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Attending My First-Ever Enterprise Connect: Tips of Advice

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I’m about to head to my first in-person Enterprise Connect and my first enterprise communications show. Getting the most out of this show as a newcomer is a daunting task. Fortunately for me, I have a roster of expert attendees I could tap for their advice on how to have the best Enterprise Connect experience possible.
My expert contributors had plenty of insight—but nearly all of them agreed: The first rule of a trade show is comfort, comfort, comfort. I also gained insight into what everyone is looking the most forward to—personally and professionally.
Here are the experts and veteran Enterprise Connect attendees I tapped:
Blair Pleasant, No Jitter contributor, President & Principal Analyst of COMMfusion—Pleasant’s presentation “UCaaS Plus CCaaS: What's Real, What's Hype, and What's Next” begins Monday, March 21 at 9:00 a.m. She will be joined by a panel of subject matter experts to discuss when and how UCaaS + CCaaS could become a reality, resulting in new benefits for your company.
Melissa Swartz, No Jitter contributor, founder of Swartz Consulting—Swartz will teach attendees about “Avoiding The Gotchas In a Cloud Migration” on Tuesday, March 22, at 9:00 a.m. She will also facilitate “Coping with the Chip Shortage and Supply Chain Issues” on Wednesday, March 23, at 2:00 p.m. and discuss “Real-World Lessons in Driving User Adoption" on Thursday, March 24, at 9:00 a.m.
Sheila McGee-Smith, No Jitter contributor, Founder, McGee-Smith Analytics—The contact center queen herself will lead “Who Should Be Making Contact Center Decisions in 2022? IT? Customer Service? Marketing?” Monday, March 21, at 2:00 p.m. with panelists from Five9, Genesys, Google Cloud, NICE, and Salesforce.
Beth Schultz, VP of Research & Principal Analyst, Metrigy— Former Enterprise Connect program co-chair and editor in chief of No Jitter, Schultz will be a panelist during our Locknote on Thursday, March 24, at 11:15 a.m., alongside McGee-Smith and Swartz.
Martha Buyer, No Jitter contributor, Telecommunications Lawyer—Buyer will be a panelist during “Managing E-911 for Compliance and Safety” Monday, March 21 at 11:15 a.m. You can also find her Tuesday, March 22, at 3:00 p.m. discussing “The Etiquette, Ethics, and Efficacy of Metaverse and VR-Enabled Communications.”
And here’s how they answered my questions on the best way to set myself up for success.
Mental and physical preparation: Plan ahead, then pace yourself
Don’t go into the show with the idea that things will just fall together. Everyone emphasized the importance of planning ahead to keep details straight and optimize every day. Here are some of the strategies each person recommended:
Figure out what sessions you’ll attend ahead of time when you can go to the exhibit hall, which sessions you want to attend live and which ones are better to watch at a later date. Print out your schedule with the sessions, meetings, receptions, etc. “I always have a printed copy of my schedule and calendar since meetings are constantly changing, and it’s easiest to make notes on paper. Leave yourself time between meetings and give yourself enough time to get from one place to another.” –Pleasant
“One week in advance, I look at the schedule for the show and pick the sessions I want to attend. I use the tool on the website to add them to my calendar. I also make a list of the booths that are 'must-see' and 'nice to see.' Then, I add in other events, briefings, etc., that I’m invited to—to get a good idea of what my schedule will look like. I’ve found doing this in advance helps me because things are so hectic once I’m at the show it’s hard to find time to prioritize the activities.” –Swartz
Swartz added, “Once I get my high-priority items on my calendar, I can see where I have room for changes and flexibility. There will always be changes and last-minute decisions, so it helps to have a framework in advance so I know what I absolutely have to do and what can be adjusted on the fly. I also try to carve out a couple of windows during each day to check email, etc., and respond to anything urgent.”
“One day in advance, if I arrive early enough, I make sure to get my badges and get signed into the show. Usually, the lines are shorter, and sign-in is much faster the day before.” –Swartz
And, McGee-Smith said, the first step to managing an overbooked schedule is to avoid it: “Say no. On-site, there’s only so many hours in a day.”
“The best way to mentally prepare is to create a calendar for the event and schedule all the keynotes, sessions, and one-on-one meetings you plan on attending. As well as general info such as show floor, conference, and meal hours (make sure you adjust for local time zone and don't forget to include the locations!) Also, take into account where everything is located, and build in time from getting to point A to B. –Schultz
“As far as physical prep, it's trite but true—wear comfortable shoes, and maybe pack some band-aids just in case. Also, don't overdo it at evening receptions and dinners so you can be fresh at it again in the morning.” –Schultz
“As a presenter, I study my materials so that I’m ready if someone asks something beyond the scope of what I know. I want to be a well-prepared speaker who can ‘go with the flow’ when things come up.” –Buyer
Avoid information overload
There’s so much to learn and so little time in which to learn it all—so how do people keep their brains from overflowing during a show? Our attendees’ strategies ranged from careful portioning of their time and attention to just accepting that they would not be able to absorb everything on the first try. McGee-Smith even advocated for taking time outs: “Build breaks into your calendar, and go back to your room when necessary.”
“I take copious notes that I can refer back to at a later date. I don’t attend many sessions live. Instead I watch/listen to them the following week when I’m not as busy and can retain more information. Having access to the presentations and recordings is extremely helpful, especially when there are so many competing sessions and you can’t attend them all.” –Pleasant
“I can’t absorb it all. I don’t even try. I make sure that I know how to find out more about the things that catch my attention, so I can dig into them further when things are calmer. I look at high-level trends and changes in the industry. The show is a fantastic place for discussions with all kinds of interesting people; for me, that’s probably the biggest win. While the technical and product info is important, I can dig into that later when it doesn’t compete with the opportunity to make connections and have meaningful discussions.” –Swartz
“Take notes, and review and elaborate on them while still fresh in your mind.” –Schultz
Pick Your Tech Carefully: It’s your best friend
Your mobile device will be your best friend at the show, our frequent attendees agreed. They also had more specific advice on how to remain powered up and when to leave the laptop in the hotel room.
“My cell phone is my best friend; it has my calendar, collaboration tools, email, etc., and I find that I text a lot during the show. I also use the camera. Ironically I don’t use it much for calls.” –Swartz
“Because I'll have many meetings, a laptop with a good battery is a must, and of course a mobile device with all your regular comms work apps. A pair of noise-canceling earbuds/headsets is great, too, for quiet time or making phone calls while at the venue.” –Schultz
“While I love having my laptop, it’s too heavy to carry around while going from meeting to meeting and session to session, so I just bring my iPad. Remember to take advantage of charging stations when you can.” –Pleasant
A show is a marathon—and like a marathon, proper preparation starts with the shoes
Remaining comfortable during the show is key to a good experience, and that experience starts with the shoes, all of our attendees agreed. As McGee-Smith put it, “I’m going to be in running shoes the whole time. Not worried about style!"
Swartz prepares even more: “I bring a first aid kit that includes ibuprofen, some sort of stomach-settling formula, and band-aids. I try to avoid burnout by planning and treating the show as a marathon, not a sprint. If I stay out too late and get behind on sleep in the first day or so, it’s almost impossible to catch up later. I also try to recognize when I am mentally tired and take a break outside. Even 10-15 minutes outside helps me to reset.”
Like other attendees, Schultz emphasized the importance of remembering where the conference is: “The weather should be nice, take advantage of the outdoors when possible for a bit of reviving."
Other tips our attendees had: bring a light layer to handle air conditioning, and pack a snack or two—in case you miss a meal.
"It's impossible not to get overwhelmed," Pleasant noted. “But remember to breathe and drink lots of water.”
Finally, have something to look forward to
All of my frequent attendees had different reasons for looking forward to the show. Both Swartz and McGee-Smith say they’re looking forward to hearing new product announcements. McGee-Smith said she’s also looking forward to how people react to those announcements.
“Also, the session The Cisco/Microsoft/RingCentral/Zoom Cage Match presented by Brent Kelly and Phil Edholm is always excellent and on my ‘must-see” list,’ Swartz added.
But it’s not all learning about the news that makes the show so enjoyable. Pleasant said, “The best part of EC, even when there’s no pandemic, is seeing friends and colleagues. I enjoy the receptions and dinners where I can socialize and catch up with people I don’t see often enough.”
Schultz balanced both the pleasure of learning about new technology and connecting with attendees. “As exhausting as a trade event can be, it's also invigorating to be able to hear about and see technology in action, as well as shake hands and chit-chat with old and new acquaintances.”
As for what to do the day after the show ends, Swartz said she finds it helpful to have a light schedule. “No heavy brain-work allowed!” You’ll need some time to think about what you saw and recover from the marathon.
At Enterprise Connect 2022, we've got you covered on everything from contact centers and customer experience to unified communications and workplace strategies. No Jitter readers can take $200 off registration using promo code NJNews22, and the last day for pre-show pricing is March 20, 2022. Register today and plan your sessions by viewing our schedule. If you’re unable to join us in Orlando, please register for the virtual portion of this hybrid event.