How to make the most out of a helpdesk / ITSMF / service desk tradeshow
1. Plan your session strategy in advance
Get a hold of the convention session topics and timetables as soon as they are released. These often comes out months before the actual event. Make a note of topics that interest you. Note the speaker. Research other topics that you don't know about - even a cursory look with deepen your overall knowledge of the industry and its relevance to the conference. Your overall knowledge as an ITSM worker will deepend as you do this. Who knows, you might just find a topic that you didn't know you needed.
Do something completely different - attend a session that you know nothing about. See the next suggestion.
2. Get out of a boring session
If the session is not doing it for you...leave! Get out of there. No point hanging around in a stale, boring, or irrelevant session. Don't be put off by having to get up and walk. (When in doubt, sit or stand at the back of the room so you can make a discreet exit).
Chances are, if you found the session not to you liking, someone else has too. You will find these people outside also. Talk to them. Discuss with them. This is where one of the biggest values of any conference is to be found - outside the sessions. The networking, discussions and relationships you can build here can be the highlight of your conference.
Other things to do? Visit the vendor booth. During the session times, many of the vendors are sitting around with nothing to do....either that, or you'll see the sales staff madly trying to update their email, or doing some other "business". This is the perfect time to interrupt them. Get their attention. If you're serious about evaluating ITSM software and the like, the time between sessions is the best time for a comprehensive, uninterrupted demonstration.
3. Visit each vendor booth
Make sure you visit each booth and understand why the vendor is there. Seek to understand their take on the market, or what their unique selling point it. Ask the vendor to demonstrate how they can alleviate a specific pain point in your organization with their solution/tool. Learn what the alteratives are, even if you are not in a position to change solutions, be aware of the innovation and technology within the industry. If need be, schedule a personal demonstration outside of the convention.
Vendors possess huge knowledge about the industry - remember they work in it everyday, at the coal face of ITSM workers. Speak to the technical people at the booth - the system integrators and learn from them.
Get demos, get swag, get knowledge.
4. Network, introduce yourself. Be Human.
Get around. Make yourself known. Meet people, talk, discuss - swap battle stories and business cards. Learn from your peers - seek actionable content and ideas. The sessions may be good for theory, but talking with people is good for action.
Convert your on-line persona into a real-life person! Shake hands with someone you've only ever meet on Twitter, Facebook or any other on-line forum. Convert your digital relationships into human relationships. This will make the world of difference.
5. Take actionable notes
Purchase a new notebook for the event. Split it up into several sections.
- General notes
- Things I want to implement
- Things I need to research
- Things to show other people
- Products to evaluate
Keep notes brief and to the point. Focus on noting points that you can action.
6. Get value for money - ask questions
You pay good money to be at a conference - make sure you get value. If you have a question, or would like further information about a session/topic, seek out the speaker and try to arrange some one-on-one time to discuss the subject in more depth.
Don't be afraid of asking "simple", or practical questions - conferences often operate at a higher, theoretical level, and it takes a skilled speaker to present material like this in a pragmatic fashion. Challenge the speaker, or body of knowledge to break the subject down in to practical terms. Chances are, there are many people in the audience also wishing they could ask your question. You're not alone.
7. Followup, get involved
Schedule time after the convention to review notes, discuss ideas and work on action plans. If you're at the convention with a work collegue, arrange a time (preferrably beforehand) to discuss and strategize.
Conferences often have on-line discussion forums, blogs and chat-rooms. Become a lurker. Better still, become involved in these forums. Share, collaborate and learn.
Annual conventions and conferences are a great learning opportunity, and a fantastic way of becoming involved in a community. They are great for establishing networks, catching up with old friends and business associates, as well as making new connections.