Choosing the right events

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As part of his column for Electro Optics magazine, Carlos Lee, director general of the European Photonics Industry Association (EPIC), discusses how to prioritise events

In a mature market, the leading industry events are usually established and well recognised. But in emerging sectors such as photonics  which have attractive market forecasts in specific applications  a myriad of events that seem to address the same topic will arise. Industry prefers a limited number of events, but each commercial organiser is eager to enter that market, hoping to generate a profit. Such a large number of events makes it challenging for people to decide on which one they should attend.

Some events are broad in scope; others are very narrow. Most are quite academic and only a few address current industry issues. Even fewer truly engage end-users in sharing their requirements and unmet needs, and this is typically the most interesting.

Personally, I think that the most important part of an event is the opportunity to talk with other attendees. Spending time during the coffee breaks, at the dinner and networking events, having at least half an hour to get to know each other’s competences — this, to me, is the true value of an event. Through these discussions, collaborations may arise, ideas for new products may be generated, considerations for a business strategy may be refined, and solutions to current challenges may be identified. 

For EPIC events, our members can always ask us in advance a list of speakers and participants, allowing them to evaluate if it will be worthwhile to come. At EPIC events, not only do we share a participants list, but also a description of each company participating, and sometimes also a picture and biography of each attendee.

EPIC events tend to be rather small in size, and sometimes you may want to attend a larger event or exhibition. Last month I attended micro photonics in Berlin and what I liked most was the diversity of the activities: an exhibition, congress, presentation theatre on the showfloor, networking reception, entrepreneurship event, career lounge, student visits, company excursions, match-making and many other meetings…

The major cost in attending an event is not the travel, but your time. I consider your time  even more than money – to be your most valuable resource. Therefore, I encourage you to take the time before deciding to attend an event and to make a careful assessment before you register. Know beforehand the speakers and participants. Check if the event offers worthwhile activities that can pave the way to rich discussions. Time is limited, so ensure attending an event will be a good use of your time.

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