Peyton Lissau/Endeavor Business Media

See You 'IRL': The Benefits of Industry Events

March 1, 2024
Whether in your average work day or in the business trips you take throughout the year, there is no replacement for in person.

My first assignment as an editorial intern at Transmission & Distribution World magazine back in the ‘90s was to compile the IEEE PES Transmission and Distribution Conference and Exposition pre-show section. Back then people were just starting to look at websites for information, but were still relying mostly on print programs, guides and of course magazines for most of their information.

I remember the host utility was Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, so I learned all about the fun things to do in Los Angeles, along with what the IEEE PES event was all about. I didn’t get to attend the show that year since I was a part-time intern but I still felt the excitement in preparing the huge section for the print issue, which then included the floor map, the full exhibitor list and of course some of the same features we have today, including highlights of the show, the schedule at a glance and the products and services that will be on display. Now in 2024, we encourage you to go to the IEEE PES website to find the most up to date exhibitor list and floor map.

Not long after that first assignment, I started full time as an associate editor on a different publication that covered public safety communications and jumped right into attending all the big industry events. As a young, intrepid editor, I quickly learned about the industry at those shows by seeing products demos, talking with experts, meeting exhibitors and moderating and sitting in on educational sessions. I even worked on a few “show daily” newspapers, where we would gather interviews and news to have a newspaper printed on site for attendees. Now we can instantly add news to the web, so it’s much easier and quicker to get new information to our readers.

I did eventually get back to T&D World as an online editor, but throughout my career, I have found the quickest and most efficient way to keep tabs on what is going on in our industry and to learn about the trends and technologies is to get out to industry conferences and exhibitions. Even through ups and downs of our economy, we still made it a priority to attend a few shows a year.

Then the pandemic happened, and that stopped for at least a little while. To be safe, we stopped going to our offices, and of course traveling to events where there were a lot of new people. We “pivoted” in 2020 to virtual events. We learned about video calls and webinars and podcasts. That worked for a while, but it was NOT a replacement for live events. Maybe some thought it could be. Don’t get me wrong; there is still a place for webinars and Zoom calls in on workdays. They are a quick way to interact with experts and focus your precious time in learning about specific topics you need.

However, there is something to be said for jumping in on a session you wouldn’t normally attend or meeting someone from a different utility or company during the coffee break. And being able to touch and interact with several different exhibitors on a show floor when you wouldn’t be able to travel to different areas for demonstrations can’t be substituted online.

Meeting new people (and catching up with old friends) is also beneficial to your mental and cognitive health. According to a University of Michigan study conducted before the pandemic, spending just 10 minutes talking to another person can help improve your memory and performance on tests. Meeting new people can also be a mood booster; even for introverts. I won’t say meeting a lot of new people isn’t tiring, but having a face-to-face conversation can improve your mood and help you to learn different perspectives. And in my experience, it’s much easier to get things done and make decisions with a group when we are sitting across the table from one another and can have a give-and-take conversation. You have probably seen the old video skits of conference calls where someone tries to talk and is muted, you can’t really pick up on social cues as well, two people talk at the same time, or at least half the people are multi-tasking.

So, I would recommend, especially for younger professionals, for you to get out to an industry event. It can be a conference, an exhibition, or a competition (Lineman’s Rodeo). If travel isn’t feasible, look for events within driving distance. Several industry associations put on smaller regional events that may include poster sessions, small exhibit floors, or networking events. See if you can take a technical tour or visit a substation or manufacturer. CIGRE, IEEE PES, APPA, EEI, ASCE, UBBA; I could keep going on the number of great groups in our industry. And don’t forget our own event, the T&D World Live Conference and Exhibition in Atlanta in October! This event mirrors the content that we cover in our magazine and website, so if you are reading this, you would probably get something out of it. See you in real life!


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