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Do We Need a Reboot of GovCon Industry Conferences?

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John
16th May 2023

Intro

In today's rapidly changing world, collaboration between government and industry is more important than ever. The government has an obligation to engage with industry to address pressing challenges, while industry has a desire to meet with government to share their expertise and solutions. However, the current state of GovCon (Government Contracting) conferences leaves much to be desired. Let's explore the issues with GovCon conferences and propose recommendations for improvement. The few winners in the current state of affairs are the organizations that host the events, not the attendees.

Limited Opportunities for Engagement

One of the main issues with GovCon conferences is that they often represent one of the few opportunities for industry to engage with government. As a result, many companies and organizations invest significant time and resources into attending these events. However, the limited accessibility of these conferences means that only a select few can participate, leading to a lack of diversity and inclusivity in the conversations taking place. Moreover, these conferences tend to be expensive, which can be a barrier for smaller businesses or new players in the industry. The need for more diverse and accessible platforms for communication between government and industry is critical if we want to foster greater innovation, collaboration, and progress.

The government contracting industry is inundated with a plethora of conferences each year, and these events come at a significant cost for both government employees and contractors. With limited budgets and tight schedules, attendees must carefully select which conferences to attend in order to maximize their investment. However, this process can be incredibly challenging due to the sheer number of events available. Many conferences offer similar content or have overlapping themes, making it difficult for attendees to distinguish between them. Additionally, some conferences may not provide enough value or engagement opportunities for participants.

A revamped conference model would allow government employees and contractors alike to make better-informed decisions about where they invest their time and resources. By creating more targeted and engaging conference experiences, we can ensure that attendees leave feeling empowered with new knowledge and connections that will benefit their work moving forward.

Surface-Level Conversations on the Conference Floor

Another issue with GovCon conferences is that they often consist of surface-level conversations on the expo or conference floor. While this can be useful for networking and making initial connections, it rarely leads to meaningful engagement between government and industry representatives. The government's attention is stretched thin between walking the floor and racing between tightly scheduled one-on-one's.

The real value of these conferences is in the conversations that take place in the hallways, private rooms, or over meals – where participants can engage in more in-depth discussions about challenges, solutions, and opportunities. However, this type of interaction is not always facilitated or encouraged by conference organizers, leading to missed opportunities for meaningful collaboration.

Pre-Arranged Connections and Exclusivity

Perhaps one of the most significant issues with GovCon conferences is that they tend to cater to a select group of individuals who already have connections within the government. These individuals often arrange meetings with government representatives ahead of time, using the conference as a convenient venue to meet face-to-face.

As a result, the conference serves as a veiled premise for those who already know government officials to meet with them more frequently. This exclusivity creates an environment where new players or smaller businesses are left out in the cold, unable to access the same opportunities as their larger, more established counterparts.

The need for conferences to be more inclusive and cater to a wider audience is paramount if we want to foster a diverse and innovative government contracting ecosystem.

The Thin Hope of Meaningful Engagement

Many industry representatives attend GovCon conferences in the thin hope of getting meaningful engagement with government officials. Unfortunately, this hope is often not realized, as the format and structure of these events do not lend themselves to fostering meaningful connections and opportunities.

This can lead to frustration and disillusionment for industry participants, who may feel like they are wasting their time and resources attending conferences that fail to deliver on their promises. The need for conferences to deliver real value and facilitate meaningful connections is more important than ever as the challenges facing our nation continue to grow in complexity and scope.

Recommendations for Improvement

To address these issues and create better GovCon conferences, several recommendations can be made:

  1. Encourage more open and transparent communication between government and industry: Government officials should be encouraged to share their challenges, needs, and opportunities with industry representatives more openly. This will help foster a more collaborative environment where industry can offer their expertise and solutions to address pressing government problems.
  2. Create opportunities for smaller businesses and new players to engage with government: Conferences should be more inclusive and cater to a diverse range of participants, including smaller businesses and new players in the industry. This could include offering lower-cost registration options, virtual attendance options, or targeted networking events to help these organizations connect with government officials.
  3. Ensure that conferences deliver real value and facilitate meaningful connections: Conference organizers should focus on creating events that deliver real value to participants, including facilitating more in-depth discussions, ensuring that government needs are well-articulated, and providing opportunities for industry to showcase their expertise and solutions.

Observation

The importance of government-industry collaboration for innovation and progress cannot be overstated. As our nation faces increasingly complex challenges, we need the best and brightest minds from both sectors working together to find solutions. However, the current state of GovCon conferences is hindering this collaboration, leaving many industry representatives feeling frustrated and excluded.

By addressing these shortcomings and working to create more open, collaborative, and inclusive environments for government and industry to work together, we can ensure that our nation remains at the cutting edge of innovation and continues to tackle the most pressing challenges facing us today.

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