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ConfusedAs we gear up for one of the largest AV shows that any of us attend, I consider how many trade show, conference, and seminar opportunities we are bombarded with, yearly. Do you find it difficult to determine which are worth your time? From which will you take the most useful information? What type of event gives you the best return on your financial investment?

The answers to those questions can be as numerous as the shows themselves. But there are a few things to keep in mind when planning your time away from campus:

-- Do you hold an industry designation which requires you to stay current? Is there an opportunity to receive credits toward your certification or for professional development? Shows and conferences which offer renewal credits give you great bang for your buck. Not only are you able to learn about trends, products and project, you can also check those credits off your to do list! Two birds….

-- What are the attendee demographics? Are they mostly peers or are their responsibilities varied? I find that the most worthwhile shows are those during which I am surrounded by others who do what I do on a daily basis. The ability to network, review material and discuss challenges and successes with those who “get it” is invaluable.

-- What does your next year look like? Will the showcase allow you to gather information necessary to help you complete the next year’s projects? Many of you have projects scheduled months (years for large projects) in advance. So attend the shows that will help you choose the right products for those projects. Or find conferences that highlight the trends and technologies you will need to design the room; i.e. collaboration technologies.

-- How big is the show and how many days are you able to be there? This is always the magic question, right? What we are really saying is what will budgetary and time limitations allow? The smaller (and often less costly) conferences (like NWMET in the northwest which I attended last month- hats off to Jon Loney who put together a fantastic event) are priceless (not literally) and generally range from 2-4 days. They offer engaging content, a small not-overwhelming vendor area and a number of opportunities to network with colleagues who do what you do in small more intimate groups. Many times these events have between 50 and 150 attendees and are regional (read: short travel times and more time with those from your neck of the woods!). These smaller regional shows have attendees from schools of all sizes and usually result in a more tight-knit group of peers who tend to keep communication going throughout the year either on list-servs or forums or, less formally, through email.

There are many education focused shows too that can range from information about classroom interiors to software, websites and apps for instructors. Some offer free access to vendor spaces, but have a hefty price tag for the meat of the conference. It is always wise to ask preferred vendors if they have VIP or discount access passes for events that you would like to attend.

While I am looking forward to seeing many of our clients and readers at InfoComm this June, my hope is that if you don’t have InfoComm on your list, I will see you at a smaller, regional event. At least then I can spend more time with you listening and learning about your ideas, challenges and successes. Below, give me your recommendations for worthwhile events in your area, or reach out to me for recommendations of conferences I think are valuable.

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