I was chatting with a wag at the IPI conference earlier this week and after swearing me to secrecy, well at least to his/her identity, he/she began to lament the issue of the potential demise of public sector trade events like the IPI. His/her story goes like this:
The GSA had a big bash in 2010 in Las Vegas, spending upwards of $800,000 of the public money, partying like sailors who had been at sea for a year, and finding themselves afterwards caught like deer in the Facebook headlights.
(I personally know nothing about the GSA event, I don’t know whether or not the money was well spent, but I do know that there was an amazing lack of common sense on the part of the GSA management, but that’s another story.)
His/her point was that on the heels of the GSA debacle, why would a public official take the risk of going to an event like the IPI where there was parties galore and the booze flowed like water. The risk, of course, was that JVH would take their picture and it would be on this blog or worse, on someone’s Facebook page which has become an addendum to all personnel files. His/her position was that people may just simply take the ‘safer’ path and not go. No justifications, no hard questions, just a quiet life running parking in Podunk.
That would be sad. Sad for the attendees, sad for the cities and universities and airports where the attendees worked and sad, in the end, for the organizations they support. The value of an IPI, NPA or PIE isn’t the party party party (although I think I could hold a pretty strong position that the parties are a genuine, valid, part of the event) but the networking and information exchange that occurs at these annual events.
So what is the attendee to do? Should he go around with a sack over his head or retire to his hotel for room service at 5 PM? I think not.
I would suggest that the attendee drop his boss a note saying that at the upcoming trade event he will be spending 20 hours in classrooms, 12 hours reviewing technology on the exhibit hall floor, and networking with his peers at social events in the evening. Yes, there will be cocktail parties, but he will return with his dignity intact.
Give the boss a list of goals based on the syllabus or educational program and also a list of companies you are going to visit to bring information back about certain technologies that will make the organization better and save/make money. Rather than wander around gawking at meters and gates, make appointments before hand so you can really learn about the stuff of parking.
Then do it.
Afterwards, meet with your staff and your boss and review everything you learned, all the technology you saw, and list the ideas you had. Show the pictures of you with the lampshade, but include the fact that you now have four phone numbers of your opposite numbers in major like organizations where you can go for advice and counsel. People who you trust to give you the straight information when you ask for it.
Then hold your head high and make a reservation for the show next year.Don’t let a few bad apples spoil the entire ….well you know.