Why attending commercial events?

I have already written a review of GeoBusiness 2014.  But I thought it was worth writing something about the nature of the event and the interaction between different sectors.

What is GeoBusiness and why was it different?

GeoBusiness is a new event.  As the name suggests, its focus is very much on businesses.  The event had 3 sides to it:

  1. Exhibition –  hardware, software and solutions from the UK sector
  2. Exhibitor workshops – exhibitors ha the chance to run workshop sessions to showcase their products
  3. Formal conference – talks by GI practitioners covering best practices and discussing the next big things in the GI sector

Why was this significant?  Well it gave attendees 3 options and allowed them to mix and match.  Not everyone is interested in listening to formal presentations, while others most certainly are.  This is, in my opinion, the key to attracting GI users from different sectors.  Once you have them all in the same place, interaction will happen. Especially if you timetable in plenty of mingling time.   At Geobusiness we saw companies that were selling the hardware to collect data, data collectors and data consumers all mixing and exchanging experiences and knowledge.

It also brought users from right across the sector together in one place.  Those that design the kit to collect data, the data collectors and the data consumers were all well represented and they had a heavily discounted rate for students.

Why should students attend these event?

For any student with GIS skills this event really was a golden opportunity to scout out potential employers.  OK, you can do some of this on the net, but rocking up to a stand and having a chat with people from the company can give you a much better insight into the organisation.  I am not talking about simply asking them if they have any jobs available, a better approach may be to ask them about recent projects or the tech that they use.  You should then be able to enquire about graduate programs or mention things from your course that are related to what they do.  This is networking.  Some people are really good at it, others just don’t feel comfortable.  The key to it is making sure that the person you are networking does most of the talking.  This takes the pressure off you and usually makes them feel like the chat went well.

Following up 

I am not sure i would recommend giving out CVs at an event.  Most people come away with a heap of paper which rarely gets looked at again Your CV may well get lost.  A better approach might be to take a business card from the person you have chatted to and send them a brief email a few days later (not that evening, their inbox will be stuffed with missed emails that have accumulated while they have been out the office).  Remind them who you are and that you think that the company sounds like one you would want to work for and ask their advice on how to apply.  It is worth checking the current vacancies page first for information about graduate jobs and current vacancies.

If you don’t have a named contact, then get a CV and covering letter together that match your skills to the companies work and send them off.  I would mention in the covering letter that you visited the company’s stand at a recent event.

Conclusions

Attending events can seem like a jolly, and i suppose they can be. But they are important events that bring lots of like-minded professionals together in the same place.  For an graduate, or an early career professional, such events are a gold mine of potential contact and even future employers. However, you get out what you put it. Be prepared and do your homework.

About Addy Pope

Addy is a member of the GeoData team at EDINA and work on services such as GoGeo, ShareGeo and the FieldtripGB app. Addy has over 10 years experience as a geospatial analyst. Addy tweets as @go_geo
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