Tampa’s SOF Industry Conference (SOFIC) ended a week ago, but we wanted to reflect on the biggest takeaways that we had at the GSF. With a record-setting crowd in town for the conference (and the hockey games) we had a great week of connecting with old friends, meeting new potential collaborators, and learning about the latest and greatest in SOF capabilities.

Of course, our Annual Tampa Reception presented by Bank of America Merrill Lynch took place on the Monday of the week. We like to gather the visiting and local members of the community when everyone is fresh and excited to network. As usual, it was a busy event with a lot of great connections and good times.

Here’s some of our top highlights from our GSF Reception, as well as the rest of the week as a whole:

#1  Our new form of Speed Networking at the GSF Reception was very effective:

We’ve used different formats of Speed Networking in the past, but this year we hired SpeedNetworking.com to help us execute more one-on-one sessions. This meant that everyone who signed up in advance and filled out the resultant form was matched through the SpeedNetworking.com for eight 6-minute speed meetings.

This was our first time using this format, so the registration and form-filling process didn’t work quite as smoothly as we’d like… but once the sessions were started, it was a great event! As Stu said, None of these people would be talking to each other without this… they’d just be talking to people they already know.”

It’s hard to disagree, as many participants told us that they had at least one (and often more) valuable connection that they made during Speed Networking.

#2  Our Corporate Partners and Sponsors stepped up their games at the GSF Reception:

This year we had some cool and unique sponsorships, to include a popular Trailblazer Trail Mix station (sponsored by Akima), new and unique bourbons are the Bourbon Tasting (sponsored by Insitu), and the Wayfinding signage provided by Pelican Products.

These sponsorships add a whole new level of fun to the Reception, while also putting the Sponsor’s branding out in front of the attendees in a memorable way. We want to again thank every company the contributed to the event with a sponsorship (all shown to the right).

Additionally, we provide a free tabletop space to each of our Corporate Partners, which is a great opportunity for them to conduct mini-demonstrations and stage informative literature about their capabilities. Over 30 of our Partners took advantage of this opportunity, providing attendees with many opportunities to learn about up-and-coming SOF capabilities.

#3  The International SOF Capabilities demo (even the rehearsal!) draws a big crowd:

Over at the Tampa Convention Center, the International SOF (ISOF) Conference took place in parallel with SOFIC. The biggest and most elaborate feature of this biennial event is a multinational capabilities demonstration, which this year brought SOF operators from around 10 Nations together for a 30+ minute demo.

The demo changes a bit every time, so even veteran attendees of the Conference still head out to see it. This means that seating / standing room (especially out of the sun) is hard to come by. Even the rehearsal on Tuesday had a huge crowd–although it’s not publicized, the hovering helicopters and machine gun rounds (blanks) are hard not to notice.

The GSF Staff was lucky enough to watch the Wednesday demo from Corporate Partner Lukos’ Luncheon, which took place at Jackson’s Waterfront Room. Thank you to Lukos for letting us watch in air-conditioned seats–we felt like VIPs!

#4   GSF Corporate Partner Linkages:

While we can’t go into details on the connections made throughout the week (and often we don’t even know about half of them), many GSF Corporate Partners met and discussed potential business partnerships over the week. One GSF Small Business Partner was introduced to a GSF Founding Partner and learned that they had a huge opportunity for collaboration.

As the Small Business Partner said, “I never even thought about reaching out to this company for business, but now that we talked this could be a huge opportunity for us.” This are the types of things that happen often and that we really like to see and facilitate.

#5   The Global SOF Community continues to grow:

Each year, we get to see more and more people at events like our Annual Tampa Reception. Some of them are familiar faces that attend all of our events–which is a great way to solidify and expand your presence in the community. Others are new to the community and we do our best to welcome them and show them the ropes!

Whatever the case, we are excited for what the future has to bring as we grow and further connect this worldwide special ops community! Continue to be part of it by attending one of our upcoming events.

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