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Networking at Networking Conferences
Conferences and trade shows present opportunities at multiple levels. Of course, there's the formal program, which at VoiceCon, has morphed from a focus on PBXs to its present concentration on VoIP and UC. VoiceCon sessions--both breakouts and keynotes - provide great information and case studies about the various technologies, hardware, software and apps that comprise a modern enterprise communications solution.But, there's another kind of information exchange and networking that takes place at VoiceCon and any other event that's worth its salt. The formal term for this exchange is schmoozing -- where two, three or however many vendors get together and discuss whether and how they can work together, everything from distribution agreements to mergers and acquisitions.
VoiceCon presents unique opportunities, because the segment of the industry it covers is so much in flux.
During the '90s, the opportunities for this type of networking were limited, because the PBX industry looked like the old computer industry - vertical stacks with each vendor providing everything from call control to phones. Now that the industry is becoming much less vertical, it's clear that no single vendor can provide a complete solution--UC imposes the requirement for multiple vendors and system integration support.
But how do potential partners find each other? How can a small vendor get in front of a large vendor, and how do large vendors know which small vendors to invest time with? And how can the right people get involved in the conversation at the right time?
You'd think that'd be easy, but trust me, it isn't. And that's why at VoiceCon Orlando 2008, the UCStrategies.com team decided to host a wine tasting to help vendors network, and I want you to know that the fact that I live in Napa Valley and love great wine had NOTHING to do with that decision!
We actually had two vendor-only wine tastings -- one for senior executives and another for senior level directors and managers. We screened the invitation list to make sure the small vendors would be good potential partners for the large vendors. We launched this set of wine-tastings at VoiceCon Orlando 08, held another two tasting at VoiceCon San Francisco and again in Orlando last month.
And there have already been results -- major vendors have announced partnerships with many of the smaller vendors we introduced them to at last year's wine tastings. And it's clear that our decision to have two separate tastings was right -- strategic partnerships require interaction at multiple levels.
One success story is Psytechnics, an IP voice and video performance management company from the UK. I was introduced to the Psytechnics by a person at Microsoft, who recognized that the industry would benefit if there was one performance management system used in a multi vendor UC environment -- and they all are. This is the type of project I love: Helping a small company while helping the industry. Psytechnics now has relationships with Microsoft, IBM, Cisco and several others that will be announced in the coming months.
The message here for vendors is clear: Leverage VoiceCon for more than reaching enterprise customers; Network with potential and existing strategic partners from both the vendor and channel communities. If you would like advice on how to network at VoiceCon or any other conference send me a message at [email protected]