Well, we’re here. We made it to Warsaw, Poland. And SO did our luggage (the real miracle).
It’s been a long time coming–Stu and Chelsea did their first site survey in May 2019, with the anticipated original dates in October 2020. For obvious reasons (#COVID), things were pushed to 2021… and it’s really, truly, actually happening!
With the first obstacle overcome (travel from across the world to Poland in COVID times), it was time to take on the challenges and opportunities of hosting an event overseas!
There’s a reason that the event branding changed from “Uniting” to “Re-Uniting” the SOF Community in Europe. While many of us in the U.S. have been able to see one another during COVID, that has not been the case with many of our international brothers and sisters.
So we were thrilled to start seeing familiar faces (or at least tops of faces) filtering into the hotel lobby as we all arrived and started preparing for the event.
From Norway to Romania to California, introductions were made and bread was broken to start reconnecting the community and building new ties.
We were especially excited to see our event “organisers” from Clarion Defence. This is the first time that Global SOF has partnered with an event planner to host our European Symposium, and it’s very helpful to our team in that we don’t have to worry about many of the tasks that typically take us away from networking with attendees at the event.
Now, that doesn’t mean we didn’t do a little bit of bag stuffing (or at least modeling), but it has certainly given us more opportunities to engage with our community while still putting on a professional event.
A Day for POLSOCOM
Since 2017, we’ve held a “Government Only” day on Day 0 of our European Symposium. That event is, as titled, only open to members of the military or government.
The agenda is fully guided by the host nation’s Special Operations Command or unit, so in this case Polish SOCOM led the charge.
Our Registration Desk was a little overrun first thing in the morning because we had well over 75 participants show up for the sessions, and even had to do some last minute chair shuffling to get enough seats for everyone.
Global SOF President and CEO Stu Bradin kicked off the morning, but after that we left it to POLSOCOM to ensure that they got what was important to them out of the day.
We’re told there were some grade-A speakers and lively conversations throughout the day, showing that it is indeed important for this community to gather and discuss these unifying issues.
The Vibe Here is Really Good
Meanwhile, on the second floor, the Exhibit Hall was coming together. We have around 45 SOF-relevant companies signed on to showcase their capabilities, and as the government attendees were discussing issues upstairs, the exhibitors were readying their displays.
As afternoon turned to evening and the Government Only Day wrapped, we kicked off the official opening of the expo with a Welcome Reception.
With delicious (really) lamb chops, Polish Beer (sponsored by Textron Aviation – thanks!), and plenty of conversation, the reception was a hit!
As our Romanian friend “CD” said, “This is going great! The vibe here is really good… you can tell people are excited.”
Could some of that excitement be just the opportunity to get out and go somewhere in the time of COVID?
But we like to think that everyone is really excited about the agenda, the exhibitors, and this opportunity to be with friends and colleagues, new and old!
And probably the Robot Dog.
Things are Escalating (or ARE they?)
One of the difficult things about finding a venue in Europe is that hotels are often fairly small, at least in relation to some of the mammoth conference centers you can find elsewhere.
Because of that, we have to spread our event across several floors of the venue– Warsaw Marriott. But hey, it’s not a problem, there’s some escalators that connect the event floors and it’s easy to go back and forth between the floors.
At least… that was the case in 2019 and 2020. In 2021, one of those escalators is broken. And we know, we know, “a broken escalator is just stairs.” But apparently it’s broken to the point of that not even being safe. Meaning… we have to use the elevators to get back and forth between floors 2 & 3.
We have “commandeered” a dedicated elevator just for our event floors and opened up some of the interior building stairs to increase access between floors… but we do apologize to everyone in attendance for this inconvenience.
On to Day 2!
All attendees are welcome to the remaining sessions for the Symposium on 27 and 28 October, as well as our Exhibit Hall and networking events. See you there!