Vicky’s Space Conference Blog No.2

Inside the monstrous caverns of the conference centre, dozens of exhibitors showcased their products and talents – some of the stands, like ESA, Spaceport Cornwall and Reaction Engines were set up like small TV studios – all sharp décor, spotlights, plush carpets and enticing seating.

Ideal for filming. The majority were midsized booths, each containing smiling and eager exhibitors, keen to tell their enthralling stories. Some were even smaller – a single desk space with a laptop.

Myself and Ray Stott, my new business partner from SpaceSpecialists, perfected lightspeed networking in this universe of opportunities.

Due to the amount of genuine, eye-crinkling smiles and laughter, it was obvious the exhibitors were thrilled to be there, because let's face it, space provides that natural buzz.

This kind of enthusiasm would be difficult to drum up at say a domestic inkjet conference, or boiler parts seminar.

The plenary sessions took place in a monumental auditorium, the seating arrangement so high and steep, it was seemingly modelled on the architectural grace of the Hoover Dam.

Alongside the main talks, smaller talks and pitches ran in parallel. I felt like a kid with ten different candy shops to choose from, spoilt for choice between world-class speakers, interview candidates, networking and glamorous drinks receptions.

The drinks receptions sprung up every so often around the stands in the main conference area: suddenly the place would empty, delegates would stream away, and reform in a happy chatty cluster, sipping lavish cocktails, wine or golden glasses of bubbles.

I've only been 'in the industry' for three months, but thanks to a series of excellent networking events, hosted by ESA and STFC Daresbury, I already knew plenty of people in the room, and some even recognised me from my videos.

This is great, because building familiarity is one of the main aims of video: people like to buy from people they know, or at least feel they know. Video builds that trust like no other medium.

If you want to become a familiar face within your target market in next to no time, get pumping out that social media video and introduce yourself to a massive eager audience without ever shaking a single hand.

During the three days, myself and Ray were there to network and build connections. And to eat lots of excellent food served up from the thrice-daily buffet.

Tip: if you like cakes so precisely made they look like they've been 3D printed then cut into mouth-sized morsels by a laser, the ICC is the place to hold your next conference.

Having all those businesses under one roof was a very efficient way to meet – it would have taken thousands of miles and five years of travel to visit each individually. I racked up nearly four miles every day, so the regular feasts and laser-cut cakes were very welcome indeed.

Speaking of feasts. The Gala Dinner. Wow, I'm still full a week later. Beyond a doubt, the biggest banquet I have ever attended, some seven hundred space professionals gathered in a room the size of a Saturn V hangar.

Lavishly decorated tables with towering flower arrangements that would make Elton John green with envy and a stage flanked by immense TV screens enhanced the enthralling atmosphere.

I could easily write a thousand words on the dinner and awards, but instead, let video do all the hard work. The official statistic is 'video is worth 1.8 million words per minute', so enjoy the ride as 3.6 million words flow past you in this two-minute video of the gala dinner.

 

One of the highlights for me, and probably for everyone else, was the regular appearance of Tim Peake. He popped up at the awards ceremony, at various talks, and inside the conference, where it was easy to flag him down for a selfie.

Everywhere he went, a knot of excited people followed, like ants around a sweet fruit. Many were shy and blushing, scarcely daring to approach him for a photo. It actually took me two days to brave an introduction, but as you can see it was worth it – I'm not sure who has the biggest smile.

By the end of the conference, I'd made so many new friends and contacts that I really, truly didn't want to leave and head back to the humdrum of the outside world where people didn't know what a Satellite Catapult was.

Did we really have to decompress, go back to reality and deal with day-to-day gubbins? Sadly, yes, although on the way home, for a full four-hour drive, all Ray and I could talk about was JUST HOW EXCELLENT THE UK SPACE CONFERENCE WAS.

Do we really have to wait two years for the next one? By then, I'm sure the UK space scene will have flourished even further...with the potential of needing an even bigger venue. Because we definitely need more space. Lots and lots more space.

Written by Vicky Video (Duncalf)

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