Should I be looking to conferences, trade shows, and conventions as opportunities for partner engagement?

Absolutely. Great relationships are built on shared experiences. Shows are often the only opportunity you have to physically be with many of these people. Whether or not you present at the show, or even have a booth at the show, the interactions, the conversations, the pub crawls, rounds of golf, and other enjoyable pursuits you share make the relationship richer. The best channel partners participate in these enthusiastically. You and they become part of a quantifiable community of friends that all work together and help each other. Conferences are a great venue for advancing all your partner relationships.