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 THE IMPORTANCE OF CONFERENCES
THE IMPORTANCE OF CONFERENCES
Written by: Larry Johnson
 In this column I want to discuss the importance of trade conferences. This year is even more important as the past few years have been difficult to stay current with technologies, products and techniques due to the impacts of Covid-19. Each year, I decide which conferences I will be attending to stay current in my technology. Technologies could include subjects such as fiber optics, coax, twisted pair, microwave, cellular and satellite to name a few fields. Whether you are a designer, installer, technician or manager, your focus may require an emphasis on the transmission equipment applicable to the specific discipline. Still, the main objectives and benefits must be the focus of why you should attend.
Technical sessions/seminars – Hear what the experts have to say and share. Presentations are a valuable tool for staying on top of the industry. In addition, the subject matter experts (SME) are selected for their expertise and applicably to the subject matter.
New products – This is especially true as most manufacturers release products at conferences where their customers attend.
Vendor meetings – Your suppliers want to see you and show you their products, but equally of importance is the ability to meet and ask questions and address issues with the companies’ SMEs. I have found these contacts extremely important as their expertise is invaluable when assistance is needed.
Peers – Meeting with others involved with the industry allows attendees the ability to talk and discuss common interests and stories. I find that social events held at conferences are great for meeting and greeting customers, peers, manufacturers and industry SMEs. On a personal note, I am still in contact with many of the people that I met when I first started in fiber optics. These contacts have proven to be very valuable over the years and the friendships made are invaluable.
Types of Events – There are many types of events that help in one’s career and specific disciplines. Let me give an example from my experience. As my specialty is fiber optics I attend international, national and regional conferences which are normally held once a year and can be easily scheduled in advance.
For most people, regional conferences are the easiest to attend due to travel logistics. Many of these are sponsored by regional associations and provide a regional focus with sessions. One benefit of these is meeting with your local suppliers and their sales staff. National conferences - A great example here is the ETA’s upcoming Education Forum schedule which is taking place March 27-30th in Las Vegas, Nevada, which is a great time to visit the desert in the springtime.
ETA’s Education Forum is co- located annually with the IWCE Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event offers individuals the opportunity to network, collaborate, and receive training. After their training, each participant has the opportunity to test for ETA
want to gain knowledge about new technologies, and how to expand existing programs; college representatives, program development specialists, and counselors who are interested in creating and maintaining electronics programs and in developing strategies for recruiting students; industry trainers and managers who want to gain insight from educators; workforce development personnel from government, labor, business, and education who are involved in shaping electronics programs; individuals concerned with current industry trends, emerging technologies and educational programs.
ETA’s Education Forum
provides a variety of hands-
on training for individuals to
choose from. The technical
training offered at the 2023
Education Forum includes:
Associate Certified Electronics
Technician (CETa) training,
Cybersecurity and Information Technology Security (ITS) training, Distributed Antenna Systems (ERRCS) – Code Compliance (DASC) training, Fiber Optics 1-2-3 (FOI) training, General Communications Technician - Level 1 (GCT1) training, General Communications Technician - Level 2 (GCT2) training, Line and Antenna Sweep (LAS) training, Microwave Radio Technician (MRT) training, Practical Antenna Basics (PAB) training, Radio Frequency Interference Mitigation (RFIM) training, and Wireless Networking Technician (WNT) training. If you are interested in attending ETA’s Education Forum, or would like more information, please visit www.etai.org/education_forum.html.
Who should attend?
My experience as a business owner was making sure we were represented in the industry which meant having a booth with our sales, marketing and SME staff attending. I also had a requirement that our instructors attend at least one conference a year to meet with vendors, attend technical sessions and also meeting with customers and industry SMEs. For those who manage, design, install and/or maintain systems these conferences are key to staying on top of the industry. Remember that the goal of all companies is to be more effective and productive. Conferences provide a return on your investment as the knowledge gained will return a professional investment.
Planning for the Conference
Establish what your goals are for the conference. Proactive planning helps with budgets and staffing requirements during your absence and provides the justification for your attendance. Plan ahead for personal meetings while attending. Reviewing the exhibitor list is very helpful with identifying companies to meet with. Also, reach out to your suppliers and ask whether they will be attending or exhibiting.
Larry Johnson was founder of The Light Brigade and is President of FiberStory and specializes in fiber optic consulting and training.
  certification. Attendees include: faculty in technology programs who
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