Coventry is about 98 miles from Trafalgar Square, 440 miles from Aberdeen, and 296 from Land’s End, and the UK mainland is 603 miles long from there to John O’Groats, as the crow flies. When you consider that IT provider partners are based all over the UK, with the greatest number in the south-east, Coventry’s Ricoh Arena is a pretty central place for a convening of everyone who’s anyone in the channel.
This year CRN’s Partner Connect will be held on 17 May. And again, hundreds of channel firms are expected to attend. Last year saw more than 1,000 pre-registrations from channel partners hoping to come along, representing a chance for each partner to meet many others over the course of the day.
We calculate that if the time is used wisely and some meetings scheduled ahead of time, a full day of meetings could potentially mean as many as 20 or 25 new contacts who could prove substantially useful to business growth in the days, months and years ahead.
“Last year, the inaugural Partner Connect forum proved a fast-moving, frenetic event, with seminars and plenty of people coming and going all day long,” says Sara Yirrell, editor of CRN and linchpin of the event’s organisation.
“While we did not get the full 1,000 who indicated interest coming through the doors by the end of the day, there are always fewer than that. However, we did get a significant number, and feedback from involved parties proves that we were on the right track with our new format for the event as well as the education programme.”
One major change this year will be the location of the seminars. Last year, they were held in a room across a thoroughfare from the stands, making it difficult for exhibitors to attract footfall and have conversations with prospects while the education programme was running. However, that has all changed this year, and the seminar area will be shared with that of the exhibitors, to ensure that both areas remain busy throughout the whole day.
Another certainty is that the stands, competitively priced as always, will put exhibitors in the best possible position to attract and speak to hundreds of prospects, discuss their offering, and even demonstrate products on the fly. If you add up the figures, it is clear that travelling to such an event at Ricoh Arena offers maximum benefit per mile and even per hour.
Even if you make only five new contacts on the day, travelling about 100 miles there and back to do so, you have a good chance of making five new contacts all at once whom you would not have been able to meet in such a short time, or without spending many more hours on the road and struggling with the logistics of setting up meetings across the UK.
Last year, Kyocera Mita was one of many channel companies that took a stand on the day. Jonathan Robbins, product manager at the firm, told CRN at the time that it is all about getting in front of the reseller. “It is about talking to them and explaining our ecological economy and reseller programmes,” he confirmed.
Robbins added that physical meetings remain critical for building effective business relationships - not least because some things are simply far more compelling in reality than they will ever be in marketing collateral. Education is of course very important as well.
A number of exhibitors have already confirmed attendance, and they are sure to be keen to meet as many potential business contacts as possible. So far they include: UK hosting provider Claranet; Dorset connectivity and storage provider C4L; distributor Entatech; Exclaimer UK; Chennai, India-based security software specialist K7 Computing; Kyocera Mita; Lenovo; Swedish enterprise open-source network monitoring provider Op5; Germany’s network monitoring specialist Paessler; Canadian print management software supplier Printfleet; Ricoh UK; Quantum; and Siemens Financial Services, with others still to confirm.
Alan Loader, publisher of CRN, said that one constant point of feedback from the channel generally is that there is a dearth of decent networking events in the industry.
“Partner Connect is about achieving that, developing those hard-won opportunities so that they generate profitable business deals from new and lucrative partnerships,” he says.
“The highlight of a fantastic launch year in 2011 was our bespoke seminar programme, which featured some of the world’s biggest vendors, alongside keynotes from managed services players and a top public sector CIO talking about procurement deals.”
This year's education programme
According to Loader, partners and vendors alike should watch this space to find out what will be in store for this year’s education programme.
“The team is hard at work finding out what information is really being sought by the channel this year. We have learned the hard way that vendor pitches at events simply do not work,” he says. “Only practical and business-critical advice, that actually explains how partners can make money with those vendors, will draw in delegates. And last year, our seminar programme was full to the brim - we were clearly doing something right and will be looking to repeat that success in 2012.”
Standholders will also be able to raise their profile through the extensive, year-long multi-platform marketing, at a one-off cost which includes unlimited white paper uploads and associated development of contacts, company details listed on the event website directory all year, and take advantage of a pre-booking meeting system that ensures they can get the most out of this year’s event. All stands are built by CRN’s events specialists, keeping design and build costs down.
The weight of influential vendors AVG and Microsoft as Technology Partners is behind the event, with the relaxation and coffee bar area supported this year by financial services company BNP Paribas. And, of course, Partner Connect - the UK’s only dedicated business and networking event aimed purely at the local IT channel - remains free to attend.
“Nowhere else in the channel will you be able to meet all your tier-one and tier-two vendors in the same place on the same day and be granted the level of access to top executives that you get at Partner Connect,” promised Loader.
“So we do hope you will join us in Coventry for what, once you work out the numbers involved, should prove an even better event than last year.”
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