As convention season approaches, it's time to start brushing up on your technology investment strategies. Before you begin to walk the trade-show booths, more of which will be pitching technology related products and services than ever before, you had better have a clear focus, and a plan.

Too often, we can be overwhelmed by the "promise of technology" and too greatly influenced by the claims made by the vendors of such products. The flocking crowds, seminar pitchmen and glowing testimonials of your peers greatly add to the sense of urgency to buy, and buy right now if you want the "special convention only" price.

Unfortunately, all of us have no doubt invested in promising technologies only to find that they didn't really meet our needs or expectations. Not only can indiscriminately spending your money drain precious financial resources, but the time invested installing and learning any new piece of hardware or software can never be refunded.

Protecting the value of our time is perhaps the most important reason we need to be very careful about which technologies we invest in.

With this in mind, here are eight technology-buying guidelines to assist you in making the most of your technology budget while saving you from investing countless hours learning to use a newly purchased item, only to find it sitting unused on your bookshelf six months from now.

1) Before you hit the convention floor, make an inventory of the technologies that you currently own, and whether you use them regularly or not.

Keep in mind that there are no right answers, as we're all different in how we value and use our technologies. They key is to find out what's true about your own use of technology.

2) When you review your list of the current technologies that you use on a regular basis, look for any holes or inefficiencies in your current lineup.

Make a list of technologies that you really want and need based on these observations and take that to the trade show with you.

3) Generally speaking, you should avoid buying the very latest in technology that represents what is often called the "Bleeding Edge." These developments are typically brand new and create a lot of media "buzz."

When it comes to the newest and most advanced technologies, waiting until next year often makes the most sense. If the company and technology are still around, they will likely be offering better prices and with more refined product functionality, as well.

4) As a matter of investing wisely, you should specifically look for technologies that:

While there are valuable technologies that don't necessarily meet these criteria, they are few and far between.

5) Don't buy anything until you completed a list of potential candidates. There's almost always more than one vendor offering any particular product or service. So, it's wise to make absolutely sure that you know all of your options before investing your money. Complete your tour of any local, state or national trade-show first, then go back and make your buying decisions during the final days of the event.

6) Make sure you're comfortable with the vendor's economic potential. While it's often hard to tell which companies will survive, you should still consider:

When you're comparing two competing technologies that are similar in functionality and price, financial stability of the vendor should help you make your decisions.

7) Don't be swayed by the standard "30-day Money Back Guarantee." While these guarantees are reassuring, they won't help you evaluate the quality or usefulness of the technology you're considering. This is especially true since:

While you should be comfortable with the company's return and refund policies before buying, never let the existence of such provisions entice you into making the decision to purchase.

8) Buy only what you can implement immediately. There's a general tendency for consumers to go into "shopping mode" at trade-shows without giving enough thought into how they will implement all of their purchases.

Regardless of how valuable the product or service, if you can't make the commitment to both learn and implement the new offering into your existing business processes within thirty days, then it's usually better to wait.

Not only will this keep you from buying technologies that you may never get around to using, but it will also help prevent you from becoming overwhelmed by all that you must do when you return home and need to go back to work.

As an added bonus, since technology prices consistently tend to fall over time, buying just what you can immediately use, and then waiting a few months before acquiring more technologies, often makes good financial sense.

If you follow these eight simple guidelines, you'll likely find the onslaught of technology at your next convention/trade-show to be much less threatening, confusing and overwhelming.

You'll also probably spend less time and money than you anticipated, and those investments that you do make will represent a much better use of these two limited resources.


Copyrighted with all rights reserved by Stephen M. Canale