Showtime Planning

The convention season is about to shift into high gear with XChange 2012, iTex, Transform and World Expo occurring between April and August.  This year feels to be one of the better years for MPS.

Besides just offering another reason to go to Las Vegas or visit Orlando, what should you be looking to get out of spending time in class and roaming a show floor? Education, expansion, validation and direction – that’s all.

It’s easy to attend these shows and return with nothing more than a plastic bag full of pens, stress balls and USB sticks; maybe even a bumper sticker or two.

These shows can be a boondoggle unless you know what to look for.  Here are a few ideas:

Evaluate your present MPS status and determine what you need to shore up. By now you should have a pretty good infrastructure around remote meter reads and toner fulfillment.

You should have a decent MPS message, your people should be able to perform decent assessments and you may even have the compensation dilemma solved.  If not, determine the companies and speakers who may be discussing your topics of interest and plan on making contact.  Even if it there is only one person of interest, make it your goal to seek out him directly.

It’s a selling opportunity for them and you. The information you’re seeking most likely does not appear in the general marketing pieces on the table, and a show booth demonstration of software is usually nothing more than an empty, 15-minute slide show. After-show hours are the best time to get the real story – over drinks, no less.  This means you’ll need to qualify heavily before engaging in the post-show sales approach.  Pick their brains.  If they seem valid and valuable, offer to pay them for their time and advice.  This is important.  The value they give their time is a direct correlation to the actual worth of their information.

If they give it away for nothing, that’s all it’s worth – nothing.

If you’re really good at what you do, get a speaking part. Most show attendees love to hear success stories, and a few show promoters love to have real-world presentations. Of course, working ahead of time makes sense when looking for a speaking slot, so get with the promoters early.

Speaking is about more than being seen; it’s about learning more. Once you get into the circle of speakers, two things happen. Folks come up to you and share their stories, and you get to converse with other speakers. When an attendee introduces himself, you have the opportunity to see our industry from a different angle – and learn something new.

When you meet and greet fellow presenters, your opportunity for growth may reach beyond the niche into all sorts of different areas. For example, when I met the keynote speaker for the MPS World Conference over breakfast, we talked about his last trip to Apple and how they were “going to revolutionize textbooks” with the iPad. This was back in May of 2011.

One last issue: each year the debate rages over the value of attending these shows.  Indeed, there are some that are better than others – the last thing you want to see is eight hours of rolling MPS commercials. So be discerning.

I believe conventions do have value, but even more if you approach them with a plan.