Nearly 300 representatives from the telecom industries in Ohio and Michigan will converge on Toledo next week for a conference that will provide them with information on a variety of topics, including how to use social media more effectively or how to prepare for a disaster.
The three-day Great Lakes Technology Showcase, sponsored primarily by the Ohio Telecom Association and the Telecommunications Association of Michigan, will begin Wednesday and end Nov. 9 at the SeaGate Convention Center.
Nearly half the attendees will be from telecom companies, from the large players, such as AT&T Ohio and CenturyLink, to the tiniest incumbent local exchange carriers, such as the Ridgeville Telephone Co., in Ridgeville Corners, Ohio, one of the 35 small telecoms that populate Ohio.
The remaining attendees will represent various vendors that provide the technology and services used by the telecom industry.
“It’s a great mix from both the large companies and the small companies, and it’s not just Ohio companies. It’s Michigan telephone companies as well,” said Cheryl Burchard, director of government relations for the Ohio Telecom Association, which represents 42 telecommunications companies.
“It’s surprising, but the big guys and the little guys actually have a lot more in common that you’d expect. The small companies compete just the same way the AT&Ts do in that they also provide telephone service, plus video services, agreements with wireless providers, and broadband,” Ms. Burchard said.
“But while the big companies know where their customers are, in some cases, the small companies know their customers literally. They see them at the grocery store and at the Friday night football games,” she said.
Both big and small companies have signed up to send their experts and executives to hear about the latest issues that affect them all, she said. “They all come to learn just the same way,” Ms. Burchard added.
A key session, which takes place at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday and will be repeated at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 8, will be a Google workshop on “Growing Your Business Online.”
Ms. Burchard said the sessions, presented by social media experts Betsy Hubbard and Debra Jasper, co-founders of Mindset Digital LLC, will help telephone company executives better understand how to use social media like Facebook and Twitter to their advantage.
“It’s things that you really don’t think about much but once you hear them present it, you think, ‘Wow, they give a great message on what’s out there, what’s available, and as a business, what you can offer your customers,’” Ms. Burchard said. “When it comes to social media, many companies are using it. But one thing we hope they’ll learn is they are using it effectively and strategically.”
Each Google workshop session is limited to 50 people, but both are open to the public — the only two sessions of the three-day conference that are open to business executives other than those in the telecom industry.
Ms. Burchard said sponsors expect the showcase’s final session at 9:30 a.m. on Nov. 9 — “How do companies respond to a natural or man-made disaster” — to be extremely well attended.
The Ohio Telecom Association sponsored a similar program this summer in Cincinnati, and it was a big hit, she said.
“People will learn what another company like theirs is doing, or plans to do, and how they do it. It would be a benefit to anybody in this industry,” Ms. Burchard said. A panel of experts will discuss how large companies and small companies can cope with disasters, she added.
Although it was scheduled coincidentally, the subject should be timely in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Ms. Burchard said. “I hate to say, ‘Thank you Hurrricane Sandy,’ but it will bring some added interest to the subject of preparedness,” she said.