I’m a veteran of the conference-going circuit, and my professional world has been turned on its head in the current climate.

Tradeshows, conferences, and networking events in the DC area have allowed us at MeriTalk to accomplish several objectives: report on important Federal IT news; engage with our partners in government and industry; and most importantly, learn about emerging trends in technology and the inner workings of government.

There is a lot of debate over whether things will go back to normal. An end to in-person networking? Not a chance. Conferences aren’t going anywhere – but I think most reasonable folks now understand that the decision to reinstate must consider public safety at several orders of magnitude greater than short-term gain this fiscal year.

Until then – and trust me, I’m champing at the bit – we have a lot to gain from the events that have risen to fill the void. And it’s important not to lose sight of the most important objective I mentioned above, learning. It’s worth scanning the airwaves to see if a webinar, virtual event, or webcast can help round out your professional development.

There’s good news here – the industry is trotting out educational content at an even greater clip. Now that we’re at home, we have the ability to digest this information over a longer window of time. Who hasn’t had their mind drift at a physical conference, thinking about a coffee refill or the lunch break? Just pause the video – pour another cold brew – and continue to improve your skillsets as an IT practitioner.

Different line of business? BD, marketing, comms – you’ve got a lot to gain here too. Why else would you do it?

Innovation. What is emerging in the field? What buzzwords will replace hybrid cloud and zero trust? Will those buzzwords begin to mean something?

Competitive intelligence. How are other providers positioning themselves? Where are they installed and what are they doing that’s new? How can we refine our own message?

Policy Dictating Action. What issues are top of mind for government leaders and CIOs? How will new legislation, contracts, memos, directives, and orders influence the market?

Price. Have you ever had to submit justification to your employer to attend a conference? Have you balked at a four-figure registration fee? Most virtual events are now free – allowing you to gain skills without dishing out bills.

Keep learning – there’s so much content out there. If you have some time between your fourth and fifth Zoom call of the day, I have a couple recommendations for this week:


Knowledge 2020. Knowledge was my first big travel conference for MeriTalk (Vegas, baby!), and ServiceNow continues to be the most prominent innovator in our industry. Really rare to see enterprise IT companies generating this much community and user-based excitement – people are genuinely passionate about sharing what they can do on the platform. Six weeks of digital content begins this Tuesday, May 5.


C4ISRCONF. When IT converges with battlefield technology, you usually get more sparks than a fried hard drive. Great opportunity to hear from departing DoD Deputy CIO Essye Miller, a leader in our industry who will no doubt be missed.


GSA Cloud Smart Event. A perfect example of policy dictating action, government is re-envisioning the way it procures cloud services, and GSA is lighting the way. Both sides of the public-private aisle can learn how the new Cloud Smart policy is being operationalized, and how acquisition documents are being structured.

Feel free to reach out to me at jfranco@meritalk.com for more information on the best virtual events, or how to bring one of your own to market.

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Joe Franco
Joe Franco
Joe Franco is a Program Manager, covering IT modernization, cyber, and government IT policy for MeriTalk.com.