Last week’s Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, better known as SOFIC, was a frenzy of educational and networking opportunities.   But as we heard numerous times, the best event was the one that kicked off the week—our Annual Tampa Reception.  While that certainly wasn’t news to us, here are ten things that we did learn at our reception.

1.  Bourbon 30 is good.  This up and coming craft distillery out of Georgia was discovered by our partner, Purple Shovel.  They brought three different kinds of bourbon, and they were all pretty awesome.  Even the non-bourbon drinkers in the crowd were impressed.  Check out their site if you’re interested!

2.  Speed Networking was standing room only.  This was the first year we invited GSF Members to speed networking, instead of just Corporate Partners.  We weren’t sure what to expect, but it looks like we’ll need more chairs next year.  Over 15 of our Corporate Partners took the time to present their company’s SOF-related offerings—in just 3 minutes.  We hope you took good notes!

3.  Three extra hours.  If you’re a GSF Corporate Partner or Individual Member, you got three extra hours of networking—with a more intimate crowd.  This wasn’t three hours of “listening” either—after Speed Networking there was a VIP Pre-Reception, where attendees had the opportunity to interact with the company representatives they just saw speak!

4.  Cigars are better when they’re hand rolled.  Thanks to one of our Founding Partners, CACI, we had a cigar roller in the house to provide hand rolled cigars.  The cigars gave folks a great opportunity to bond and network outside.

5.  Our sponsor giveaways really took flight.  Textron Systems brought some very nice laser-engraved beer flight holders and General Dynamics gave out very classy (and BPA free!) water bottles.  Other Corporate Partners around the room had other giveaways as well, from beer cozies to beers to put in them.

6.  There’s never enough time.  Even with things starting at 4PM, the 10PM closing time came too early.  With the number of people who were still in the building when the clock struck 10, we might be keeping things going till 11 next year!

7.  Desserts don’t have to be old fashioned.  We had two Corporate Partners sponsor some interesting and tasty desserts—including Nitro Chilled Ice Cream and Cheesecake Martinis.  Thanks to Oracle and Tampa Microwave for putting a modern spin on the classics.

8.  863 is a lot of people.   Yes, we had 863 people walk through the door.  The cruise terminal is a huge space, and we managed to fill it up.  It was hard to walk too far without seeing someone you knew or wanted to know.  And that’s how we like it.

9.  GSF Polos look good!  The staff was rocking their GSF polos all night, and quite a few people were asking who makes them.  Luckily you don’t have to do a ton of research to style like we do…just hop over to our Gear Store to get one for yourself.

10.  We’re all connected, whether we know it or not!  The number of introductions and “hey, I know so-and-so” conversations that occurred is always impressive, and that was no exception at the reception.  It’s no longer the six-degrees of Kevin Bacon…it’s the six-(or fewer)-degrees of GSF!

Be sure to check out the event photos on our Facebook Page and the video on our YouTube page…and follow us while you’re there!