You spend a lot of valuable time and money managing your vendor relationships, so if they offer a user conference you should seriously consider setting aside some time to attend. Attending user conferences hosted by your software and technology vendors is a good way to maximize your relationship and get the most out of the services they provide. To optimize your experience, make sure you prepare before the conference by studying the agenda, sending the correct employees, and making sure those employees attend the most appropriate sessions for your business.

A well-run user conference will have a robust agenda that includes the company’s year in review, an overview of recently released features and products, comprehensive training sessions for users of all levels, and a product roadmap session with specific details on upcoming features and functionality … and the dates at which those software changes are scheduled to roll out. Such a user conference could also come with extra presentations and keynote speakers from outside the company, in addition to networking and entertainment events. And the best part is you may only have to pay for hotel and airfare expenses to attend these conferences.

Sending the right people is key. A user conference is just that: for users. So, sending decision makers who don’t have their hands in the software daily might not be the best use of time or travel money. Make sure you send the staff members who know the software best, plus any new employees who might benefit from added training.

Don’t be afraid to network at these user events. In some cases, you will be put together with competitors in your industry, but that’s okay. There is a lot to learn from other users that essentially have the same goals as you: to grow business. Do don’t be too shy at the entertainment events or during the lunches. You may learn some efficiency tips from your peers that could greatly enhance your user experience and add to your company’s bottom line.

The companies hosting these user group meetings have clear goals, too. They want you to become power users and spread the good word about their products and services. So, if they are doing it correctly, they will want you to attend their conference year after year. Keeping you as a client is number one, and they do that by making you an expert.

These host companies also want to hear from you! Go to the conference prepared with questions and software enhancement suggestions. Most tech companies improve their brand by listening to their customer base. Because, let’s face it, you know best what new features will make your job easier. Make sure you take your ideas with you. The user conference is a good time to communicate your needs. Your tech vendor will be listening.