Imagine a conference you can go to where you can regroup with friends, catch up with ‘extended family’, learn about some of the latest UC industry trends, and walk away a more informed, a more enlightened individual. Imagine a conference where you can network with other companies and create new business opportunities together. And imagine a conference where you are welcome into a family, even though it is only your first conference and you have yet to meet anyone. Welcome to an SCTC (Society of Communications Technology Consultants, International) conference, our culture, and specifically our recent conference in Annapolis, MD.
There is a spirit, an enthusiasm, a ‘feeling’ at an SCTC conference like no other conference out there. Our conferences are special and very fraternal. It is the only conference you will attend where archrival vendors will attend a session in the same room and have lunch or a coffee together and share space at the same table. It is amazing to watch and witness!
Our recent Annapolis conference was no different. The venue at the Westin Annapolis was excellent, and the hospitality of the staff at this facility was over-the-top. The food served throughout the event was first-class.
I have to personally thank Sara Uzel and John Purnell, co-hosts for the conference, who put in an extraordinary amount of time and planning with the Conference Planning Committee members to help pull off one great conference. John also doubled as local host for Annapolis (he lives there) – thank you Sara and John!
Monday started with a pre-conference on AI, a very hot growth area for the IT Communications community. This was followed by the Welcome Reception and catching up with colleagues we have not seen for some time. Our President, Beth English (now Past President), welcomed us each night for an after-hours gathering at her suite, socializing among members, playing guitars and participating in the SMS Club (if you are not sure what that is, you’ll have to come to a conference).
Tuesday AM started with a great introduction from Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley. We then heard an extraordinary keynote on Cybersecurity from Louis Giannotti, CIO of the US Naval Academy (Lou has since posted a 222-page paper on Cybersecurity available to all SCTC members, thank you Lou). This was followed by sessions on a Cloud Debate moderated by John Purnell, VAC sessions, Breakout Session from Ted Mallires - Is PMP Certification Right for You?, and Art Yonemoto - Audit Marketing 101. We then followed with lunch with Martha Buyer, who always provides a wealth of regulatory (and other) knowledge on the latest trends and announcements affecting the Communications industry, our consulting practices and VAC companies. Additional VAC sessions continued in the PM, which was followed by a lively SDWAN Panel Discussion moderated by Beth English.
We ended the night with a very ‘fun’ dinner and table rotations over a 5-course meal, with a night sponsored by the VAC entitled “Consultant Appreciation Night”. Each consultant rotated to a different table for each course and was asked some key questions about themselves or their practice. There were great prizes given out by VAC members too! Thank you, VAC members, for hosting a great event, and special thanks to Dave Clardy for being the MC!
Wednesday started with sunrise activities for yoga and martial arts and walking. We then moved to an intriguing Contact Center Case Study from Scott Sachs. VAC sessions then followed Scott, with breakouts following from Managing Technology Projects from Dave Mailer, and Telecommunications Evolution from Cheryl O’Brien. The Business Meeting for both consultants and VAC took place and new Boards elected (I personally was elected to the Board and EC as Vice President, thank you to all who voted for me).
Wednesday afternoon was dedicated to an exceptional tour of the Naval Academy and the rich history that is there. We all had official tour guides and the depth of knowledge they brought to the tour. Our group photo took place on the steps of one of the dorm halls. Finally, we all moved to a night of dinner and dancing on campus with The SIPTones (myself included as the drummer). The SIPTones brought along a couple of guest singers, including Jennifer Kang of Cisco and John Purnell. Jennifer personally ‘killed it’ with Aretha’s Respect and Tina Turner’s Proud Mary. And Jennifer took a 360-degree selfie in 10 seconds of “Tequila”, which Jon Arnold later posted on his blog page (you can go to bit.ly/2PXKljH on YouTube to see it!). Many thanks to Chuck Vondra for joining as lead guitarist, Jon Arnold on keyboard, Joe Rubio on bass and Wayne Sos (who was with us in spirit jamming from home). And special thanks to our incredible and tireless leader and saxophone player, Rick Hathaway!
Thursday started again with a sunrise activity, followed by a “Collaboration Cook-off” led by Melissa Swartz, introducing two teams competing in ‘Jeopardy’. It was incredible, with lots of jousting and back and forth. Some of the questions about specific individuals, were answered them personally, very funny! Breakouts were followed with Disruptive Technologies, New Consulting Opportunities from Dennis Goodhart, How To Work With Consultants & How To Develop a Successful VAC Program given by Byron Battles & Rick Hathaway. Our lock note with insights and reflections on the conference reflections was given by our analyst and SIPTones keyboardist Jon Arnold.
All in all, this Conference was a great way to network with colleagues and get away from the daily grind. I personally sat down with select VAC members and consultant members to expand our network and discuss possible upcoming projects in the near term. Face-to-face is always best, and the SCTC conference lends itself to networking on multiple levels amongst peers. And members have reported 6 out of 7 members partnering with fellow members on client projects. Most of these start with relationships started at SCTC conferences, my opinion.
To summarize the conference, I am borrowing a quote from Linda Goltz Deen a new consultant attendee: "Beyond my expectations because of warmth, senses of humor and professional respect from all participants! Collectively, there is a great body of knowledge and abundant skill sets. As a "Blue Dot" from Canada, I am humbled to be able to contribute. Thanks again for the wonderful experience!”
Should you consider going to the next conference in Chicago in 2019? I think your answer should be a resounding ‘Yes’. The insights, the networking, the relationships, and the sheer fun of an SCTC Conference can be unforgettable. See you in Chicago!
This article was originally published on Linkedin.