Steve Jordan gives his view of the 56th IAM Convention held in October.
Of course, IAM is crazy, it’s supposed to be, but it appeared that this year the stars aligned to take some of the heat out of the turmoil. The Gaylord Hotel at National Harbor Maryland is a vast place, but beautiful in its own way. I am writing this while sitting in the cavernous atrium surrounded by full-size trees, wooden slatted buildings with tiled rooves and a waterfall that floods and ebbs providing a rhythm not unlike the soothing tides. Perhaps I am becoming a little too lyrical, it’s just a hotel after all.
But despite it’s size, and the presence of other conferences adding to the 2,000 or so from the moving industry, it all seemed to work. The designated meeting places were well used making sure that the standard hub of the concierge desk was left relatively free and there was so much casual seating and areas for congregation that even the meeting-driven IAM attendees rarely had trouble finding somewhere to chat in relative peace. The exhibition (which I thought was a little smaller than usual), the bar and reception areas, the ballroom and plenary meeting rooms were distinct yet located vertically above each other making commuting just an escalator or two away: very handy when late for a meeting or presentation.
The location was on the banks of the Potomac River. Even when the weather was warm (it got into the high 80s at times, hot for October) the presence of water and the resulting breeze always provided comfort. The local area was ablaze with bars, restaurants and alternative hotels so nobody had to walk far for a change of scene. Central DC, with its mind-blowing museums, monuments and parks, was only a few miles away by Uber or, for a delightful alternative, the Potomac River Taxi would swish you upstream to The Wharf, with its nightlife and extraordinary fish market, just an amble from the Washington Monument, in 45 min for a miserly $18 return. What’s not to like?
I really enjoy IAM. I’m not even bothered by the maelstrom of moving humanity, the lack of sleep or the temptation to have just one extra Blue Moon. Living on adrenalin for a few days is OK. For me, the whole thing is a joy. Yet, there is a frustration. I don’t understand why so few people attend the plenary meetings. Of course, I know there is business to be done, but IAM is also a place for education and for working on the business, not just in it. I also know that throughout much of IAM’s history the general meetings were military focussed. But that’s just not true anymore. A brief glance at the schedule should give you enough information to work out which presentations might be worth a look, leaving plenty of time for one-to-ones and minding the store at home.
I didn’t go to all the meetings, there are too many even for me, but the ones I did attend were excellent, with great presenters and interesting content. For example, there was a presentation of the new IAM Learning initiative that plans on involving the whole industry in providing education for all, right from the first day of their employment; the IAMX database that allows the whole industry, and its suppliers, to join a verified repository of information for the benefit of all; the new ISO Standard for digital inventories that has the potential to make everyone’s lives easier, prevent fraud and reduce insurance costs; and the PCG (Professional Cooperation Guidelines), created by FIDI and endorsed by IAM as operational best practice for companies working together in a coordinated, professional way. I will be reporting more fully on these initiatives over the next few issues.
It may not have been a theme as such but there was a pattern to all the sessions I attended: togetherness. Under the inspirational eye of IAM, FIDI and potentially other groups, the industry is working hard to become less fragmented, more cohesive, more professional and much more cooperative. In doing so it increases its chances of getting its voice heard and respected by corporations, governments and influencers everywhere. That has to be a good thing and yet, for 90% of the attendees at IAM, the groundswell would have passed them by because they were too busy negotiating reciprocation. I know the deals have to be done, but it’s a shame that there is little room for anything else for most people.
Terry Head presented his final ‘State of IAM’ address as he is retiring from IAM in December. Chuck White is taking over his role (read Steve Jordan's interview with Chuck here). Terry’s presentations have always been slick, clear and entertaining. He spared anyone his tearful goodbyes, declaring with enthusiasm that he will be back next year, but in the bar. May I add my meagre voice to the thousands of others who wish Terry a long and happy retirement and thank him for his extraordinary work and inspiration over so many years.