We. Are. Officially. FIVE! Last week at SOFIC (or the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, if you prefer the looong title) marked five years of the Global SOF Foundation. We had our official launch on the Monday of SOFIC Week 2014, and we’ve only been growing our global SOF network since.

If you’d like to take a sprint down memory lane, we put together a highlight reel from our past five years in honor of our anniversary… take a look to learn about the last five years, and then read the below to learn about the last five days!

Global SOF: Thriving at Five

A Speedy Start

As you (hopefully) know, this year we moved our Annual Tampa Reception (the official title for our Monday-night-of-SOFIC-week-celebration) to a new location in Tampa called Armature Works. It’s got it all: a large historical space on the river with trendy brick walls and huge “jumbotron” screens. It’s perfect!

The only downside is we can only have the venue for one day. So setting up for the evening reception is a SPRINT.

Luckily our team is awesome, and we were able to get everything rocking and rolling within the tight timeline. That includes registration, indoor and outdoor signage, food and beverage, A/V, Corporate Partner Displays, and… Speed Networking!

Global SOF: Thriving at Five

For the second year in a row, we’ve included Speed Networking at the start of this event. If you aren’t familiar with the concept, it is kind of like Speed Dating… but with a business-y intent. Every participant fills out a form ahead of time and then they are matched with eight similarly minded individuals through SpeedNetworking.com. At the event, they get six minutes to talk to each of those people–breaking the ice right from the start!

Speed Networking is always a little bit chaotic at the start; we always have people who sign up but don’t attend while others attend but didn’t complete the sign-up process.

So. It can be a bit rocky at the beginning. However, we had a great and flexible crowd this year. We handed out the schedules of the no-shows to the extra did-shows, and even more people just filled in the seats when they saw someone didn’t have a partner. After one or two rounds, guided by MKP as the MC (that’s our COO, Meaghan Keeler-Pettigrew), everything was flowing pretty well!

Global SOF: Thriving at Five

And the 120+ attendees LOVED it. Sure, it was a little hot and a little loud, but the reviews were really great. “This is the best networking event I’ll do all week.” “This is REALLY fun.” “I found someone I worked with 15 years ago.” “I’ve made some really good connections today.” “Hey, did you know you used to babysit his kids?”

While less important, that last one really did happen… but it just goes to show the depths of the conversations and the number of intros that can happen in the Speed Networking Hour. It was great–a huge “Thank You” to Crisis Response Company for sponsoring and making it happen.

A Party for the Partners (and Sponsors)

Meanwhile, in The Gathering (aka The Big Room), the VIP Pre-Reception was ramping up, thanks to sponsors WWT and F5.

Global SOF: Thriving at Five

This was a Corporate Partner-Only opportunity to enjoy the Annual Tampa Reception without the crowds for 1.5 hours.

In addition to bars and food, the VIPs also had the first access to check out the Corporate Partner displays around the room. One of the many perks of GSF Corporate Partnership is a FREE tabletop display at this event, which over 25 partners took advantage of. The displays include everything from video demos to actual hardware, and swag items to a huge golf simulator.

Once Speed Networking wrapped up, and after some brief welcome remarks from Edward Spenceley, a Senior Vice President from the Reception’s Title Sponsor: Bank of America Merrill Lynch, that crew joined in on the pre-Reception and things really started to get moving.  

Global SOF: Thriving at Five

“It’s crazy in there”

We had around 850 people attend the Reception, so it most definitely got a little busy. However, it was busy in a great way–people were meeting, connecting, and enjoying the excellent sponsorships. They ranged from Bourbon Tasting (by Insitu) to Local Beer Tasting (from Axiologic Solutions) to a Slider Station (thanks, Northrop Grumman).

Other popular stations included the new Nacho and Corona station sponsored by Oracle, and of course, the ever-popular Nitro Ice Cream station that Tampa Microwave sponsors every year. It never fails to impress, and the ice cream hits the spot on these hot May days in Tampa.

Global SOF: Thriving at Five

And that’s just some of what we had to offer in addition to the regular buffet and bars. As one person said to her friends when they were just arriving, “You just have to see everything for yourselves…it’s crazy in there!”

Global SOF: Thriving at Five

We also had the aforementioned 5 Year Video playing on one jumbotron and sponsorship highlight videos playing on another, both enlightening and illuminating the crowd. One of our favorite Lifetime Members, JJ Holmes, commented on the impact of the GSF Video, saying, “It’s amazing to watch in one video how the numbers keep ticking up each year.”

Thank you, JJ, and to all of the other event attendees, sponsors, exhibitors, and staff who made this night possible. It was certainly our best anniversary celebration yet.

P.S. Don’t miss the photos from the event (and if you see yourself or your company, feel free to “tag”):

And SOFIC hadn’t even started yet…

That was only Monday night! We still had a whole week of SOFIC to go. Well, really just two days, but those are two FULL days.

During that time, we handled the aftermath of our Reception, had some great meetings, and of course, attended some of the many social events going on around SOFIC.

We make an effort to engage with all of our Corporate Partners who attend SOFIC, so we started by visiting all of our partner companies who were exhibiting at SOFIC–and giving them a freshly updated GSF Corporate Partner sign. Some meetings are just a quick catch up while others are longer and more in depth conversations about the SOF environment, but overall we make sure we at least get to talk and see how things are going and how we can support.

Global SOF: Thriving at Five

Those meetings are great, but we often find that the real networking and growth occurs at the evening socials. We do our best to attend all of our Corporate Partners’ social events, which is good to keep updated on business and also grow our community.

So thank you to all of our Partners for the invites, and for making this such an awesome (and exhausting) week.

Til next year, SOFIC!

But we hope to see you all much sooner…

SOFIC isn’t for another year, but we have plenty of opportunities to engage left in 2019. While there are some small but focused opportunities for our Corporate Partners (contact Steve if you have questions), the main events are in the Fall:

We’ll see you there!

And one more shout out to all of our Sponsors from last week:

Global SOF: Thriving at Five

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