The Right People

In an age of instant world-wide communications, some might ask why we still need IT conferences. It turns out that no matter what people say, nothing beats being in the same place as a large number of people with similar interests. The learnings and interactions go well beyond anything you get from reading a manual or watching a webcast. Casual interactions with people in the hallway will vastly broaden your horizons, and help build up useful network connections that may help for the rest of your career. For vendors, the showroom floor offers great opportunities to introduce customers to your products and establish new connections.

Some vendors get it very wrong, using “booth babes” to promote their products. Women (booth babes are always women) get hired for their looks, to lure socially insecure men into the booth, to be handed over to an engineer, or just put on some marketing list. These women have no connection with the product, no technical knowledge, and the promotion of them does a great disservice to the many intelligent women who do work in this industry.

Other vendors use purely marketing staff. Sure, they know a bit about the product, and they can rattle a few keywords. But as soon as you start to dig into product specifics, they can’t answer your questions, or they try and brush off legitimate concerns.

The best setup is when you start talking to the person staffing the booth, asking about some deep technical detail, and their response is “Oh yeah - I wrote the original version of that code, and here’s why it works this way…” That’s the sort of interaction I’ve been having this week at HP Discover. Not brush-offs, not marketing buzzwords, but real hard technical detail on how products work, and why certain decisions were made. You can also have a different interaction with a developer - once you’ve established that neither of you needs to stick to the normal script, you can have a wide-ranging off the record discussion. Well done HP for putting those people in front of customers and partners.

Vendors, take note: Staff your booths with highly knowledgable people, and you will get good results. You’ll have better informed customers, happier with the product and its direction, and they’ll be more likely to use and recommend your systems. And hey, the developers will probably appreciate getting out of the cave in front of customers too.