Going to a conference might look like a costly affair with attendance, travel and hotel expenses as well as being away from work with other covering the work load and missed opportunities.
However in n my experience it is what you make of it yourself. Sending someone that is hungry for information and is willing to strike up a conversation with a stranger will give you great benefits from joining a conference like Summit. In fact I would argue that it pays of many times over if you take advantage of the opportunities.
The many sessions should give you a lot of new information and inspiration to do more. Speakers will most likely have Q&A and hope you will interact with them. They also remain after their sessions so you can ask them one to one or give you their contact information, so you can get in contact with them after the conference. Use them! They want to help.
Summit has a bunch of other interaction events like round tables and let’s you hook up with other customers or partners for a talk through their portals or through different chapters. I know that Mike Ehrenberg and the rest of the executives had many sessions with customers to get direct feedback. That is a MAJOR opportunity to directly influence the direction of the product.
The MVPs that where stationed at the Medics desk and we didn’t really see that much traffic, but for those who came to have their questions answered got good help. I had a very nice lady that came back day after day, going back to her co-workers each day for more questions that needed answering and returning for a new round.
Many of the implementation partners and most larger ISVs have social events with their customers and other partners. This is a great way to tie closer bonds with them and talk about the products.
I observed one customer get half an hour with one of the Microsoft program managers to get the very best answers to future strategies on warehouse management implementations for the business. That is some great value and probably covered the travel in itself.
Also the bar at the hotel (if you selected one of the hotels suggested by the event) will probably let you get in contact with some other attendees in a social setting.
Use time to join the sessions you find interesting, but also find time to roam the ISV booths. Interact with other attendees, strike up a chat and exchange business cards. Join the user group events and get to know other partners and users by being social and open to meet new people. You’ll get your moneys worth!
Check out my travel experience and some ISV interviews here: