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February 16, 2016
In less than two months, we will be holding our 30th national home performance conference in Austin, TX. If you are reading this, I hope you will be joining us. I hope you tell your friends. I hope your friends will be joining us too. But this isn't the typical newsletter blurb where we try to sell you on attending. I am writing this because I think it's important for you to understand why we still engage in the messy (somewhere between law-making and sausage-making) business of conferences.
No, it's not about the money. While organizations in more established industries rely on conferences for excess revenue, in this industry, one that we are all still working to scale, we see events as a critical mission activity. On a good day, we can use some of the revenue to invest in the organization, but more often than not, we work to cover our costs. Sure, we could cut some corners to make an extra buck or two, but we believe that while people attend an event, they remember an experience. And because we believe in the power of conferences and their ability to play a role in the growth of an industry, we aspire to deliver a first rate experience to you over simply an event.
In my five and a half years at this organization, I have been blown away by the number of stories about the personal relationships (from lifelong friendships to marriages), business relationships, and career and life transformations that started at our conferences. But maybe I shouldn't be stunned. Conferences are about light bulb moments, after all. It could be a nugget of information you get from a session that leads you to better performance on the job, or it could be as dramatic as a life-altering epiphany that results from a hallway conversation. These transformative experiences happen at conferences-- but they happen A LOT at our conferences.
I think there are two key factors behind these big moments. First and foremost, it's you. It's this industry. It's the type of person that's attracted to an uphill fight to help save the world and make the lives of the people we serve better through making their sanctuaries healthier, more comfortable and more energy efficient. Because of what drives you- your willingness to share your expertise and your wisdom with your colleagues- makes this a special industry and really, the soul of our events. What I see at our conferences is a magical blend of that willingness to share and an openness to learn and grow that makes our community open to the possibility that something truly special could (and probably will) happen if the right amount of willingness is exhibited. You exhibit it like none other!
The second factor is our role as an organization. We work hard to listen to your needs and adapt to a changing world. Conferences are old school in a new school, digital world. But we believe that the reason they still work is that innate desire humans have to get together and really connect.
In a week that is so education heavy, our national event is designed to facilitate these interactions. Our 30 minute breaks, our networking lunches, the fact that we feed you, I mean really feed you, at our receptions are intended to get you together. In recent years, we eliminated traditional evening sessions from our program to allow you more time to get together and socialize. We have invested in a conference planning tool that allows you to create your own conference schedule in advance, which you will be able access on the conference app. This allows you to plan in advance so you spend more time together and less time trying to figure out where to go. We have been more focused on exciting host cities because of the role that place can play in your experience. Our goal is to build the infrastructure that best facilitates that magical thing this industry does when we get together.
Of course, while we are a pretty special bunch, that doesn't mean we are perfect. HPC is rooted in playing a key role in the scaling of this industry and while many of the initiatives it will take to accomplish this goal will take time, there are some things we are doing with our national conference right now to help move us forward as an industry.
The diversity issue
It doesn't take long to realize that our conferences need an infusion of diversity. From the attendees, to the presenters, we must diversify. While diversifying the makeup of a conference audience doesn’t necessarily translate to industry change, we recognize the need to better engage more of the demographics that make up our industry at our conferences.
We also recognize a need to attract more home performance contractors to the conference. Too few home performance contractors are making it to our national conference and thanks to the Home Performance Coalition’s grant from E4TheFuture, HPC will award up to 75 scholarships for home performance contractors to attend the national conference.
One of the primary goals of this scholarship program is to attract a more diverse group of home performance contractors-new entrants to the industry, small businesses, minority and women owned businesses, as well as minority and female staff members from any home performance contracting company are encouraged to apply.
Additionally, we have relaunched our Women in Home Performance initiative, which is now a volunteer led activity. Look for some really exciting content that is being developed through this initiative for the national conference to be announced soon!
The age issue
I am 39 years old and when I look around our conferences, I feel pretty young. And while I don't mind feeling this way, it is clear that we need a shot of young energy and thinking into our events. This is why we have developed the HPC Emerging Leader Award. This new honor features a different and exciting award — the recipient will curate the inaugural HPC Emerging Leader Symposium at the national conference. We encourage everyone who will be Under 40 years of age on April 7, 2016 (hey, that includes me!) to apply.
The arrogance-to-relevance ratio
This term came out of HPC's Market Innovation Forum, held this past December in San Francisco and refers to our need to open our arms to be more inclusive - establish more relevance in the marketplace, and LISTEN to what other industry’s needs are. To address this issue, and as a direct result of the forum, we are developing an Innovations & Collaborations track for the national conference. We are working to engage Real Estate, Manufacturers, the HVAC industry, Solar, outside the box industries and others so that we can better learn from them, gain new insights on how we can work together, and to listen to suggestions on what would make us better partners. Look for more information on this track soon.
So all of this…providing the forum for the exchange of information and ideas to advance our industry, facilitating the continued growth of this very special community, and addressing the issues that are keeping us from realizing our full potential allow us to fulfill our mission of transforming the market for the home performance industry through research, education, collaboration and advocacy is why conferences matter to us and I hope that our efforts matter to you.