Last year, Alan Masarek made news as he left Google to become Vonage’s new CEO.
What part of that title is not enticing? Obviously, very little. Despite committing to grabbing huge room blocks at the Rio, and then three other hotels, every room was grabbed by attendees a full month before the show. That is a sure sign of a successful show, a must-go-to show, because everyone else will be there. Upon arriving to the Rio it was obvious that the show had grown beyond just its roots as a forum for agents and resellers to assemble. Great gatherings tend to attract a cross-section of professionals, and Channel Partners has earned a superb reputation for consistently throwing a spectacular three day, packed event jammed with fun, business, and best of all, opportunity. Walking through the casino on the way to the Convention Center, I felt under dressed as I noticed all the Telecom guys suited up, and the telecom women looking sharp as well. The event hadn’t quite opened, but there were about three hundred people in the lobby outside mulling around already networking and doing deals. The registration desk was efficient and processed everyone in scant minutes; truly a big plus compared to the other trade shows. The attendee bag I received was thick with advertising slicks and industry mags as well as a few chotchkies. I like having the bag so I can carry it around the exhibit hall and pick up additional information from booths. Opening night sponsor was AT&T: what can I say but that they hit a home run with a dazzling display of food. In this day in age, all too often because trade shows are always held in hotels, we get the same egg roll and spinach phyllo dough treatment passed off by waiters or clumped together in chafing dishes along with the mandatory cheese plate featuring mystery selections of yellow and white calcium treats. Not this time. Channel Partners has obviously made a conscious decision to step above the fray and treat its members, and by that I mean treat everyone, as VIPS which really is refreshing. Upon entering the exhibit hall, one is taken aback by the grand displays of one and two story exhibits, some stretching twenty by twenty, and even forty by forty. I couldn’t fairly describe the food offerings as mere appetizers. Not when there is a sixteen foot long draped table with two chefs carving huge sides of Barron of Beef, cut to order, with tempting au jus and horse radish on the side. Just steps away, was an antipasto round table so large as I walked around it with about fifteen other people in tow I really thought I was in one of the better restaurants in Las Vegas. I don’t want this article to denigrate to a food column, but suffice to say there was an assortment of imported olives, pickles, and smoked meats, Greek and French cheeses, fish, every type of vegetable one can imagine including grilled asparagus. All too often these trade shows do not take into consideration the dietary habits of those that are either vegetarian or choose not to subsist on an all fried diet. While I am perfectly content to eat nothing but chicken drum-ettes all day long, it’s refreshing to see that Channel Partners had the foresight to put out the complete array of food to the point they even had massive fruit platters and pasta chefs preparing fresh plates of vegetarian as well as meat based noodle courses and that AT&T was willing to pay for all of it. It would be really nice if at least everyone who reads this article remembers to make a point of going to the event sponsor of the evening and saying something to them such as, “Thank you.” I realize, in this day in age no one sends thank you cards or personal notes, but an email takes fifteen seconds. And everyone has an AT&T sales rep. By sending an email to your sales rep acknowledging how much you enjoyed their sponsorship, I would imagine the rep would forward it on to their marketing department. It would ensure AT&T continues the sponsorship in future years. Now perhaps it is my stomach doing all this plotting and planning, but this is still polite, and frankly it’s just good business. I have found that the better shows all feature elegant food and beverage services during the evening, which adds considerably to the evening’s festivities. The longer people will linger, the more opportunities for business will germinate. There is a huge difference between the networking opportunities that went on at Channel Partners versus the Yawn at Von in San Jose. During Channel Partners in Las Vegas, the opening night exhibit hall event was slated for three hours, at the closing bell; I still had not covered more than half the exhibit hall even though there were far less exhibits and one third the convention space as VON. The difference is that every five to ten feet people would meet and greet and talk about a subject and invariably introduce someone else and exchange cards. At VON during the three hours I spent networking, I came away with eleven cards. During the opening night at Channel Partners, I had forty-two business cards in my pocket. More importantly, I made one real new customer, and I booked an order from a current customer so there was real business done. Within two hours of my arrival in Las Vegas I had paid for my trip if you don’t count my video poker losses and my unfortunate encounter on the street with a six foot two blonde model from Norway that turned out to have an Adam’s apple. That mistake aside, going to Channel Partners was no misjudgment of either time or money. When you consider all the after show delights of Vegas, top rated restaurants, clubs, live entertainment, and yes, Bingo and other forms of gaming for those of you who don’t already feel that being in telecom isn’t enough of a gamble, Vegas has it all as a tradeshow destination. It’s also fairly economical to get here by plane, with Southwest, JetBlue, and most other discount airlines providing service there. Folks on the West Coast can even drive. Food and drinks are incredibly cheap. Even rooms are fairly priced. I got my room comped after playing craps for only fifteen minutes and dropping fifteen thousand at the Wynn. What a deal! If every Telecom trade show was run as well as Channel Partners, Telecom shows would be something to look forward to attending again. I had a great time – and so did everyone else. I also learned another valuable fact: What they say about Vegas is absolutely true. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, as long as you bring your penicillin along with you. Next stop: The double vision tour. Two competing shows at the same time in Washington DC. GTM and the newcomer, ITW - its global war over high trade show booth costs. I will be there with both badges on, ready to give out my normal biased opinions. It’s what you pay for, after all.