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August 17, 2015 Marketing

PIB 2015 Retrospective: What I Learned on an Island in Ohio

I have the benefit of seeing so many different sides to our biggest event of the year, the annual user group meeting at Put-in-Bay, OH.

tradeshowI see the hard work the entire Gray Matter Systems team puts into preparation, which actually starts the week after the event ends for the next year. Then I see the team begin to come even more together as it gets closer to August.

We prepare early to make sure that we offer the best breakout sessions with the most helpful speakers while also making sure that every moment is planned.

While attending the event, I see all the hard work we do to make sure that we deliver on our promise of a top-quality user group meeting that is worth a several-day commitment from Gray Matter Systems, our vendors, and most importantly, our attendees.

We do this because we want to make sure the event both entertains and educates our customers and their guests. There is so much going on – it’s all so incredible.

Finding Common Ground Across Industries and Regions

But my absolute favorite part has to be the relationships our attendees form because of this event.

collardI see people from different industries catch the early ferry in a rush to get on the island and back in touch with the people they met last year.

I see an operator from a Houston-based steel company walking through the tabletop trade show, talking excitedly about a new solution with the guy he met last year that works in a water plant just east of Cincinnati. In any other situation, these two people probably would pass each other on the street without thinking twice about each other’s situation but here at our event, they find common ground.

I see the Gray Matter team function as we do at our best, as one unit– there to serve our customers and show them the remarkable things we do.

I see vendors working together, customers learning, people interacting, and so many new relationships being formed, it’s just an overwhelmingly spectacular sight to behold.

Checking Out What’s New at the Trade Show

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Gabriel Minos, Senior Automation Consultant at Gray Matter Systems, explains the Super Trending Chart during the table top trade show.

Our event starts off at the trade show where many of our vendors set up booths and demos to showcase new products and solutions that would be the most beneficial for the attendees. And sure, there are other trade shows and conferences people can attend, but what makes ours unique is the ability to talk to the people that are literally behind the products.

When this show closes, the booths are packed, and the vendors are heading for home, their thoughts are filled with customer feedback and how the products they develop can be improved.

Not only do I see the networking that goes on here between past attendees and those that have never been before, but I witness the excitement the event generates.

All of this because they are around other people that are just as passionate around the same things: technology, automating processes, improving systems, the Internet of Things, SCADA, everything.

Sharing Success Stories and Learning What Works During the Breakout Sessions

The next morning kicks off the sessions that took a year of careful planning. This is a way for people to hear from their peers about what works in their industry or even get a real opportunity to talk to a vendor representative.

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Bill Weed, Senior Engineer, Gray Matter Systems, leads a Best Practices and Approaches to Better Alarm Management session at PIB 2015

Attendees can ask questions and hear questions they didn’t even think of asking in these sessions. And naturally, some of our favorite breakout sessions are the ones that are led by Gray Matter employees.

I sit back and watch them speak not because we asked them to, but because sharing this knowledge with others is why they chose to do what they do.

It’s great to see those in the session feel the passion about the subject matter– it really gives them a chance to show why we are the experts.

Where else will you find Gray Matter Senior Engineer Bill Weed leading a session on best practices for alarms or the JMC Steel Group’s Director of Infrastructure Bill Kempert talking about his company’s plant floor to SAP integration project.

Getting a Glimpse into the Future at the Keynote

After morning sessions, everyone meets for a keynote address that details what is going on in the world of automation, what’s upcoming in technology, and what trends to watch. Plus, it wouldn’t be a Gray Matter Systems event without a little humor thrown in. (Thanks Carson).

GE Intelligent Platforms General Manager of Industrial Data Intelligence Jeremiah Stone

GE Intelligent Platforms General Manager of Industrial Data Intelligence Jeremiah Stone


Also, we have brilliant keynote speakers every year– this year Jeremiah Stone discussed what GE Intelligent Platforms is doing to make sure they are developing the best products for the end-user.

You take a moment to look around and watch everyone really listening and getting excited for what is going to happen and it is simply fun to watch. It’s the vibe we talk about – the Gray Matter Systems vibe – and our attendees experience it too.

Seeing the Island and Sampling the Local Vintage

Next, Gray Matter knows it is a lot to ask those with families to leave for three days, so we have developed a way to entertain the significant others with a sight-seeing/wine tour around Put-in-Bay. The Gray Matter Systems wine tour includes tours of a winery, a crystal cave, a historical home, all with tons of fun and a bit of wine tasting thrown in.

The bonding that happens with this group is also something so great to watch. Here are a group of strangers that leave together at 1 p.m. and come back as great friends roughly four hours later.

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Attendees for the annual wine tour. (Click to enlarge)

Why?

It’s because we make sure that they know this event is about them too.

Family is so important, and while we are some of the hardest workers around, having fun is just as important. Again, they get exposed to our vibe, and can’t help but get drawn in!

So while I am sure there are many that talk about the experience of the user group with a lot of technical speak, being in HR I am naturally drawn to observe the people. And I see people having fun, forming relationships, displaying their passion, and it is my favorite three days of the year.

There are many things our company does to make me so happy to be a Gray Matter Systems employee, but this event tops the list every single year. It never disappoints, and seeing our new employees get to experience it for the first time is really amazing because the event is just that good.

So next year, if you are wondering if this event would benefit you, I think a better question is, why wouldn’t you go? Mark your calendars and tune your guitars – we’re heading back to the island August 9-11, 2016 for PIB 2016.

I hope to see you there.

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