It is all a blur now, but the 2019 Global SOF Symposium is officially in our history books. We posted daily blogs about the event and speakers, but we wanted to get input from the top dogs at the Global SOF Foundation. Read on to see what they had to say.

The Venue Swap

Stu Bradin, GSF President and CEO: If you have ever run an event like a major conference, then you know it’s really hard work. And let me tell you, if it is a new venue then it is an especially high adventure.

Reflecting on the 2019 Global SOF Symposium with GSF Leadership
Stu Bradin speaking to attendees at the Symposium.

No venue is perfect because the layouts, locations, weather, service……all of which impact what people think about the event.

When we changed the venue from Innisbrook (where we had been the past three years) to the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, we felt pretty good about the move. But because we had never done it there, it was not easy and we were not sure what everyone would think.

Meaghan Keeler-Pettigrew (MKP), GSF COO: Overall, the feedback we received was very positive–so we’re glad we took the risk to change venues! It’s much more convenient to Tampa International Airport, MacDill Air Force Base, and the hubs of many local industry partners. Plus, the hotel itself has a lot more nooks and crannies where attendees can hold sidebar meetings, which is helpful.

Reflecting on the 2019 Global SOF Symposium with GSF Leadership
Meaghan Keeler-Pettigrew thanking Mr. Rick Kriseman, the Mayor of St. Petersburg, for speaking at the Chairman’s Reception.

The only slight downside is that you have to walk a little bit to get to the Exhibitor Pavilion, but we offset that by incorporating some history into the walk. “The SOF History Trail,” as it was dubbed, featured brief looks into six historic SOF missions that included long treks, climbs, and event cross-country skis!

This look into history provided some education on SOF missions, and also served as a reminder that a couple hundred “steps” really isn’t that many.

Yes, we DO have an Agenda

Stu: Once you have a solid venue at a time when the weather is supposed to be good you work hard to develop a great agenda. How hard could that be? Everyone is looking for something different and they want it all and they want it now – easy day.

Over our five years as a Foundation, we have learned a lot and one thing is if you want great speakers you have to invite them 6 – 9 months in advance. The more important the speaker, the more time is required. The other thing we have learned about building agendas is that after the invitations go out, getting confirmations is also tricky because people in the government often do not have control over their lives.

Every aspect of the agenda has a back up plan and you get changes all the way up to the day of execution.

Reflecting on the 2019 Global SOF Symposium with GSF Leadership
A panel from the Global SOF Symposium engages in discussion on the Nexus of Law Enforcement.

MKP: We were really happy with the speakers we had this year, and they covered a lot of ground!

Right out of the gates on Wednesday, CSM (Ret) Rick Lamb did a moving presentation about D-Day, wearing an authentic WW2 uniform. That was a really special event that ended with a moment of remembrance for someone who they’d lost, which resonated with everyone there.

He was followed by Emerson Brooking, who gave a presentation that people really couldn’t stop talking about on the “Weaponization of Social Media.” We also had three speakers from USSOCOM–Vice Admiral Tim Szymanski, the Deputy Commander, Dr. Lisa Costa, the Chief Information Officer, and CSM Warren Soeldner, the Commandant of JSOU.

We also had great representation from Europe, with speakers from Hungary, Poland, The Netherlands, and the Czech Republic. Topics ranged from “Equipping the Operator,” “Multinational SOF Training,” “Human Performance and the SOF Operator,” and more.

Presenting the Lifetime Achievement Award is always the cherry on top of the Agenda; this year’s recipient, The Honorable Jim Locher, attended with his wife Norma to receive his life-sized steel shield. They were extremely kind and gracious, and it was a joy to have them with us for a few days.

Reflecting on the 2019 Global SOF Symposium with GSF Leadership
Stu Bradin presents the GSF Lifetime Achievement Award to The Honorable Jim Locher.

Seeing it all come together

Stu: This year we were lucky because there was no Iceland volcano eruption grounding transatlantic flights or major national security threats. For the 2019 Global SOF Symposium, the Tampa Grand Hyatt staff was exceptionally supportive of the event. Being close to the airport as well as Tampa and St. Pete made the 2019 symposium  easier for everyone. We had over 500 people register with representatives from 23 nations.

Reflecting on the 2019 Global SOF Symposium with GSF Leadership

We also got a lot of really positive comments about the event, which feels good after the time and effort we put into it. For those that attended I hope you enjoyed the event and we look forward to seeing you back in 2020.

MKP: We never know exactly how it’s all going to go, but I can say that this may be the least stressed I’ve ever been at a Symposium. And that’s with adding new elements like the Professional Development Day, changing locations, and colder-than-expected weather.

I’m excited to continue building this Symposium up with more interactive features, increasingly unique sessions, and new faces in our network.

Save the Date for May 20th!

Stu: Our next big event is our most widely attended event and that is our Annual 2019 Annual Global SOF Foundation Tampa Reception presented by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. This year it will be on Monday, 20 May 2019, from 1600 – 2300 hours at Armature Works–a cool new venue in Tampa.

If you have never been to this event, we average over 850+ in attendance and it is a really good networking opportunity. Come join us and help us celebrate the start of our 6th year.  

Reflecting on the 2019 Global SOF Symposium with GSF Leadership
Speed Networking in action at the 2018 Annual Tampa Reception!

MKP: What Stu said, but I want to add that we’ll even have a structured networking opportunity: Speed Networking! If you’re not one to jump into conversations with people at an event, this is your opportunity to break the ice with people in the same industry as you.

Learn more on the event website.

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