume that the vendor has your best interests in mind. But reading through the agenda and the speakers should help you determine if the topics and presenters are legitimately relevant to you.
3. Attendee & Peer Relevance
At conferences hosted by vendors, it’s not only speakers that count—it’s you. So you want to look for details about the attendees. When you are in the company of like-minded clients, you can get the inside scoop and peer-driven advice on maximizing the use of that vendor.
When perusing an event’s website, look for testimonials, videos and customer commentary of past attendees so you can see if they resemble people like you.
4. Venue Experience
While the event’s management team is chiefly responsible for ensuring a great event, you want to consider the location of where it’s being held. Are there dining options nearby? Is there a local culture or attractions you should check out? Is there easy-access coffee at or near the venue? This all culminates into the perfect venue experience. I’ve been to conferences where the hotel was many miles away from urban life and it was quite difficult to get around, which didn’t help my overall experience. Make sure you do a little homework to see what’s near the venue before you click “Confirm.”
Remember that you usually get the best amenities by opting for the hotel of the event’s choosing, but you don’t have to stay there. Firing up a Kayak search with the dates and postal code will help you find nearby hotels.
5. Networking Opportunities
Related to #3, you want to make sure that the vendor conference you attend has a number of networking opportunities. Why? Say you make between 5-10 amazing connections from the event, whether for business development, leads or even lifelong industry relationships. The way in which those connections can help you in the future may far surpass the cost of the event.
What should you look for? Be on the lookout for mixers, cocktail parties, after-parties and collaborative workshops and even lunches. These are all ways to rub shoulders with fellow attendees and even the vendor’s employees.
6. Vendor Satisfaction
There are two ways to consider your intent when attending a vendor’s conference. If you’re unhappy as a customer and unable to be satisfied, you may be able to contact those putting on the event for discounted tickets to attend. They want you to be satisfied and a cheaper price to gain entry to the event may help address that. On the other hand, you might be enthusiastic about their solution and you will want to attend to show your support for the brand and advocate for them.
As an insider’s tip, as they say, you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. So, it’s best to attend if you are at least moderately happy with a vendor so you can have a positive mindset and be receptive to suggestions and advice throughout the event.
I hope you consider these criteria when deciding if you want to attend your next vendor conference. Sure, there’s some revenue made in events, but consider the big picture, that these events engage you and bring you closer to their solution, so you become a passionate advocate of their company who is satisfied with their product or service.
Want a suggestion for a killer small business conference to attend in 2014? You’ve got to attend #ICON14. It’s a conference hosted by Infusionsoft in Phoenix, Arizona during April 23-25, 2014. It is heavily focused on small business success and will send you home with plenty of easy-to-implement tips and strategies, ranging from newbie to seasoned small business owner. In addition to world-renowned speakers, you will see that it likely meets all the six criteria listed above. Hurry and buy tickets to receive the early-bird discount.