If you were fortunate enough to attend IMS 2014 in Tampa, I hope the packing guidelines in my last post were helpful. But, whether you made or not, I thought you might enjoy nosing through my metaphorical “backpack,” once again, to see what memories and lessons I brought back from my whirlwind week to Florida. (Warning: This backpack is huge, untidy, and bulging at the seams!)
The Social (Media) Experiment
Pat Hindle, of Microwave Journal, and I are both big fans of Linked In and manage RF/MW industry groups. Therefore, we decided to try something new by co-hosting a Linked In Meet-Up at IMS. Early responses suggested strong interest, so we decided on a very simple format and venue: A sports Bar at the Mariott Hotel; MW Journal would provide 15-20 drinks and Transline would raffle a kindle. Easy! As more RSVPs came in, Peregrine jumped in and offered more drinks while Thin Film Technologies offered to provide appetizers. Instant party! Pat and I were surprised and happy about the interest and support for our first-ever Meet-Up. The start time was at 4:30pm on Monday--just before the opening plenary session and IMS kick-off reception.
At 4:25 there we sat, with signs posted around the designated area of Champion’s sport’s bar waiting—like kids wearing party hats, with balloons clutched in our fists--wondering if anyone would show to our birthday party. Pat and I looked nervously at each other and chuckled repeatedly, wondering if we would be stood up. Although RSVPs lead us to believe 25 or so people would attend, with social media…who knows?!! Thin Film had pre-ordered $100.00 worth of appetizers and there we sat along with Chris Savalia, owner of Transline, who had shelled out money for the Kindle that sat on the table. Gulp!
Around 4:40, people began arriving, and we breathed a collective sigh of relief. In the end, we had 30-40 people and had a great time chatting and relaxing before Microwave week officially began. Those of us who sponsored the Meet Up were happy we had hosted the event --and everyone enjoyed putting faces and names to people previously only known by headshots on Linked In.
Location, location, location! What’s true of prime real estate, also applies to Microwave week—location really matters! Tampa was an amazing location and proved to be a gracious host city to the thousands of us that poured into to the waterfront town for IMS 2014. Mother Nature spared us promised thunderstorms and instead gave us scattered clouds and welcome cool breezes. I’m not sure what I expected Tampa to look like, but I was surprised to find the towering skyline littered with some stunning architecture—the most striking of which is the University of Tampa with it’s Moorish-Revival dome and turrets. Many of us enjoyed a serene morning walk to the convention center each morning along the Riverwalk or through picturesque downtown streets. Ybor city and other surrounding areas offered outstanding venues for evening dinners or industry parties at the end of the day. The convention center itself was perched directly on the water’s edge and offered many sunlit spaces to gather between sessions, or for a needed break from the exhibit hall.
IMS Kick-Off Reception
The outdoor IMS kick-off reception of 2014 will certainly be long remembered. It was a far- cry from our usual gathering places inside windowless ballrooms. Besides the fresh air and beautiful scenery, we were treated to a water-ski show that included stunts, clowns, wakeboards, a SkySki and a jump ramp. To top it all off, Chairman Larry Dunleavy came (temporarily) out of trick-skiing retirement to wow everyone with stunts like jumping out of his water skis onto his bare feet, while being towed behind a boat at 40 MPH across the water! Drinks, food, laughs and conversation flowed freely as we all lingered into the evening hours. It was a delightful and memorable way to kick off IMS. Our weeklong mascot-pirate “Buc” made his debut at the kick-off reception, which brought lots of smiles and many photo opportunities.
Attendance numbers were recently released, and were around 7600, which included technical session and conference attendees, exhibit-only attendees and exhibitor staff. This is in line with the past two years of IMS, which were held in Seattle and Montreal. As an exhibitor, we noted strong international and academic attendance, which meant we scanned fewer badges than hoped for. However the ones we did scan belonged to decision makers that had immediate needs and showed genuine interest. A few other exhibitors I spoke with seemed to share a similar experience. As in years past, the greatest value seems to come from exhibitor interaction and collaboration.
Mergers and Acquisitions
The second quarter of 2014 brought news of many Mergers and Acquisitions that came in rapid-fire succession leading right up to, and even immediately after IMS. While we were all eager to hear about the implications, not much beyond what we learned from press releases was available, since the ink has scarcely had time to dry on these new agreements. Press conferences were held for some but, undoubtedly, it will be months before the impact of these sweeping changes will be known. Most people I spoke with seemed optimistic that the changes will be good for the industry, and the strategies that drove the M & As appear to be sound.
Transline Makes a “Big Bang”
Since Tampa is most known for Pirates and the Buccaneers, it was no mystery what type of promotion themes we would encounter all week. Yet, being the rebel, and wanting Transline to stand out in the ocean of exhibitors, I decided to take the road-less-travelled and go with a Big Bang Theory theme for our booth. After all—let’s face it—most of us at IMS are a bunch of nerds! And, c’mon, who doesn’t love Sheldon Cooper?!! Well, let me tell you, I had no idea how truly popular, on a global scale, Sheldon Cooper really is until IMS. We had a life-sized cardboard standee of Dr. Cooper in our booth and, hands down, he was the MVP of our booth as well as the most popular man on the exhibit floor! Not only American nationals loved him, so did the Germans, French, Chinese, Koreans, and South Africans. (Apparently we aren’t the only country that is subjected to endless Big Bang Theory re-runs!) He was the perfect ambassador for IMS—both an international superstar, and a total geek! Many took photos with Sheldon, which are now posted under the hashtag, #sheldonatims, on Twitter. Everyone…and I do mean everyone went bonkers for Dr. Cooper! He brought smiles to every face, he startled many, he caused countless double-takes and belly-laughs, Big Bang quotes and stories flowed, several thought his eyes were following them, and he even caused one woman to trip! I wish I had a nickel for every time we heard, “Oh, I LOVE Sheldon Cooper!” One adorable young lady from China, who couldn’t speak a single word of English gushed: ”Ahhh…Sheadon Coopah!” and then thrust her iPhone at us to take a photo of she and Sheldon. She walked down the aisle giggling as she went and left us in stitches.
Sheldon as Ice-breaker
What completely surprised us is how many people (that were intending to walk right past our booth) stopped dead in their tracks for a picture with Sheldon, then ended up lingering to talk to us about the RF/Microwave PCBs, or Flex Circuits we had on display. (Badge Scan!) He instantly dissolved every defense and allowed us to have unguarded, friendly conversations with many who never planned to stop at our small 10 X 10 booth. Not our 42” antenna, nor our new booth, nor our snazzy lit-up display cases could stop them—but Sheldon Cooper did it, over and over, standing stock-still with his Green Lantern shirt ablaze. We vowed to bring him to every trade show from now on, and we packed him far more gingerly than when we came.
Souvenirs for home
In the end, I brought home some remarkable things from Tampa. Here is the short list:
· I brought home fond memories of Tampa Bay and hope to return one day.
· I finished, with pride, my fifth IMS show as well as a deepened sense of connection to an industry and community that I enjoy and admire.
· I brought home a big smile--courtesy of friends, colleagues, conversations, parties, shared meals and new acquaintances.
· I brought home the happy exhaustion that comes from spending yourself on something worthwhile.
· I trust my instincts and a shared sense of humor with the Microwave community, thanks to our successful Meet-Up and Sheldon Cooper!
· My belief that most good stuff in life comes from somewhere outside your comfort zone grew stronger.
· I continue to be grateful to be associated with Transline, and am happy to work with a company that has integrity as well as ability.
· I have an ever-increasing sense of awe for those who work so hard and generously to put together these jamb-packed weeks that benefit so many.
· As always, I brought home loads of gratitude for the opportunity to be a small part of a grand, collaborative, committed Microwave Community
· Lastly, I brought home a big heap of anticipation for another year of IMS in Phoenix in 2015!