Conferences: whether you consider them educational resources, insightful days out the office or jollies, they appear to be BIM’s fastest growing add-on. I’ve considered attending, just this year, Autodesk University, BIM Show Live, Bentley Learn, Revit Technology Conference, Revit User Group, thinkBIM, ecobuild BIM, Tweetups, BIM in Practice and RICS BIM National Conference, without even mentioning the plethora of webinars every other lunchtime… all with their very own acronym.

The acronym ‘BIM’ was followed by a landslide of others: EIR (employer’s information requirements), BEP (BIM execution plan), MIDP (master information delivery plan), IFC (industry foundation classes), IPD (integrated project delivery) etc. The problem is that unless you are heavily involved you probably have no idea what these stand for. The mobile phone and ‘txt tlk’ seem to have made acronyms so cool that they’ve infiltrated the professional world as well. I’m considering referring to myself as DH to see if that improves my life successes.

Conferences can give meaning to the acronyms and are an important part of what I do. They help me understand the direction of the industry – and they’re frankly the best place for networking. The difficultly lies in choosing which to attend. Although there is a great buffet at each, the content is nigh on the same – the same speakers, the same presentations and quite often, the same terrible approach to filling 100 PowerPoint slides with some of the best cures for insomnia. I sometimes wonder whether some of the ‘addicts’, who seem to attend every conference, get withdrawal symptoms if they miss one.

I sometimes wonder whether some of the ‘addicts’, who seem to attend every conference, get withdrawal symptoms if they miss one

No need to panic though. I have, of course, considered the onslaught of conference season and come up with a structured approach to ensure that you don’t spend as long choosing which to go to as actually attending them. 

A lot of the information that is presented can be found through a very simple internet search. What you should be looking for from these events are presenters from the same field as you, facing the same challenges. Software vendors will be highly knowledgeable on upcoming releases and the intricacies of working with the available tools, but if you want to know about that, invite them into your office for a demo. They can often be very separate from the industry and the challenges facing project delivery. If in doubt, refer back to your search engine of choice and check out their credentials. If they’ve been working as a pig farmer for the past 20 years and only spent the last six months building, they probably don’t understand the industry just yet.

The cost of conferences can quickly mount up while remaining a total waste of time and money – or they can be an invaluable learning and networking experience. Be selective and choose the right presenters, talking on the subjects that matter to you.