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Why I Love Conventions

September 5, 2013

I get to do one of my favorite things today. I get to go hang out with 35,000 other people inside the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, eat overpriced junk food, stand on my feet for eight hours and possibly see Captain Kirk. And then I get to do it again tomorrow and Saturday.

In short, I get to attend Comic Con Salt Lake City. This is my first time at a Comic Convention. I’m here helping my friend Howard Tayler. I’m what’s called in convention-speak, a “booth worker.” Well, that’s what we call them at computer conventions. When I was approached about helping out with the Schlock Mercenary booth the title I was offered was “minion.” But, after doing setup and hearing that I may the be the manning the booth by myself for long periods of time, I was promoted to “Head Minion.” (I’m thinking about having cards made up.)

So, why do I like conventions?

It doesn’t matter if they are computer conventions, outdoor recreation conventions, or comic conventions, I enjoy them for a three reason. And these relate to business, so I’m not just writing this column because Comic Con makes a nice topic.

Networking, Learning and purely personal.

Networking
For me the main reason to attend a conventions in your field is to see and be seen. I try to attend Novell BrainShare every year. I haven’t had to support Novell products in years. But, even though BrainShare is a much smaller convention than it used to be, I know many of the people and the vendors. I’ve been offered jobs while attending BrainShare. At times, BrainShare is the only time I see certain vendors. The IT world is a fairly small community. I know it seems HUGE. Every company has computers. Every company, no matter how small, buys and runs software. How can I possibly describe it as a small world?

Because the software you run is from only a handful of vendors. I worked for Microsoft, and I’ve done work for Novell. If you are running corporate email you are probably running either Novell GroupWise or Microsoft Exchange.

Some of you are now saying, “No. We run Outlook.” And without going too far off the rails, (because I really would like to get to the convention) Outlook is a desktop product, like Microsoft Word or Excel. Your copy of Outlook connects to an email server on the backend. Probably Exchange.

The point is that with all the millions of mailboxes in use in the world, there are only a few email vendors. Those vendors hang out at Conventions. The same is true for any IT products. The group of vendors is actually not that big.

Even more than simply attending a convention, if you have the opportunity to speak or present a panel, or a class, it does wonders for your reputation. Years ago I was at a Microsoft Exchange convention, where I was teaching a class on migration. My second book, “Microsoft Exchange Connectivity Guide” was offered in the convention bookstore.
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During the introduction for the class I talked about writing the book and that it was available. By the third class presentation the book store had sold out of my book. That was also the first time someone came up and asked for an autograph.

Yes, speaking at conventions can do wonders for your name recognition, and it doesn’t hurt your ego either.

Learning
Part of the reason to hold a convention is so that someone can tell someone else something important. (I know that’s vague, but I’m trying to spread a really wide net here that covers comics, rafting and computers.) Preferably the person doing the telling can tell a lot of people all at once. In that case, you get a breakout session, or an author’s panel, or a vendor demo. If the person doing the telling needs to tell a lot of people, then you put them in as a keynote. William Shatner is one of the keynotes at Comic Con. Although, I’m honestly not sure if they call it a keynote at comic conventions.

There is also the convention “floor.” This is where the vendors set up booths. At a computer convention the computer companies give away a ton of stuff. When I was traveling a lot, Christmas stocking stuffers were mostly acquired at conventions, or trade shows. You can also easily compare vendors products. Or at least you can compare the prepackaged demo that their booth worker practiced a thousand times.

Brainshare was fun in this regard. Since it was a Novell show and the Novell offices are just 40 miles down the road in Provo, Novell typically set up dozens of stations where you could not only see demos, but also do hands on labs.

The rafting show I went to didn’t have nearly as many give aways. Mostly it was hard candy. Our booth was particularly popular since we gave away chocolate candy. And we also handed out computer mice and every day we gave away a radio controlled car. But, we were the exception.

In looking at the vendors setting up for Comic Con, I think it’s going to be a lot of selling and even less freebees than the rafting shows. I know the Schlock booth is pretty much a store front. We’ll be selling all 9 Schlock books, cups, hats, more books, pins, patches, dice, still more books, and challenge coins, including the numbered Tagon Tough’s series.

Purely Personal
And that’s part of the third reason I enjoy conventions. I’m a people person. I enjoy talking to people. I really like the energy that you get at a trade show. Comic Con will be fun because many of the attendees will be dressed in costumes. One of my adult daughters is going as a steampunk pirate. I’m not entirely sure what a steampunk pirate is, but she promised to come by the booth and show me. As I mentioned, William Shatner is one of the guests of honor. Adam West, the original TV Batman is another. Stan Lee, the creator of Spiderman, Iron Man, Incredible Hulk and an amazing group of characters will also be there.

I won’t get to see their keynotes, unfortunately. I’ll be working the booth, but who knows, maybe they will wander past.

Conventions can also be exhausting and emotionally draining. I know some people who detest even the thought of spending three days crammed in a room with 35,000 people. But, for a people person like me, it’s a great way to meet people, a lot of people, all at one time.

I’ll post a Convention Report next week.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, blogger and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or contact him at (rbliss at msn dot com)

And this week, find him at the Schlock Mercenary booth at Comic Con Salt Lake City

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