After while, you get used to the eye rolling and the smirks. Told you'll be attending a "business conference" on a luxury cruise liner, bosses, colleagues, friends and family rarely bother to hide their skepticism. You can hardly blame them. The Logistics Forum, held each May by Richmond Events, is a three-day, two-night "cruise to nowhere" that has all the makings of a classic boondoggle.
Except it's not. From the first evening's dinner, right through the closing breakfast, the event is a sprint for attendees, who rocket between business meetings, seminars and workshops, roundtables, and coaching sessions. As past attendees like Pat Moffett, a senior logistics executive at Audiovox Corp., will tell you, it's almost all business. "You start at 6: 30 or 7: 00 in the morning, and your time is booked right through 10: 30 at night. It's doesn't leave a lot of time to fool around. When you get off that ship on the third morning, you're tired."
There's a reason for that hectic pace. Companies that sell logistics products and services pay a hefty fee to sign on as sponsors for the event. And they're not interested in paying for the guests to loll around on deck chairs. They expect to get their money's worth in the form of uninterrupted access to some of the highest-level logistics executives in the world.
And we do mean uninterrupted. As the cruise ship chugs out to sea, it also chugs out of cell-phone (and Internet) range. And since the pools are drained and the shops are closed, passengers quickly discover there's nothing to do other than focus on the conference itself. For some, it's a tough adjustment. Though they've been forewarned, many attendees can still be seen scrambling around the deck during the first few hours in search of that elusive cellular signal. It can be painful to watch them go through a sort of telecommunications withdrawal as they discover they're truly out of touch … that they probably won't be able to make a phone call, check messages, or send or receive e-mail for the better part of three days.
But once the shock wears off, attendees quickly come to realize something else. Not only is the break from "landside technology" pleasant and refreshing, but it also allows them to focus on the conference content and on the other attendees in a way that would not be possible at even the most out-of-the-way location on land.
And there's a lot to focus on. The Logistics Forum is all about gathering business intelligence and forging business relationships. The seminars are top-drawer. The material covered is cutting edge.And the speakers are among the most renowned experts in various sectors of the logistics field.
And, if you're like me and value the networking opportunities offered by business conferences, the Logistics Forum is a gold mine. Take the dining arrangements, for instance. Thanks to an assigned seating policy, you're guaranteed to be seated with different folks each time you break bread. (You don't have to attend the meals, of course, but if you don't, you don't eat.) Each table includes one of the vendors sponsoring the event and several logistics executives whom they have specifically asked to meet. (As part of their sponsorship package, the vendors can submit names of logistics practitioners they'd like to see invited free of charge.) For vendors, that's a powerful lure indeed. If nothing else, they can be certain that in exchange for their sponsorship dollars, they'll have their top prospects' undivided attention for at least the length of a leisurely meal at sea.
For those reasons and others, the vendors love it. Many consider the sponsorship to be among the best marketing investments they make each year. The attendees love it because, even with all the "work" associated with the seminars, workshops and networking events, it still is, after all, three days at sea on a luxury cruise liner. And it's a sure bet even the best day in the office can't compete with that!