Are You a Conference Commando? — Advice for RESNET and Beyond
A couple of years ago, my friend Steve Byers of Energy Logic wrote an article about how to get the most out of your conference experience. In it, he included a link to a paper titled 15 Tips from Keith Ferrazzi: Conference Commando (pdf), which I believe every conference goer should read. With the RESNET conference coming up next week and many more following throughout the year (Building Energy, Greenprints, ACI, SIPA, Building Science Summer Camp, EEBA, GreenBuild...), you need to be as prepared as the Energy Avenger (see video below).
Ferrazzi give some great general advice about how to approach a business conference. I'm not going to go through all 15 of his tips here because you can read them yourself. When you do, you'll see that going to the presentations is NOT the most important thing you should be doing. It's deciding whom to meet, how to get known in sessions where you're not the speaker, what to do with that 'big kahuna' you meet, and why you shouldn't stand in line to talk to speakers. Now really, go download that paper and study it!
Now that you've got a really good guide for general conference strategy, let me add my thoughts on how to apply this specifically to the RESNET conference. It's a great conference, and this will be my sixth time attending since 2004, so I'm familiar with the people and the conference.
1. Meet the RESNET staff
When you register, you'll get your first chance to talk with them. One of the people likely to be there is Laurel Elam, and if there were a trophy for nicest person in the world, I can't think of anyone who would have a better chance to win it. Laurel is the person you see on the right in this photo. The other is Faye Berriman, another really wonderful RESNET staffer you're likely to meet at the registration table.
Then there's Steve Baden. He constantly amazes me, and I've known him for nearly a decade now. Steve is the executive director of RESNET, and without him, I can't imagine that our organization would be anywhere near as influential as it is. He lobbies Congress for things like the tax credits that were recently renewed. He works with all the committees and staff on pushing the organization forward. He also is one of the most approachable executive directors you'll ever meet, and he responds to emails quickly.
2. Go to preconference meetings & courses
The actual conference is next Wednesday through Friday, but that doesn't mean you should just show up Tuesday night. On Monday and Tuesday, RESNET offers a variety of preconference courses from a half-day in length all the way to two days long. You could learn how to do ratings for Energy Efficient Mortgages, perform Manual J & D HVAC design, become the HERS rater for Passivhaus projects [Just found out the PH training is sold out!], and more.
In addition to the preconference courses, you can take advantage of the open committee meetings. If you've been a HERS rater for a while, it's time to start getting involved. The Quality Assurance, Training & Education, and Technical committees all meet on Monday. The RESNET board meets on Tuesday. Go find out what's happening with your organization!
3. Work the trade show
This year's trade show will be bigger than ever because it's combined with the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) and the Indoor Air Quality Association (IAQA) trade shows. If you've got technical questions, you'll find people there who can answer them. If you're looking for a HERS provider, you'll get your chance to interview some there. (We're also a provider but won't have a booth this year. If you're interested in our provider services, you can download our application packet now and talk with me or Jeffrey Sauls at the conference.)
One of my goals for the trade show is to find the REM/Rate guys and ask them about some issues I'm having with their software. What are yours?
4. Find out where the evening events are
One of the things you'll find out at the trade show is which exhibitors are hosting parties in their hospitality suites. There also may or may not be parties that don't get publicized at all. If you meet the right people and find out the secret handshake, you can get in. And if you do find those parties, be sure to let me know!
The hospitality suites and other after-hours events can be a great way to get to know the current and rising leaders in our industry. They're informal events and make it easy to discuss the
5. Go to Mike Barcik's talks
If you don't know who Mike Barcik is, you definitely need to go to his talks. I worked with Mike for a few years when I was an employee and later teaching HERS rater classes with him. He's smart, funny, and may be the person at the conference who knows the most about energy codes. You really do need to go. Did I mention that he's really funny? (Just don't let him try to sell you a copy of RESCheck! You can get it free online.)
6. Take advantage of lunchtime
The RESNET conference always includes lunch, and nearly everyone will be there. It can be a great time to meet some of those people on your list. As you scan the dining hall, find a table where you can meet those people or continue a relationship you've already started to develop. Discuss the hot topics or ask the questions you need answers to.
7. Meet people IRL
I assume that if you're going to the RESNET conference, you're on LinkedIn and a member of the RESNET BPI group there. If you're not, you really should get over there and do that right now. That group is one of the best learning tools available to people in our industry, largely because of David Butler. He's an HVAC genius and does a fantastic job moderating and contributing to that group.
Once you're at the conference, you'll get a chance to meet people IRL (in real life, that is) with whom you've been discussing ventilation, spray foam, and quality assurance online. Take advantage of the opportunity. Of course, LinkedIn is only one of many social media sites, so you can meet many people IRL for the first time, or reconnect if you've already met that way.
See you next week!