When Tech Conferences Are Worth The Time and Expense: How To Build The Case To Go
If you work in an IT operations, cybersecurity or tech leadership role, you probably receive several tempting invitations to industry events and conferences every month. They are usually held in comfortable venues with balmy weather and lots of nearby attractions to entertain family members you might bring along.
Your hosts will probably serve up some good food, drink, and entertainment ... but in a working world where there already aren’t enough hours in a week, how can you justify time away at an event in Vegas or Orlando or some other sunny clime?
What keeps a tech event from being a boondoggle, but rather something worth attending given the time, expense, and work that will be temporarily shifted to the colleagues you leave behind?
Making the case
Before you ask your boss to pony up precious T&E budget to fund your trip, you should build a business case to justify your attendance – one that lays out the company’s return on the investment of your time.
Here are four quick suggestions to help you make your argument:
- You will update your skills and knowledge in particular products, applications and technologies in a focused setting, undistracted by the demands of your everyday workload. Training in such a setting generally is more efficient and sticks better than just stealing time from your lunch or the crisis du jour to view vendor training videos.
- In a multi-vendor event like a conference trade show, it’s an opportunity to scope out a range of vendor products and roadmaps, both from your current vendors and their competitors. Knowing your alternatives is handy when it’s time to refresh tech infrastructure and services, whether you end up switching vendors and providers or not. Nothing gives you leverage in a contract renewal negotiation quite like intimate knowledge of potential replacements.
- Given the right kind of speakers, it’s a chance to get a more forward-looking glimpse of the tech horizon to understand what potentially transformative technologies are coming down the road. In a world where we can rarely lift our heads above the tactical fray for more than a few minutes at a time, this kind of long-range reconnaissance is a rare chance to gain intel for more strategic as opposed to reactive technology planning.
- It’s a great opportunity to learn from peers at similar-sized companies in similar industries. Sharing war stories and best practices has value that most seasoned IT leaders will recognize. Your peers can offer unvarnished real-world experiences with particular vendors, technologies, products and services, sharing what has made their lives easier or harder with hiring decisions, sourcing choices, etc. This kind of intelligence is often far superior to what you’ll hear from self-interested vendors or ivory-tower industry analysts and consultants who spend their lives far from the trenches of daily tech operations.
There are other benefits to be had, like bonding with your vendors to deepen those relationships, expanding your professional network, and perhaps enhancing your own industry profile with active contributions to discussions as a speaker, panelist, or participant in presentation Q&As and workshops.
But it’s probably best to limit your pitch to concrete benefits that your trip will accrue to the company.
A tale of two conferences
By way of example, we’d like to compare an upcoming Acronis conference against a conference recently held by one of our esteemed competitors, Veeam.
The Acronis Global Cyber Summit 2019 and the VeeamON conference have a lot in common on paper – we both build data protection solutions and we both chose the same venue, the Fontainebleau Miami Beach Resort – but there are some important differences.
The Veeam event tended to focus its content on technical discussions of its own products, presented by Veeam employees, aimed at IT operations staffers responsible for backing up virtual machines. The event featured few external speakers or partners, and rarely strayed from topics not tied directly to Veeam solutions. (We are told that they also threw a fun party featuring hip-hop star Flo Rida.)
What we’re doing at the Acronis Global Cyber Summit 2019 is a little different:
- The agenda goes well beyond a pure focus on Acronis solutions, though there are plenty of deep-dive sessions for Acronis customers and partners who want to refresh and expand their hands-on skills with our products
- The topics covered are less navel-gazing, offering a more forward-looking survey of the emerging tech landscape, specifically the imminent and transformative convergence of data protection and cybersecurity -- putting you at the forefront of the emerging field of cyber protection
- Our speakers are drawn from the ranks of industry visionaries and luminaries, in addition to an array of talent from Acronis leadership and that of our partners. You’ll be hearing from marquee names like Robert Herjavec of Shark Tank fame and FBI counterintelligence legend Eric O’Neill, not just Acronis product people.
- The agenda addresses a broad audience beyond existing Acronis customers, including tech resellers, service providers, and ISVs. Consequently, its focus is not just on technical topics but includes many sessions on building profitable cyber protection offerings as well as case studies from enterprises customers on the business challenges Acronis has helped them solve. A variety of social events will also provide attendees plenty of opportunities for peer interaction.
Yes, it will be a fun event in a beautiful setting, but you will also find the kind of relevant, timely content, thought-provoking speakers and smart, experienced peer attendees to make the trip worthwhile to both you and your employer.
For more details on the Acronis Global Cyber Summit, see the agenda with our amazing speaker lineup here. Register before August 31, 2019 for the early-bird discount.