For the first time in several years, I was able to attend InfoComm. Before attending the show however, I was fortunate enough to be a speaker at UBTech. UBTech is a trade show/conference about IT and AV in higher education. CCUMC, which I wrote about back in November of this year, worked with UBTech as a program partner, which is how I got the invitation. In my experiences over the past couple of years, this show is by far the most valuable for me.
If it was valuable to me as a consumer and you serve as an integrator or manufacturer to a higher ed market, then it should be valuable to you as well. Why?
My experience this year is that all the people I met at UBTech were people in a position of decision making. They were directors of IT departments, a couple of academic deans, many CIOs and plenty of technology managers. Every person I spoke with at the show had the ability to go back to his or her campus and make a purchasing decision. This clientele is one that many AV focused conferences have struggled with attracting. Other shows tend to attract the more technical crowd looking for technical knowledge and new products. But many of those people need to go back and pitch a sale to their bosses on campus. At UBTech, you are dealing directly with their bosses.
Unlike many other conferences, this one was AV focused, but clearly an IT conference as well. Perhaps that is why so many conferences have a hard time attracting the crowd with purchasing power. They sell themselves as AV conferences. UBTech sells itself as the place where IT and AV converge. In higher education, particularly, this balance of IT and AV gives more senior people the opportunity to consider going because they feel the conference will be more broad.
Perhaps one of the best things you could do as a manufacturer or an integrator is to send your designers and salespeople to every concurrent session. This gives them several opportunities. First, if you are a national integration company you can get to meet leaders in the higher ed AV/IT world from all over the country. Specifically, by attending sessions you get to make face contact with dozens of potential clients. Second (and most importantly), you get to sit down and LISTEN and LEARN. So often in the life of a sales person, company owner or designer you are doing more talking than listening. This is natural, of course, as you are trying to make a sale. I believe that listening to people who actually use the technology and have discovered what works for them is really the best way to learn how to design and sell future systems. You can hear about the successes and the failures and which features are used and which are not. From there, the selling and designing become so much easier because you are not talking a client into something, you are just giving them what they need.
A huge benefit for me at UBTech is that I was able to actually speak to people at the booths. As much as I love InfoComm and am amazed as I walk around the show floor, I can count on one hand the number of times I have been able to have a substantial conversation with a vendor. This is understandable: I am an end-user, by myself. You compare that with a regional distributor with a team of six people, I know who I would choose to speak to as a salesperson. UBTech is not like that. I talked to people at about three-fourths of the booths for five minutes or so. You know, the usual — spend a few minutes learning about products to see if you have any interest. Of those booths, there were about ten that I spent more than fifteen minutes speaking in detail about their products. During this time I did not feel like I was trying to be shooed away so the staff could talk to a bigger fish.
The final reason that you as a tech manager or integrator want to go to UBTech is that it’s a conference that centers on higher education. This allows you target your marketing during the show very directly. Do you have products or services that are actually aimed at the corporate market? If so, don’t bother bringing them. Presumably, you have staff that are dedicated to the education vertical market. Make sure they are the staff that you send to this conference. I spent a some time at the FSR booth with Gina Sansivero, and they did it right. FSR had a booth on the floor, with their education products on display and their education representative staffing the booths. They knew their target audience and directed their display at them.
Next year, UBTech is at The Mirage in Las Vegas. If you are reading this and holding onto one last excuse, “I would love to go, but I can’t miss InfoComm,” I’ve got good news for you: UBTech takes place in the days preceding InfoComm. This year the closing keynote was at noon on Wednesday, giving you plenty of time to head on over to the show floor. I am already planning on going (and I don’t like Vegas) because of the value I got from it this year. Will I be seeing you there?