The key to being innovative is keeping up with the latest news and trends. In today’s world, this is often accomplished by reading news sources and skimming websites; however, this type of information tends to be limited. The real value comes from speaking with others in the industry and hearing their personal anecdotes and advice. Yes, I’m talking about attending conferences. Whether attending as a listener or a presenter, there are a multitude of benefits, including learning about new areas of expertise, hearing issues firsthand from clients, and networking with other industry professionals.
Over the past month, I had the opportunity to attend two fantastic energy efficiency conferences: the 11th annual Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange (#11thRMUEE) in Colorado and the SEEA Conference (#EETransform) in Georgia. If you’re wondering why Franklin Energy’s Multifamily Product Manager was attending these conferences, it was (surprisingly) not to talk about how much I love multifamily buildings. I had the opportunity to discuss energy savings in the ski industry, a topic fairly new to me.
The best part about presenting at a conference, particularly in a topic that isn’t your niche, is that you are able to learn so much while researching and preparing the presentation. Personally, my eyes were opened to tons of new opportunities as I discovered trends in the ski industry. For example, I learned about which snow-making guns are more energy-intensive, how ski resorts can shave significant costs when producing snow, and where ski resorts can save energy in the hospitality sector. That presentation is available online if you are interested in learning more.
While conferences undoubtedly benefit the presenters, they also provide attendees with invaluable information and experiences. Working in a specific market, it is easy to experience tunnel vision and forget to look around and see what else is going on. Conferences bring diverse speakers from all areas, ready to share their knowledge with those who may not be familiar with a specific issue or industry. For example, a few of the hot topics I heard most at my latest conferences were rebuilding after natural disasters, providing utility data in a digital format, and overcoming hurdles with low-income programs.
While some of today’s main topics and concerns can be found online or in other news sources, one aspect of conferences simply cannot be replaced: getting to know utility clients and hearing their feedback directly. This allows us to learn the pain points utilities may be experiencing, how we can help, and what they think about our current operations. At the RMUEE, a utility roundtable was held where utilities could voice their thoughts, opinions, and concerns. This roundtable makes the RMUEE unique and is the highlight of the conference for me each year. Some of the topics we heard more than once were concerns about charging electric vehicles without a smart charger, discreet indoor growers overwhelming transformers, all-electric customers looking for air conditioning, and smart home technology data.
My role while at these conferences is not only to perform a skit after lunch and keep people awake, as we did at the SEEA Conference, but I often get a chance to chat up utility clients and vendors. Since a conference gathers industry professionals from across the board, it presents a huge networking opportunity. Between sessions and in downtime, attendees can form new relationships and take the time to catch up with existing contacts, which may present new opportunities in the future.
You definitely don’t get personal interaction like that when reading the news!
While conferences may take time away from daily activities and incur travel expenses, the opportunities they provide are worth it. Nothing can replace face-to-face interactions with colleagues and making new connections with industry experts. Each person has had different experiences in his or her career, and thus has unique insight and advice to share. Attending conferences will ensure you remain at the forefront of the industry.
Contact us for information on how we can use our industry expertise to benefit your program.
Multifamily Product Manager
When it comes to multifamily subject matter, Brody Vance is a leading authority. He guides the program design and strategy for all of Franklin Energy’s new and existing multifamily programs, utilizing his extensive experience as a multifamily implementation manager. Brody has proven his direct impact on program goals in both energy savings and customer satisfaction while sharing his expertise as a regular speaker at industry events. He has a bachelor’s degree in ecology from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and is a certified energy manager (CEM), a certified BPI building analyst, a certified building operator certification instructor, and a past subject matter expert for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).