The Value of Visibility in the ChannelBy Howard M. Cohen | Print
Conferences, trade shows and other events are a mainstay of the channel. With strict limits on budget and time, how do you decide which events to attend—and why?
ChannelEyes CEO Jay McBain recently posted the "100 Most Visible Channel Leaders - 2016" on his personal blog, where he described his approach to building this list.
"I collected all 16 channel magazines, attended dozens of tradeshows, studied associations, peer groups, bloggers and activity on social media and manually created a master spreadsheet," he explained. "Every time I came across a keynote speaker, top industry list, writer, board member, trainer, community leader, or vendor or distributor executive, I would write their name, company and title down, along with one checkmark. If I came across them again, another checkmark was given."
When asked about how people made the list, McBain replied, "Working at the right job in the right company, combined with a mitt full of plane tickets will get you on my list." But, as he's quick to point out, "Visibility does not equal thought leadership."
While some of the people on his list are simply seeking to disconnect for a few days, McBain estimates that about 20 percent of his highly visible channel citizens are very well-connected—and therein lies their intrinsic value. Meeting up with any of them in the halls of a show can result in being connected with other individuals who are valuable to a given channel partner's business.
McBain pointed out that one of these very well-connected people once introduced him to another individual, who introduced him to Bob Godgart, with whom he helped build Autotask, the company that defined his career. "These connectors are people with value, though not necessarily thought leaders," he explained. He describes them as bridging "the one degree of separation, like Kevin Bacon bridges six."
Determining the Value of an Event
A growing number of channel companies are putting more restrictions on event attendance, and rightly so. Many of the events being introduced simply seek to sell products—not necessarily to convey learning.
In the past, planning for attendance at an event involved reading through the session descriptions and determining which tracks and breakouts to attend. The breakout content at most events is an unknown, unless the presenter is a thought-leader with a great track record. Unfortunately, the presenter too often is a vendor employee with little or no presenting experience … and it shows.
To determine the value of any given event, you'll want to find out who is attending and then identify the people you'd like to meet. You may want to begin a mutually beneficial business relationship, or you may have specific questions, or you may just want to leverage a contact's personal networks.
While this last reason may sound inappropriate or selfish, it's actually neither. Most people who have large personal networks appreciate the opportunity to meet new people, and they place high value on their ability to make connections for others. Most will welcome the opportunity to make introductions for you once they've gotten to know more about you.
The informal meetings you have in the halls at events—or over drinks in the evening—are often the activities that provide the most value.
Always remember that time is your enemy and your budget is limited. So, if you're going to attend breakout sessions, be sure to investigate them thoroughly to assure they will teach, not sell.
Most important, find out who you will have access to and reach out to them to set up appointments. The more aggressively you budget your time at the event, the more value you'll derive from it.