So I'm back from IITSEC and I'm starting to dig through all the backlog of stuff (emails, Tweets, etc) but I did want to post something about this conference since it is a unique experience for me. The unique aspect is that usually I post a lot of stuff from the conferences I attend/present at but not this one. Why?
'IITSEC is different' seems to be a woefully inadequate description. How is it different? First - its huge. Attendance is usually 15,000 to 20,000 and doesn't really seem to take a hit during tough economic times. Secondly, it really does cover an entire industry - there is no corollary conference on the corporate side, not DevLearn, Annual Gathering, ASTD ICE or TeK Knowledge, or ISPI, SALT...none of those conferences even come close to as complete coverage of an industry as IITSEC does - it just has no competition. So if you work in training, simulation or education in the defense industry, for this one week, just about everyone you know or need to work with is at IITSEC.
Third, it is overtly and openly commercial and about getting business done. There are paper sessions at IITSEC but while important for the authors to get their papers accepted - the presentations are only 20 mintutes long and all the papers are published on a CD that comes in your bag so physical attendance at the paper sessions is not the heart of IITSEC. The heart of IITSEC is the expo floor and customers come to IITSEC and to the expo looking for solutions and looking to make connections and do deals at a level that I just don't see at other conferences.
Fourth, while the fine folks who plan and execute IITSEC do provide a wifi hotspot (thx ADM Lewis and Barabara), the cheap bastards who run the Orange County Convention Center want to charge me $25 for a freaking day of 'net access! Tar and feather! Draw and quarter! So bad connectivity equals less posts/tweets coming out.
Fifth, because it covers a domain so fully...everybody is there and once you've gone a few times (I think this was my 9th time) and I had the dumb luck to come in to DOD at the top of the pyramid - so I met a lot of people - now, IITSEC is very much an 'old home week' for me. This isn't a purely social exercise though. With about 3.5 million people and a half a trillion dollar a year budget, turns out that DOD is actually a fairly tight circle to work in. So IITSEC really has this incredible value WRT reconnecting with people who are in new jobs, looking of new jobs, starting cool projects, etc etc. Plus you have this vibe about the revolving door between consulting and government that is full effect at IITSEC as military folk or govt folk look to move into the private sector and some from the other side (a much smaller number) look to head into the Fed.
...and don't forget the technology. Nowhere else will you find the kind of displays you'll find at IITSEC. The latest in large-scale (try 270 degrees by about 15 feet high) displays, the latest weapons training platforms (from infantry squad level to flying the new F-35) to a whole truckload of exhibitors selling everything from e-learning tools and systems to cargo helicopter training packages.
So its a huge face-to-face social network opp, an insane tech expo, the world's largest and longest business lunch +parties +old friends +a chance to 'publish' ....that is how IITSEC is different. Phew.