Tips on how to get more from a fire service tradeshow

By Robert Avsec

For Fire Chief

I first came across the term, “conference commando,” several years ago in a piece by Scott Kirsner in Fast Company magazine entitled “The Conference Commando Field Manual.” Kisner described a conference commando as:

“… people who treat a few days at an industry or professional gathering as a surgical strike that generates value for their company, that helps their career, and that shapes their perspective on the future. These conference commandos live by the guiding principles of an economy built on networks — that whom you know is as important as what you know, and that you have to update what you know by continually encountering new ideas.”

You’re a leader and manager within you’re organization, right? You probably have a “snail mail” in-box at work that’s teetering on collapse, an e-mail in-box that hasn’t been clear since the day it was set up, and more daily “brush fires” than … I get the picture.

So when you have the opportunity to attend a tradeshow to see what’s the “latest and greatest” in apparatus, equipment, and services for the fire and EMS world you want a proper ROMTI (Return on My Time Invested).

And let’s not forget that your organization has got a dog in this fight as well. The cost for registration, airfare, lodging, and meals represents an investment by the organization of at least a couple thousand dollars per person. So your bosses are going to be looking for a good ROTIY (Return on Their Investment in You).

You should have a plan prior to attending one of the major fire and EMS conferences so that you maximize your time. Here are a few of my time-tested techniques for being in the field as a conference commando.

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Photo credit: FDIC