Successful In-Person Events

While everyone likely agrees that in-person events have successfully made their comeback, I feel as though there are some nuances to this that have been overlooked. Primarily in regards to the event size in relation to the outcome. Of the people in our industry that I have talked to, most have expressed that the ends of the spectrum often create the best sales environments. This means that the event has to be either really big, or really small, to get a good return on investment. 

This would make sense, since an event with 10k+ attendees would likely produce the highest quantity of conversations, whereas an event of only 2-5 people would likely produce the highest quality conversations. For the sake of this article, I am focusing on the small in-person events, because this is the most accessible format and can be executed by an MSP of virtually any size with the help of their vendors. 

The “Lunch & Learn” Format 

The good news is that there is already a decades-old formula for small in-person events that has proven to work for MSPs.  It’s called a “Lunch & Learn” and it’s exactly what you would expect it to be. Rather than presenting you with some boring definition, I have summarized this concept in one easy-to-digest meme: 

As you can see from this academic masterpiece, the offering of free food and a few hours outside the office is a way to get prospects and customers to engage in discussion on topics that they otherwise would have little interest in. That’s not to say the information isn’t incredibly valuable, it’s just that it has historically been proven to be difficult to get them to care. Hence, the bribery.

Vendor Participation 

Channel vendors also love Lunch & Learns, and for very good reason. In fact, you could almost just replace the words “IT Best Practices” with  “Vendor Sales Pitch” in our meme and it would offer a glimpse into how they view these opportunities. While that may seem like a negative connotation, it’s not, because their enthusiasm presents a great opportunity for MSPs. 

Selling products through the MSP channel means that these vendors are almost never directly in front of the end-customer. Lunch & Learns offer them this rare opportunity, which is why they are often eager to get involved. Most vendors that offer sell-through products will kick-in financially in the form of Market Development Funds (or MDF) if it is obvious that the outcome of the event would lead to more revenue opportunities for them. In some cases they will even fly someone out to your location to attend the event and lead the discussion in their area of expertise. Either way, these collaborations can take some of the burden off the MSP and can lead to better outcomes overall. 

Lunch & Learn Event Themes

My formula for coming up with Lunch and Learn events is very straightforward and almost never fails to disappoint. Simply use alliteration to replace the word “Lunch” with the type of food you will be serving, and the word “Learn” with the subject matter of the discussion. You will find examples of this formula below, along with some additional information that may be helpful when putting together the event:

Pies & Passwords

Overview – Dive into the delicious world of pizza while unraveling the complexities of modern password management in this engaging “Pies & Passwords” lunch and learn event.

Location – Host this appetizing educational experience in your cozy office space or partner with a local pizzeria to offer a casual, inviting environment conducive to learning and discussion.

Vendors –  Engage with technology vendors offering password management tools, such as Keeper, LastPass, 1Password, CyberFOX, or Bitwarden, who may be interested in showcasing their solutions.

Call To Action – Encourage attendees to fortify their digital lives by offering exclusive discounts on password management tools or free cybersecurity consultations for their businesses at the end of the event.

T-Bones & Two-Factor

Overview – Savor the rich flavors of premium steaks while delving into the critical layers of security provided by multi-factor authentication in this “T-Bones & Two-Factor” event.

Location – This meaty, informative gathering can be hosted at a renowned local steakhouse or within a spacious conference room adorned with a professional yet comfortable setting.

Vendors – Security solutions providers such as Duo Security, Authy, CyberQP or Microsoft could be interested in demonstrating their multi-factor authentication technologies and benefits.

Call To Action – Inspire attendees to beef up their security by offering a special promotion on multi-factor authentication services or a complimentary security assessment for their business networks.

Donuts & Downloads

Overview – Combine the sweet taste of fresh donuts with the essential knowledge of endpoint protection, making cybersecurity strategies as enjoyable as your morning treat.

Location – Ideal for a relaxed morning session, this event can unfold in your office’s break room or a popular local bakery with a private meeting space.

Vendors – Antivirus and endpoint protection vendors like Sophos, Webroot, Datto, or Malwarebytes may be eager to present their products and discuss the importance of securing endpoints.

Call To Action – Encourage participants to sweeten their security posture by offering exclusive discounts on endpoint protection software or providing a free endpoint security audit.

Wasabi & Workflows

Overview  Dive into the flavorful world of sushi while exploring the efficiencies of workflow automation to enhance business processes in this “Wasabi & Workflows” event.

Location –  Host this exotic and educational event at a sushi restaurant with a private dining area or a modern co-working space to foster a collaborative atmosphere.

Vendors –  Companies specializing in workflow automation software, such as Rewst, Zapier, PagerDuty, or Microsoft, would be ideal partners to demonstrate their tools and share best practices.

Call To Action –  Motivate attendees to streamline their operations by offering a trial period for a selected workflow automation tool or a complimentary consultation to identify areas for improvement in their current workflows.

Nachos & Networks

Overview – Enjoy a flavorful spread of Mexican cuisine while uncovering strategies for maximizing network uptime and optimization at this “Nachos & Networks” event.

Location – Set in a vibrant local Mexican restaurant or a well-equipped office space with a laid-back atmosphere to encourage open dialogue and learning.

Vendors – Network equipment and service providers like Cisco, Aruba Networks, Ubiquiti, or SonicWall might be interested in showcasing their latest technologies and services.

Call To Action – Encourage attendees to spice up their network by offering an exclusive network assessment or discount on network optimization services.

Mimosas & Malware 

Overview – Sip on elegant mimosas while discussing the latest in malware security threats and protection strategies during this “Mimosas & Malware” brunch session.

Location – Host this chic and informative event at a trendy brunch spot or a stylish conference room to set the perfect tone for morning learning.

Vendors – Security Awareness firms like Hook, Phin Security, Breach Secure Now, and KnowBe4 would be ideal partners to discuss the evolving landscape of malware threats.

Call To Action – Invite attendees to secure their systems by offering a free malware scan or discounts on annual cybersecurity subscriptions.

Zinfandel & Zero-Days

Overview – Pair exquisite Zinfandel wines with an enlightening discussion on zero-day exploits and the critical role of patch management in this “Zinfandel & Zero-Days” gathering.

Location – A classy wine bar or a serene vineyard setting would provide the perfect backdrop for this sophisticated tech talk.

Vendors –  Cybersecurity vendors such as Blackpoint Cyber, Huntress, SentinelOne and Threatlocker, could provide valuable insights.

Call To Action – Propose a toast to security by offering attendees a free consultation on their patch management policies or special pricing on security services.

Tapas & Telecom

Overview – Indulge in delectable Spanish tapas while unraveling the complexities of VoIP and modern telecom systems at this “Tapas & Telecom” event.

Location – A Spanish restaurant or a modern meeting space with a casual setting would be ideal to foster engaging discussions.

Vendors –  Telecom and VoIP providers like OITVOIP, BVoIP, Cytracom, Ringlogix, and Nextiva could demonstrate their latest offerings and benefits.

Call To Action – Encourage a move to modern communication by offering a complimentary telecom system audit or exclusive deals on VoIP services.

Gouda & Gigabytes

Overview – Melt into the world of fondue while discussing the best practices for digital storage and document management in this “Gouda & Gigabytes” session.

Location – A cozy fondue restaurant or a comfortable meeting area with catering to create a warm, inviting atmosphere for learning.

Vendors –  Cloud storage and document management providers like Datto, Dropbox, Google, or Microsoft OneDrive might be interested in showcasing their solutions.

Call To Action – Offer to help attendees melt away their storage woes with a free data storage assessment or special packages on cloud storage solutions.

Hibachi & Hardware

Overview – Experience the thrill of hibachi cooking while exploring the importance of regular hardware refreshes to keep your IT infrastructure modern and efficient in this “Hibachi & Hardware” event.

Location – A dynamic hibachi grill restaurant or a spacious venue equipped for a live cooking demonstration and technical discussions.

Vendors –  Hardware vendors like Dell, HP, or Lenovo could be interested in participating to display their latest hardware innovations.

Call To Action – Ignite your hardware strategy by offering special discounts on new hardware purchases or complimentary hardware evaluations.

Sundaes & Software

Overview – Build your own ice cream sundae while discussing the challenges of SaaS management and the emergence of shadow IT in this “Sundaes & Software” event.

Location – A fun, interactive venue like an ice cream parlor with private space or a meeting room set up for sweet treats and discussions.

Vendors –  SaaS management platform providers like Auvik, SaaS Alerts, and Augmentt could provide insight into managing software efficiently.

Call To Action – Encourage a sweet solution to software chaos by offering a free SaaS management consultation or exclusive discounts on SaaS management tools.

Lattes & Logins 

Overview – Enjoy gourmet coffee drinks while uncovering the secrets of secure login credentials and the dangers lurking on the dark web in this “Lattes & Logins” meet-up.

Location – A trendy café with a private meeting area or a comfortable office space designed for casual networking and learning.

Vendors –  Identity and access management vendors like AutoElevate, CyberQP, Evo Security, CyberArk, or JumpCloud would be suitable for providing expertise on secure authentication practices.

Call To Action – Stir up your security strategy by offering a complimentary dark web scan or discounts on identity management solutions.

Brews & Browsers

Overview – Sample a selection of craft beers while learning about privacy and browsing best practices in this laid-back “Brews & Browsers” gathering.

Location – A local brewery with a private event space or an informal meeting area conducive to relaxed, informative discussions.

Vendors –  Browser security and privacy tool providers like Conceal, and NordVPN might be interested in teaching about secure browsing habits.

Call To Action – Encourage safer browsing by offering attendees a trial of premium privacy services or exclusive brewery-themed giveaways.

Barrels & Bandwidth

Overview – Savor the complexity of craft whiskey while delving into the intricacies of high bandwidth networking in this “Barrels & Bandwidth” event.

Location – An upscale distillery or a stylish bar with a private room that sets the right tone for high-level tech discussions.

Vendors –  Networking solutions providers like Cisco, Aruba Networks, or Comcast Business could demonstrate high-bandwidth solutions.

Call To Action – Raise the bar on networking by offering a free bandwidth analysis or special pricing on high-speed internet services.

Burgers & Backups

Overview – Bite into gourmet burgers while discussing the essentials of backup and disaster recovery planning in this “Burgers & Backups” session.

Location – A popular burger joint with ample space for a presentation or a casual meeting room equipped with comfort food and tech talks.

Vendors –  Backup and disaster recovery solution providers like Scalepad, Barracuda, Axcient, Acronis, or Datto might be interested in showcasing their services.

Call To Action – Grill the risk of data loss by offering a complimentary backup strategy review or discounts on backup solutions.

Franks & Firewalls

Overview – Relish gourmet hot dogs while unpacking the essentials of network edge security, firewalls, and overall network protection in this “Franks & Firewalls” event.

Location – A gourmet hot dog restaurant or an informal yet comfortable office space suited for technical deep-dives and casual dining.

Vendors –  Network security vendors like Fortinet, Palo Alto Networks, Open DNS, WatchGuard or Timus Networks could provide valuable insights into firewall technologies.

Call To Action – Encourage robust network defense by offering a free firewall health check or special offers on security upgrades.

Ribs & Ransomware

Overview – Dive into delicious BBQ ribs while discussing strategies to combat the dangers of ransomware in this “Ribs & Ransomware” lunch and learn.

Location – A local BBQ restaurant with a private dining area or an office setup with a laid-back atmosphere perfect for engaging discussions.

Vendors –  Anti-ransomware solution providers like Malwarebytes, Sophos, Avast, Webroot, or Bitdefender would be key contributors to this critical conversation.

Call To Action – Arm your attendees against attacks by offering a complimentary ransomware vulnerability assessment or discounts on anti-ransomware services.