I recently attended PennWell's POWER-GEN Europe and Renewable Energy World Europe events in Cologne, Germany. This event attracted more than 11,000 registrants ... in a time when the electric power market sector in Europe is, in a word, struggling.
Why ... in today's world of e-mail, LinkedIn, video on the Internet, and 24/7 accessibility to one another through texting and telephoning on mobile devices ... would 11,000 people choose to spend money to attend an event, especially in a stringent cost-control atmosphere?
One reason. There is NO substitute for good old-fashioned face-to-face interaction.
Sure, all the available communications tools and technology make interaction arguably faster and efficient. However, there's just something about looking someone in the eye, shaking his or her hand, and making a connection that you simply cannot get anywhere else.
If you don't occasionally connect in person, you're missing out.
That's the purpose of events in our industry ... making connections.
I want to share with you a story a HydroVision International delegate (Randy Stearnes of Tacoma Public Utilities) recounted to me a couple of years ago about his "face-to-face connection" at an event. His story perfectly illustrates why your attendance at live events matters:
"When I checked into my hotel at HydroVision International, a group of gentlemen from Brazil were ahead of me and we got to chatting about the event. Our paths crossed several times during the week. One day at lunch I was by myself and looked for an open table or a familiar face to join. A group across the dining area was waving their arms like they were signaling a jet to land on an aircraft carrier. I realized they were waving to me and I recognized my new friends from Brazil.
"They invited me to sit down. For the next 30 minutes we shared photographs, told stories about how to get public support for hydropower and discussed advice for young people to find careers in hydro. They showed me some incredible pictures of fish in South American rivers. It was as good as creating our own session! They encouraged me to attend HydroVision Brasil and we discussed connecting schools in Curitiba with schools in Tacoma.
"The point is ... there is no way that I could have made that connection on my own. It took a gathering like HydroVision International to build the bridge. Sitting down with a group of people and discussing hydro is more powerful and certainly more productive than a conference call or an e-mail message.
"Sharing information, listening to presentations, talking to vendors ... all have value. But the added ingredient of casual networking opportunities is a great selling point - and this particular opportunity was absolutely priceless."
Connecting with someone in person makes that faceless name on the other end of the telephone or computer come alive. I've seen the value of the "personal connection" this year when we added photos of speakers to the HydroVision International website. You'll look at the sessions and presentations in a completely different way when you connect "a face with a name." (Check out the conference content with speaker photos at: http://bit.ly/SfMbgK.)
The BEST way to make this personal connection in the hydro industry this year is to attend HydroVision International next month in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. While there, I guarantee you will learn something, conduct business, make progress on a project, and/or gain new insight on how to do your work better.
Marla J. Barnes
Publisher and Chief Editor