In the next few weeks and months there are many government-sponsored conferences being held to attract small businesses to, and inform small businesses of, government agencies’ upcoming contracting opportunities.
But before jumping to attend, the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC) suggests you take a few preparatory steps. After all, it’s important that you make a sound decision about whether it’s worth the time, effort, and expense to attend a particular vendor conference.
First of all, small businesses should make no mistake about it: government agencies may need you more than you need them. Federal agencies are under the gun to ensure that small businesses — including 8(a) firms, companies in HUBZones, service disabled veteran owned small businesses, and others such as women-owned businesses at the subcontract level — get their share of the “contract spend.” Keep in mind that the federal government is nearing the end of its fiscal year (Sept. 30th), so there is money to be spent before then, and small business goals to be met. That’s why agencies host conferences — to demonstrate that they are reaching out to the small business community — and that may be why there are always so many government events scheduled toward the end of each year.
But regardless of the timing of a vendor event, should you try to attend as many governmental vendor conferences as you can in hopes that, by attending, contracts will begin to fall in your lap? Hardly.
From GTPAC’s perspective, government-sponsored vendor conferences run the gamut in value. Some are well-organized, featuring details on specific, upcoming opportunities as well as access to the decision-makers. Other conferences, however, can be disappointing, consisting of little more than “a dog and pony show.”
So how do you select a good conference to attend? How do you reduce the risk that you’ll be attending a conference that has little value to you?
There are several things you should do before deciding to go to a government-sponsored vendor event. Here is a checklist:
1. Research the conference sponsoring agency’ s forecasted contract opportunities.
Look for the sponsoring agency’s annual procurement forecast on that agency’s website. Use www.google.com/unclesam
and type in the name of the federal agency and “procurement forecast.” (If that search fails to produce the results you need, check https://www.acquisition.gov/comp/procurement_forecasts/index.html
.) One thing for sure, before you attend an event, you want to make sure the sponsoring agency buys what you sell.
2. Find out what contract opportunities will be the subject of the conference. Even if an agency buys what you sell, you’ll want to make sure that will be the focus of the conference. Look in the conference announcement — see if the agency identifies specific goods and services that will be the focus of the conference. Are the NAICS codes for future contracts identified, and do they match-up with yours?
3. Determine whether you’ll get access to decision-makers. Look for opportunities to meet one-on-one with the people who make the buying decisions. Good vendor conferences will provide you with the opportunity to meet, on an appointment basis during the event, with agency contracting officials. See if you can make appointments as a part of the registration process or whether such opportunities exist on-site at the event. Think outside the box: If you arrive early — or stay late — will you be able to spend time with the people who award contracts?
4. Once you select a conference, prepare yourself.
Remember, only one-third of the “action” occurs at the event itself. You should spend the first third of your time preparing
to attend. And another third should be spent in follow-up
, after the event. If you are not prepared to make this much of an investment of your time, maybe you shouldn’t attend. To help you prepare, attend, and follow-up, we recommend you read our detailed article at: http://www.doughertysmallbiz.org/2010/05/14-tips-for-attending-a-government-expo-or-trade-show
. Your GTPAC Counselor will be glad to elaborate on this topic and provide you with additional advice. You can find our contact information right here
© 2010 Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center – All Rights Reserved.
We’re very excited about the Small Business Speed Partnering event in Albany on Tuesday, and we hope you’re excited, too!
As a reminder, the event is being held at the Albany Civic Center and begins with coffee and informal networking at 8:00 am. The program begins at 9:00 am sharp.
If you haven’t already pre-registered, please do by going to http://tinyurl.com/4dvxlxj and then hitting the “Sign Up” button.
You can see an advance copy of the agenda at:
When you look at the agenda, you’ll see that there are two blocks of time during which you will be able to meet one-on-one with buyers representing any of 11 different government agencies. (Marine Corps Logistics Command (MCLC) Albany; Georgia Department of Administrative Services (GSA); US Treasury Department, IRS; US Department of Interior, National Park Service; Georgia Department of Administrative Services (DOAS); University System of Georgia; Georgia Department of Corrections; Dougherty County; SW Georgia Regional Airport; City of Albany Procurement Division; and Sumter Youth Juvenile Justice.) The “speed partnering” times are at 10:00 to 11:00 and 1:45 to 2:45. You’ll have 15-minutes to have these meetings, so give some thought now to which agencies you’d liek to meet with.
To prepare for a speed partnering session, we recommend two things: 1) Bring copies of a short “capabilities statement” with you to hand-out, and 2) Be prepared to state exactly what you do and why you’re an expert at it (this is known as an “elevator speech.”
To help you prepare to do these two things, here are two short articles you can read:
We’re also conducting great workshops during the event. Plan to attend these during the course of the day:
- Business Communications, Elevator Pitches and Capability Statements
- Reading and Responding to Bid Solicitations
- The Do’s and Don’ts of Government Contracting
- Conducting Government Market Research
- SBA’s New Women Owned Small Business (WOSB) Program
And, of course, you won’t want to miss addresses by Meredith Lilly, a Presidential-appointee and special assistant to the GSA regional administrator, as well as Patricia Hanes, Regional Director of the Atlanta National Enterprise Center, Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), U.S. Department of Commerce. They will be providing tips for greater success in both the government and commercial markets.
We think you’ll agree — the Albany Civic Center is THE PLACE TO BE on Tuesday, Feb. 22. Plan to arrive at 8:00 am if you can to receive all the benefits of the day!