Friends and family members who work outside the logistics field tell me I need to get a life. But I don't mind. After waiting almost six years for this, I'm headed to the premier logistics industry conference this month. For me, it's like Christmas in September.
I attended my last Council of Logistics Management annual conference (coincidentally, also in Chicago) in 1997. And like that event, this year's conference promises unmatched educational, professional development and networking opportunities. In just three and a half days, I'll see old friends and make new acquaintances. And if past events are any indicator, I'll learn more about the state of logistics in three days than I could during a month at some other conferences.
If you've never been to an annual CLM conference, you might wonder what all the fuss is about. Maybe that's best explained by way of analogy: Say you're talking to two friends who are both Bruce Springsteen fans. Both have all of The Boss's albums (er … CDs), both have been fans since they were teens, but one has a huge advantage over the other: He's seen The Boss LIVE. And as he's sure to tell you, if you haven't seen Springsteen live, you really don't know what he's all about.
So it is with CLM. You may have heard how valuable the CLM conferences are and you may have read about all the groundbreaking research and case studies presented there, but until you experience it, you really don't have a clue.
I can vividly recall my first CLM annual conference. It was in 1989. I had been a journalist for about six years but was a relative newcomer to the logistics field. I was told to prepare for something special, so I reviewed the conference agenda, picked the sessions I'd attend and showed up in St. Louis thinking I knew what to expect. But from the opening keynote address, to the 10 workshop sessions, to the lunches and dinners (including the now somewhat infamous Thanksgiving-style dinner served simultaneously to the 4,500 banquet guests), it was clear that this was something out of the ordinary. I came away from the half week along the Mississippi River a changed man (or at least a changed journalist).
And it only got better. Through the 1990s, CLM brought its annual conferences to cities like Washington, San Diego, Anaheim, Orlando, Cincinnati and San Antonio. For nine straight years, I didn't miss a one.
What makes CLM's annual conferences so special? Part of it is the unparalleled scope of coverage. The conference agenda represents the result of over 12 months of planning. Each step in the planning process incorporates the input of literally hundreds of logistics professionals, academics and consultants who willingly volunteer their time and expertise.
Second, the event is entirely non-commercial. No advertising pitches are delivered under the guise of speeches. Some have tried to promote their products or services from the podium, and they haven't been invited back. There are also no hospitality suites, long a staple of big industry gatherings. One company tried to circumvent that rule a few years back by setting up a hospitality suite at a nearby hotel. Word got out and the conference credentials for every attendee from that company were yanked the next day. This is serious stuff. This is CLM!
And that's the way it should be. CLM is all about education and professional development. And like a Santa Claus for the logistics profession, it delivers!