At trade shows, my objective is the same. I seek out professionals with expertise in focused areas to provide valuable content in our pages. I seek professionals, technicians, students and educators to share stories about what concerns them, excites them and motivates them. I sniff out news pertinent to all of the geomatics sciences. And I investigate manufacturers’ offerings and plans. These few goals help keep me grounded at every conference so I get the most out of my time there. That time becomes more and more precious with every passing year.

A few years ago, there were more conferences and trade shows attended by surveyors within a given year. Today, budgets are tighter; office and field work is, I think, more valued; and we have developed more of a dependence on electronic means of gathering information. The level of importance placed on conferences appears to be decreasing. Our January quick poll reflects this; midway through the poll’s time frame, 50 percent of respondents voted that they would only attend one or two shows in 2008.

What this means is that professionals are carefully choosing which shows and conferences to attend, many of them being local or regional. Time spent at these conferences is often less than before, which means that attendees also strategically select which sessions to attend or hop between a couple within the same time slot. Like I said, time is more precious.

Some show organizers have recognized this trend and have responded by shortening sessions to enable attendees to get more bite-size bits of information in less time. The exhibit hall hours of many conferences are also segregated from the educational portion so attendees can get the dedicated time they want with industry suppliers. Some state conferences, like the successful one held in Illinois, have recognized that attendees value the better bang for their buck. Accordingly, the Illinois Professional Land Surveyors Association (IPLSA) offers breakfast, lunch and coffee break meals in the price of registration. “We offer an outstanding conference, especially for the price,” says Bob Church, IPLSA’s executive director. “We try to hold down the cost and give them the best experience.”

When asked what advice he would give to attendees to make the most of their time at the conference, Church responds, “People need to understand that it’s a cost of doing business.” That’s why, he says, the association offers one-day, two-day and full conference registrations, packs as many sessions into those days as possible and provides dedicated time to soak up the exhibitors offerings. The IPLSA also slates its educational offerings according to mandatory continuing education requirements. The IPLSA is obviously getting it right, as an average of 1,050 professionals register annually.

To get the most out of any conference or trade show, attendees must prioritize their purpose for being there. If it’s to obtain CEUs or PDHs, specific sessions rate higher on the list. If it’s to gain information on new technology, software and accessories to help in the field and office, more time is usually spent on the exhibit floor. If it’s to make contacts or exchange ideas with local, regional or national peers, networking opportunities are placed at the top of the list.

But if the greatest goal at your next conference is to seek out the editor seeking you out, a visit to the POB booth or spreading the word will help you attain it. I look forward to seeing you this year, and hearing what’s on your mind in the world of surveying and mapping.

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POB magazine is published to help the geomatics surveying and mapping professional succeed. The magazine achieves this mission through concise and aggressive coverage of work in private practice and government by:

• Highlighting industry news, milestones, and product coverage for better decision-making;

• Reporting on new applications and continually evolving technologies including GPS, instrumentation, GIS and imaging; and

• Providing practical solutions to the problems facing the geomatics industry including professional business aspects, legal, legislative and educational issues.