As I wrote in an earlier post, in 2013, the federal government has limited travel and canceled many industry trade shows. Unfortunately, conferences have gotten a bad rap lately, with overspending and more focus on entertainment than education.
Luckily, conferences like the National Contract Management Association’s World Congress, held last week from July 21-24, 2013, still hold the focus on education. Speakers included the top subject matter experts in the world of contract management. The NCMA even offered certification exams for the designations of Certified Professional Contracts Manager, Certified Federal Contracts Manager, and Certified Commercial Contracts Manager – right at the conference!
If you’re going to attend a conference, it’s important to choose one like this that’s based on educational opportunities. It’s getting harder for government employees to get funding to attend conferences if they can’t justify the educational benefits. Even for this stellar conference, some of the government attendees funded their own way there. We at TAPE were very grateful that so many were willing to do this!
Attendance was down a little bit as a result of this change in the conference landscape, but it definitely meant that everybody who was there was very motivated. So although there was less traffic in the exhibit hall, we had a lot of very good interactions, and people were definitely there to do business.
As for my presentation, “The Fish Don’t Jump in the Boat” (my favorite topic!), we had a very good group, a mix of people from PTACs, who were there in force, several small businesses, and it was wonderful to have Alice Williams in the group as well. She is the Associate Director, Office of Small Business at Army Contracting Command, and also shared the stage with my wife Louisa Jaffe, President and CEO of TAPE, on a panel discussion.
We reviewed a lot of the topics that have appeared in this blog, and it was great to see how a new audience appreciated the content. There was even one question about mid-tier issues (another favorite topic!). (P.S. The session was recorded – if the NCMA releases it to the public I will definitely post a link here in the blog.)
If you’re considering adding conferences to your marketing mix (read this post first, from TAPE’s Director of Marketing and Communications), be sure to choose conferences like the NCMA World Congress that are well oriented to education, because those are the ones where you’re likely to find the most government people.
As with all things, you have to go where your customers are. Even if you don’t think contracting officers are your customers, they are the people who talk to your customers and put out your contracts, and that makes them your target audience. At my presentation, we talked about the importance of establishing a relationship with your contracting officers.
The location of the conference added a lot to our experience as well. As I tweeted from Nashville, the Gaylord Grand Opry Hotel and Convention Center was like a city in itself!
There is another good education-based conference coming up next week. From August 6-8, 2013, The Department of Veterans Affairs will host the 2013 National Veterans Small Business Conference (NVSBC) in St. Louis, Missouri. NVSBC is VA’s largest nationwide conference (they’re expecting more than 4,000 attendees) and is specifically designed to put veteran-owned small businesses together with procurement decision makers in both government and commercial industries.
At the NVSBC, I’ll be presenting another version of “The Fish Don’t Jump in the Boat,” bound to be a unique discussion based on who is in the room. Will you be there?