A Trade Show Alternative for Federal Contractors and Government

In 2013, the federal government has limited travel and canceled many, if not most of the critical “Business to Government” industry trade shows such as Defense Intelligence WorldwideUS Air Trade and Technology Show, Military Health System Conference, Tactical Wheeled Vehicles Event, GSA FedFleet, GovEnergy, SmartPay and GSA Training Expositions.*

Eileen Kent of Custom Keynotes, one of our guest bloggers, has come up with an innovative potential solution that could bring business and government together in local settings on a regular basis. She calls these gatherings “Industry Solution Jams,” and is encouraging industry associations, SBA, PTACs, Chambers of Commerce and local businesses to consider hosting one of these events.

This solution is a cost-effective way for industry and government to discuss new ideas and present case studies and innovations, and for project managers who are stuck on a problem to see how the marketplace is solving similar problems. “There is talent right outside the federal buildings and bases,” notes Eileen, “but the federal customers don’t have time or the tools (or the budget) to seek new solutions.” An Industry Solutions Jam gives these PMs the opportunity to meet new subject matter experts in a neutral setting.

Eileen also points out that the Federal Government’s FAR (Federal Acquisition Regulation) 15.201 notes that, “Exchanges of information among all interested parties, from the earliest identification of a requirement through the receipt of proposals, are encouraged.” These events fulfill this type of communication and help the Government obtain quality supplies at reasonable prices, and increase the efficiency of the contracting process.

As a first step towards an ISJ, Eileen recommends surveying the PMs and other end users inside the agency to find out their current challenges, e.g., sustainability, LEED certification, IT and cyber security, etc.

Next, she suggests establishing a  facilitator (could be an outside professional, if no one “inside” can assume this duty) to moderate and host the two-hour event, and to publicize an invitation to businesses from within the region who have case studies that prove their solutions for these particular challenges, or who just want to mix and network.

The facilitator, along with the hosting agency and presenting companies, will forward invitations to the small business offices of all nearby agencies, the prime contractors working onsite, local Procurement Technical Assistance Centers and the project managers who may benefit from the topics being presented. Area regional directors and base commanders should be invited as well.

Room rental, food and beverage, and IT costs can all be covered through sponsorship, rendering this a no-cost solution for the agency. Potential sponsors could be small business contractors and advocates, prime contractors, individual facilitators, contractor associations, SBA, PTACs and local Chambers of Commerce –  a third-party association/facilitator or Chamber who can bring together both sides of the equation.

An Industry Solutions Jam would have positive benefits for everyone involved:

  • Small and local businesses have exposure to their local federal customers without travel expenses
  • Agency Small Business Officers will have the ability to meet new local businesses ultimately meeting mandated small business goals
  • Prime Small Business Officers will have exposure to new innovations and potential sub-contractors, who can help them meet their mandated small business goals
  • The government could save time and money by investing in a local innovation that is discovered at the event

For more of Eileen’s insights into the federal contracting scene, please see her earlier blog posts here at The Fish Don’t Jump in the Boat:

Federal Customers Say the Darnedest Things
Cold Calling the Federal Government
Develop a Sales Strategy Now – Before the Summer Federal Feeding Frenzy Begins


3 Comments on “A Trade Show Alternative for Federal Contractors and Government”

  1. Great idea! This would develop the necessary personal
    relationships to do business…

  2. Jill says:

    Hi, Bill.

    Thanks for mentioning PTAC. I have sent your post to the PTACs of MI (there are 11 offices in MI), and we will discuss at our quarterly meeting next week how we can organize one, or more, of these in the near future. Jill, SW MI PTAC, Kalamazoo, MI.

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