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How Do You Choose Your EDUCAUSE Vendor Meetings?
November 1, 2012 - 9:00pm

Are you going to EDUCAUSE in Denver the week of 11/5?  

If you are an "IT Decision Maker" on your campus, someone who decides what your institution or school or even department purchases, then there will be many folks at EDUCAUSE that will want to meet you.   

How do you choose which vendors to meet?

The Annual EDUCAUSE conference is many (wonderful) things.  In EDUCAUSE's own words, the annual conference is a place to "network, focus, discover and influence".  

EDUCAUSE (the non-profit organization) has 68,000 members - made up of 2,400 colleges, universities, organizations and companies - and the conference is where our community gets together to learn from each other about how academic IT can inform and shape strategic decisions.  

As much as I love the peer sessions, the featured speakers, and all the networking opportunities - the reason that I go to EDUCAUSE each year is for the companies.  

This year there will be over 270 technology providers and corporate partners attending the conference.  These are the people I need to meet.  

EDUCAUSE is the one place where the entire edtech ecosystem (save Apple - but that is a different story) is gathered in one place.  I can put eyes and hands on the platforms and products that I currently buy or am evaluating, and get a sense of the competitive landscape.  EDUCAUSE is where I'll begin to determine which platforms I'll want to invest in, and which vendor partners I'll want to collaborate with.  

Part of my vendor data gathering strategy involves walking around the exhibit hall.  That strategy, however, only gets me so far, as a) I tend to get overwhelmed, and b) it is not always possible to speak to the company decision makers on the floor.  The best vendor ROI will most often come in small meetings, either arranged in hotel rooms or in the vendor conference places on the exhibit hall that the companies are increasingly springing for.   

The challenge is deciding which vendor meetings make the most sense to schedule.   For the last few weeks I've gotten tons of e-mails asking for these meetings.  I bet you have as well.  

My rules of thumb for responding to these e-mails and scheduling vendor meetings at EDUCAUSE are pretty straightforward:

1.  A Platform / Product / Service That I Utilize:  The vendor meetings that I definitely want to have are with those companies that supply the key learning platforms that I use (and make purchase decisions around).   LMS vendors top the list, but I also want to speak with companies in the lecture capture, media management, web meeting, rapid authoring, digital textbook, and mobile learning space.   While I'm interested in the world of network security, classroom furniture, student information systems, data warehousing, business continuity, and digital signage - I'm probably not going to respond to a request for a meeting.  My advice to all the public relations and communications firms that send out these meeting request e-mails - try to make sure that the person on the other end of that e-mail is actually utilizes your clients (or a competitors) services.

2.  A Person That I Know:  I am infinitely more likely to respond to a request to meet from a person that I know.  One of the best ways for us to get to know each other is if you become an active and authentic participant in our community.  Anyone that has taken the time to contribute thoughts and analysis to the stories on InsideHigherEd is a person that I'll probably want to meet, no matter what type of company that you work for.   My sense is that there are real limitations on relying on public relations firms to set-up these meetings.  If you work in edtech or publishing, and you want to chat, please reach out directly.

What are your rules of thumb for deciding on which vendors to include on your EDUCAUSE schedule?


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