Well I just got back from the Channel Vision Expo (colocated at ITEXPO) that was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center this week. I went so I could experience the show first hand and give TA members and vendors an independent opinion as to "what the show's good for" and who should attend the next CVx / ITEXPO which is scheduled for February, 2- 4 2011 in Miami, Florida.
Following is what I think you need to know about this show:
1. WHO RUNS IT The ITEXPO show is produced by TMCnet.com, a publishing organization that's been around quite awhile and is now primarily run by Rich Tehrani, the founder's son. When you read Rich's blog you can see that he's a very involved owner that know's quite a bit about technology. TA vendors have been going to ITEXPO as exhibitors for several years. In the past the show was known to attract telecom equipment vendors.
When I attended the ITEXPO show in LA a year ago, one exhibiting TA vendor asked me not to tell other TA vendors about the show as they wanted to keep it to themselves since they were meeting a good number of telecom equipment resellers.
2. THE AUDIENCE The current ITEXPO "audience" is not a single audience but many audiences that read TMCnet.com's many magazines. To serve the "expo needs" of the many audiences, ITEXPO is really 10 conferences under one roof including: 4GWE, Machine2Machine, SmartGrid, SmartProducts, Cloud Communications Summit, SIP Tutorial, Voice Interconnect & Peering, Social CRM Expo, MSP World and Channel Vision plus a half dozen workshops.
3. THE AGENT HOOK As more agents have been coming to ITEXPO for several years to meet up with telecom equipment partner, the idea was hatched a year ago to create an official "Agent Channel Show" within the ITEXPO event. The idea was blessed by ITEXPO and executed by Berge Keprelian and Martin Vilaboy of Channel Vision magazine. Berge & Martin seemed like good shepherds of the "Channel Vision Expo" idea since both had previously worked at Phone+ magazine and seen the rise of the Channel Partners show, both the top two channel content properties in the telecom industry.
4. THE EXPECTATION I thought (and I think many others thought) that having CVx within ITEXPO was a grand idea and the perfect way to have telecom agents mix it up with the telecom and IT equipment people that they swap leads with at home so much. In addition, West Coast agents that missed going to the Channel Partners show in Washington DC last month because of the distance would logically want to attend the CVx seminar track which seemed fairly similar to the tracks agents see at the CP shows.
Because many CVx presenter's wrote slide decks addressing equipment folk, I think an additional expectation was that many of the telecom and IT equipment people at the other ITEXPO mini-shows would drop in on a CVx seminar track or two to learn about earning residual income through selling network services.
5. WHAT HAPPENED The CVx educational seminar agenda was pretty decent but not more than 20 people were in any of the CVx educational seminars. Some of the later CVx seminars had fewer than 10 people. There were a respectable number of ITEXPO attendees wandering the exhibit hall floor past the CVx exhibiting vendors (see the photo below) but no CVx exhibitor asked me to keep the show a secret so they could have it all to themselves for another season.
6. THE BEST PART OF CVx As an agent, I go to trade shows to meet people who can help my agent business and learn new ideas about what other successful agents are doing with their businesses. So the "best" for me was:
A. Tim Basa's Agent Marketing Seminar - This seminar was the best of any seminar on agent marketing that I've ever seen at any trade show since 1997. Tim Basa is a straight W-2 guy for Nitel but he could easily make it as an agent or an agent marketing consultant.
I do marketing for a living and I didn't know a third of the stuff Tim was belting out in a numbered outline for how to do effective email and Internet marketing.
Luckily he let me video tape the presentation and I'm going to see if he'll let me publish it for TA members.
B. Tem Wu's 4G Seminar - For those of us who continue to miss out on the money coming into those agents who've mastered business wireless, Tem Wu of World Telecom Group threw us a nice lifeline with his session.
His seminar was stolen though by his panelist Desmond Blackburn of Xora, Inc. Desmond spoke enthusiastically and passionately about the smartphone application his company has to help business owners with a mobile workforce keep control up and cost down using the Xora GPS and time clock application for smart phones.
I videotaped Desmond's presentation in hopes of being able to share it in a future blog. Xora's definitely got an app that can get agents into new deals.
C. Dan Foster's MegaPath Keynote on the "Transformed Agent" - Everyone's telling us "old fashioned" agents that we need to get a makeover and start selling UC, apps and "the cloud" but very few of the "everyone" are providing clear examples of existing agents that have made the jump.
Dan Foster of MegaPath rectified that in his keynote address citing several examples of telecom agents that have been around forever that have "seen the light" and have recreated themselves into something that will survive well into our new decade.
An example he gives is Emmet Tidings' agency AB&T agency which is evolving into an applications and unified communications company that looks a lot like Jim Safran's "cloud services" brokerage GreenAppX.
7. MY HUMBLE ADVICE TO CVx I don't know Berge and Martin all that well but they seem like pretty nice guys so I humbly offer the following because I, like many others in the channel, think shows for telecom agents and channel partners can always improve. Following is what I'd do if I were producing the next show. (Note: I do have a small bit of show producing experience. TA was the "educational co-sponsor" of the first four Virgo agent shows in 1997 & 1998. TA also produced one agent trade show on our own in August 1999. It was well received by TA vendors and members but it lost a ton of money so we never did it again.)
A. Write Seminar Content that Showcases Successful Agent/Equipment Marriages - The average telecom agents and channel partner gets pretty well trained on the opportunities of the cloud, wireless, etc. at the Channel Partners ("CP") show and their master agent mini-shows. What they need more of is case studies of successful agencies to copy.
Capitalize on the idea that there's a bunch of IT & equipment guys in the same building and write content designed to bait over any equipment guy curious about the "dark side" of network service residual commission. Make sure you lead the session with a living, breathing example of an equipment guy or two that's successfully selling network service.
B. Write "5 Step" Business "Make Over" Sessions - Do one session for equipment VARs and systems integrators and another for classic telecom agents and channel partners. The main reason attendees come to the show is to steal good ideas from other agencies that have upgraded to more profitable lines of business.
Showcase the "5 Steps" (everyone loves a numbered outline) an example agent made to add equipment or cloud services and another session showing the same upgrade for an equipment VAR and you'll generate a standing room only crowd.
C. Get Cross Promotion Agreements from the Other "Shows" - The vendors that support the show want to meet the equipment guys in the room so you need to get the "equipment show" guys to skip one hour here or there with their own seminar tracks and send all their people to the CVx track. Tell them that free pizza and classic Coke will be served by scantily clad hostesses giving out pocket protectors.
D. Co-op The Show with Master Agents or Budget-Minded Vendors - My impression is that Virgo's Channel Partners show is a fairly expensive show to be a part of while the CVx / ITEXPO appears to be more of a budget show (convention hall vs. hotel, little or no food served, free expo hall passes, etc.)
Find budget minded master agents and vendors that can't currently afford their own in-person "get together" and invite them to "bring your tribe" to the CVx show. Let them have the seminar room before, after or in-between the public educational seminars. I think that what the channel might be open for is a BYOC ("bring your own crowd") show where groups can "use our facilities" with their own groups if you offer them a bit of control over the seminar agenda.
E. Have a Mixer! I don't know how much Time Warner and TNCI spent on their CVx premium sponsorship but you might have invested some of it in alcohol and food in the seminar room right before the exhibit hall opened. That way all the CVx seminar attendees sitting next to each other all day can swap business cards and war stories with a drink in their hand.
8. I RECOMMEND FUTURE CVx / ITEXPO SHOWS IF...
It's not like no one's going to find out that few attendees showed up at the CVx educational seminars - one of the twelve people in the average CVx seminar audience was a Virgo/Phone+/ChannelPartnersconference employee.
If the CVx crew can put together an educational seminar series for their Miami show in February that all but guarantees specific groups of equipment or network service distributors attend then I'd have to highly recommend the show for TA members and vendors.
Without this sort of guarantee the show would still be recommended by me to TA vendors and members but only to those who have a burning desire to meet with the speakers identified on the seminar agendas for the different tracks since there's a high chance that the seminar moderators and panelists will show up.
9. ASK FOR TA's CONFIDENTIAL MEMBER REVIEW - My opinion is not actually as useful as the opinions of TA's members and vendors that were at the CVx / ITEXPO show since I actually go to shows for a living and usually get a free press pass. Unless this blog post causes Berge to ban me from the Miami CVx show I'll certainly be there. To help you decide though about the Miami CVx show though, TA has compiled a confidential review of the CVx / ITEXPO show that's a compilation of the opinions of the TA members and vendors that paid to be at the LA CVx show. The confidential report is only available to paid TA vendors and members that contributed opinions of their own to the report.
To access the report please send your contact information to Dan@TelecomAssociation.com.
10 . SO WHAT SHOWS ARE BEST TO GO TO? - I returned to ITEXPO this year because TA is often asked this very question by both our TA members and vendors. If you're a vendor looking for agents I guess you need a show that knows their audience and can ensure that "butts show up in the seats". The master agent shows like MicroCorp's "One-on-One" is great. The Intelisys "Channel Connect" and WTG's "Tee & Sea" are two others. These shows are by invitation only though and as the master agents get bigger the vendors may have less control of the master agent's "mini-show" agendas. I heard a rumor this past week that the Telarus annual "agent get-together" in Vegas next year will be a "vendor free zone".
What about the agents? Where do they go to get a good show fix? If you're a real "producing agent" meaning you're generating new business every month then I'd again have to recommend the master agent shows because you know the crowd that's going to show up and the master agents manage the agenda more than the vendors.
Other shows? TA's looking and asking. Just yesterday I learned an agent manager I know if going to the "Virtualization/Cloud computing Expo" next month in Silicon Valley on his own in search of VARs and systems integrators. On their website TBI announces they're speaking and exhibiting at SMB Nation in front of what I'm sure they hope are equipment VARs, systems integrators and successful MSPs ("managed services providers').
As TA finds the shows we'll learn what we can and pass the information on to our valued TA members and vendors.
SHARE YOUR CVx / ITEXPO SHOW OPINIONS BELOW - My opinion is just one, very small opinion. If you were at the show, please share your thoughts, opinions and comments below.