With hopes high that the international oil and gas industry may have seen the worst of the current downturn in commodity price, it’s anticipated that this year’s Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, Texas, (May 1-4) will attract an increased number of visitors.
The ranks attending this year’s show will be swelled by a fair number of folk returning after an absence enforced by the worst of the industry’s downturn over the last two years, alongside OTC first timers seeing an uptick in business and keen to be at the heart of the action.
In offices across the globe, marketing departments are busy fine-tuning strategies and planning tactics to maximise their impact at OTC. And although you can prepare to the nth degree while 3,000 or even three miles away from Houston, you’ve also got to factor in the curve balls that OTC will throw at you once you get there. And, believe me, they will be thrown.
Other guides will offer dos and don’t from a corporate perspective. This one is about how you can survive the week, based on more years’ experience than we care to remember.
One: In the wee small hours
International travellers to the show shouldn’t spend too much time on personal packing. My tip would be to throw your clothes in a case and back away from it. Definitely don’t waste time ironing anything because a) it’ll get creased en route and b) when you wake up with that inevitable jet lag at 2am on the first morning you can use the time to do all that stuff.
OTC is a demanding week and, if you don’t take control you can get trapped in a circle: you’ll be on your feet for many hours, your sleep pattern will be affected, you’ll miss meals and live off finger food and you’ll be tempted to rely on excess caffeine to get you through, which in turn impacts on your sleep. Some of these things will be unavoidable, but going easy on the coffee is a little thing that could be a big help.
As well as letting folks back home know you will be away, tell them what the time difference is. That way you can hopefully avoid those non-essential calls in the middle of your night.
Two: Don’t leave anything to chance with your stand
You’ve invested a large chunk of your marketing budget on OTC and may have hired a reputable contractor to erect your stand. You’re putting immense trust in those people, and while many of them are very good, sometimes the design brief can be a challenge. Is your logo in the right place and displayed correctly? Does your presentation run properly on your screens? Is the stand well finished? If you have an exhibitor pass, it’s a good idea to go down to the NRG Park at least on the Saturday before the show to iron out any issues with your stand builder on-site.
Three: Understand the layout
If you have numerous stands to visit, get a handle in advance on where these are located. Remember, OTC is spread over multiple venues in the NRG Park. Generally, the stand numbers in the NRG Centre run from the 100s to the 500s; stands numbers in the NRG Arena run from the 500s to the 800s; the Pavilion stand numbers run from the 900s to the 1000s and from there on you’re looking for stands outdoors in the Parkway. If you’re in the NRG Centre and you have to get to the NRG Arena, give yourself a good 20 minutes to get there, otherwise you’ll face a sweaty dash in the Houston heat to get to your important meeting.
Four: Walk the walk
Stand layout at OTC uses a grid system. Think of it like roads in a town. If you’re entering the NRG Centre, for example, you’ve got several thoroughfares running vertically, corresponding to stand numbers, and two main routes running horizontally. These thoroughfares can get very busy, particularly around lunchtime on Day Two and Day Three. If you’re using these lanes, please give other users some consideration. Anyone having to move quickly (see above) should avoid getting stuck in the following slow moving traffic:
- The group strolling along blocking the whole lane
- The guy on the phone looking for a stand, liable to thrust out his arm in a pointing action as you’re trying to overtake
- The guy with luggage–these are a danger because you don’t see the case until you’ve fallen over it
Also, you’re going to be standing about or walking a lot so wear comfortable shoes. Those expensive new heels you bought especially for the show? You’ll want to trash them by Day Three.
A great trick if you lose your bearings is to look up or down. Many companies have a sign above their stand and these can be a great reference point, or, if you know the stand you’re looking for has a particular coloured carpet, look for that.
Five: Don’t peak too early
OTC has a wide ranging social side, which offers excellent networking opportunities and a busy nightlife. The ‘phrase work hard, play hard’ pretty much sums up the OTC experience. Yes, make the most of what OTC show week has to offer, but try and keep the balance right. I’ve seen many go from being bright eyed and pumped with energy on Day One, to the living dead look by Day Three. Your prospective new client doesn’t care how long you were out the night before. There’ll be time to let your hair down after the show is over.
Finally, in the oil and gas calendar, the whirlwind week that is OTC is really is like no other: from pre show apprehension to the full on adrenalin rush at the venue and the relief at the end of a job well done. And once it’s over, you can start your plans for next year!
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