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Learning by walking around
By Joan Engebretson

May 13, 2008 8:12 PM

Public speakers often like to poll their audience on a topic to keep people engaged and to gauge how to tailor comments to match the needs and sympathies of the audience. But as a journalist who often attends telecom industry speeches, I sometimes pick up some useful information by jotting down the results of these informal polls. At the National Telecommunications Cooperative Associationís IP Possibilities conference in Chicago last month, for example, I learned that Independent telcos in the audience paid between $32 and $100 per megabit per month for their Internet backbone connections--a useful piece of information to know as policymakers consider subsidies for such connections.

The opportunity to have a roomful of potential sources just a handshake away is a great reason to attend a good industry conference. Iíve written numerous news stories based on asking everyone I met at an event about a hot issue. And although most attendees arenít there as journalists, they often tell me that the interchange at a well-organized event is one of their biggest reasons for attending.

Often the most targeted conferences can be the most valuable, as they tend to have a smaller number of highly focused people. This tends to create a community vibe thatís very conducive to informal, yet valuable, conversation. If youíve all listened to some compelling presentations, thereís no shortage of topics to talk about.

Thatís why Iím really looking forward to the Insights for Next-Generation ILECs conference that Telephony is putting on in Las Vegas on June 16. If youíre an Independent telco planning to attend NXTcomm, youíll want to consider adding the Insights conference to your plans.

Check out the list of speakers and youíll find many names that youíve seen at www.telephonyonline.com/independent and in Telephonyís Independent print supplement. Scott Meier of TDS Telecom, whom we recently interviewed about that companyís WiMAX deployment, will be exchanging experiences with other WiMAX experts. Bernie Arnason of Pivot Media, a consultant and frequent contributor who focuses on Independent telcos, is one of several industry stakeholders who will discuss the quad-play opportunity. And Iíll be moderating a panel about consolidation issues comprising Yankee Group program manager Vince Vittore, whom Iíve known for years as a sharp and entertaining commentator, and three equally sharp industry observers whom Iíve previously met only by phone. These include Bill King of JSI Capital Advisors, Kevin McGuire of the NTCA and Francis Gallagher of Stifel Nicolaus.

Some executives are strong believers in what is sometimes called ďmanagement by walking around.Ē I like to think of conferences such as Insights as ďlearning by walking around.Ē What Iíve mentioned is just a portion of the events planned. Be sure to take a look at the complete agenda. Hope to see you there.

I havenít decided what Iím going to poll the audience about yet. But Iím thinking about it. Let me know if you have a good idea.

E-mail me at JoanEngebretson@cs.com.

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