John Tunbridge, Product Development Manager, reflects on the benefits of attending industry conferences.
Having recently returned from another Citrix Synergy1 conference in the United States, I took a moment to reflect on how I was fortunate to work at an organisation that understands the benefits - both tangible and intangible - of attending industry conferences. When I started at Byte, I brought this mindset from my previous employer and to Byte’s credit, they have adopted it and now send staff to several conferences on an annual basis. With this in mind, I thought I would share a few of these benefits so that other organisations might also consider if this would strengthen them.
While traditional classroom training has its place, the content covered tends to be very broad. For a Subject Matter Expert, this is problematic as they already have an extensive knowledge base in their field of expertise. We have all attended a five-day training course which likely had one day of content that was useful. Then when you ask a specialised question about that content, the trainer doesn’t know the answer. These training courses have to appeal to a wide enough audience to get sufficient attendee numbers to make them feasible. Training at conferences has a much sharper focus as there is a much larger pool of attendees and the sessions are typically broken down into 30 to 60 minute timeslots with many running concurrently. This allows these sessions to cover niche topics and allows an attendee to maximise their time investment by just attending those that are of interest to them. These sessions are also typically hosted by a global expert on that specific topic so any questions can be answered on the spot.
A conference is a great place to meet people, share knowledge, and make connections. Attendees typically include vendors, industry experts, partners, and customers, each of which are also looking to connect with like-minded people. Valuable connections could develop from either formal (e.g. sitting down with a global product owner for a deep dive discussion on their product) or informal (e.g. an impromptu discussion with another partner/customer over dinner and a drink about how they have overcome a challenge you may be experiencing) encounters. The vendor hosting the event will typically place a significant focus on creating a fun environment and organising events to facilitate these connections. Personally, I have built an extensive list of contacts that I have met at conferences whom I can call or email for guidance.
Reward and Recognition
Sending staff on international travel to represent your organisation at a conference sends a strong message to them they are valued and trusted employees, and that you are investing in their development. From the point of view of your staff, having an opportunity to travel is a welcome break from the normal work routine and can - with the addition of personal leave - allow some time to do tourist activities. From this perspective, it can sit alongside any other reward and recognition components and contribute in forming a workplace culture which attracts and keeps talented staff.
Similar to the last benefit, attending conferences tells your vendors that you are invested in their products and a shared future. There, you can learn about their existing and upcoming products, make connections, and together form a roadmap on how you can evolve. In turn, this raises the profile of your organisation within the vendor and as a valued customer/partner, this translates to more opportunities for your vendors to invest their resources in achieving your goals.
Within Byte, we have seen all of these benefits over the last couple of years contributing to our teams, workplace culture, and our relationships and understanding of our customers, partners, and vendors.
¹ For the uninitiated, Synergy is Citrix’s global customer conference. Held yearly, it brings together Citrix, venders with complementary products, industry experts, partners, and customers, to exchange knowledge and make connections.
Product Development Manager
John is a Senior IT specialist with extensive background in designing, implementing, and supporting complex technology solutions and services.