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People are more important than technology, even at tech conferences.

Headline news, to be sure. But as RLE learned at the 2012 Fall BICSI Conference in Anaheim, California, perhaps the best conferences are those that don’t seem much like conferences at all.

“It was just a casual atmosphere,” says Chris Pullen, RLE Technologies’ President and BICSI attendee.

Of course, central placement of the refreshments probably helps, too.

“It felt like it was a social event, a networking event.  People were coming by the booth with refreshments in their hands and I think it took the edge off.  I think it made people forget about the booths being “sales” and view it more as an opportunity to investigate new technology and new suppliers. It was actually one of the more fun shows I’ve been to because it was an easy, relaxed environment.”

It was that atmosphere, that nod to the human element in even the techiest of tech conferences, that provided RLE with both its best opportunities and its best lessons. Because, as Pullen acknowledges, at the end of the day it always comes back to the people.

“The quality and the quantity of people there was really strong. We were busy the whole time. The quality of leads was very strong.”

In addition to the hope that at least one OEM (original equipment manufacturer) relationship may evolve from the people they met at the conference, Pullen says having the chance to really talk to the other attendees opened up his eyes to a whole new corner of RLE’s traditional market.

“We typically market towards the actual installers, the people who build systems and the people who install leak detection products, those are the end users.  At this show, there were architects and specifying engineers who do the research for companies and actually specify which kind of leak detection or monitoring systems are needed. It’s a new kind of decision-making arm that we haven’t necessarily dealt with that much in the past.”

In an almost prescient move, RLE decided to send a few more people than usual, too. It was RLE’s third time at BICSI, but this year instead of sending along just the sales reps, the VP of Sales, the VP of R&D – who also happens to be one of the company’s founders and owners –  and Pullen himself tagged along with their sales team.

That turned out to be a wise decision.

“The traffic was so strong we were glad that we sent extra people. There are some shows that are slow, but at this show, the aisles were jam-packed with people. There was genuine interest with good leads.”

A fresh appreciation of the benefits of human interaction is a powerful lesson that Pullen has gleaned from his BICSI experience – a lesson he’ll strive to apply to other conferences RLE attends in the future.

This powerful lesson stands separately from the other beneficial show experiences: engaging with interesting speakers and playing with new, cutting-edge technology.  That Pullen & Co. were able to derive value from so many streams of experience is the hallmark of a great conference, something which Pullen confirms.

“It was probably one of the best shows we’ve ever attended as a company.”

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