Networking through LinkedIn and other social media certainly has its advantages. But for me, nothing beats face-to-face networking. That’s why I look forward to attending the National Fluid Power Association’s Industry & Economic Outlook Conference every year, and I’m disappointed when I can’t attend.
It’s interesting to hear experts’ views on how we got to where we are and their individual views of where we’re going. Some of the presenters are economists, and some are not. But regardless of their background, the speakers are always top notch, and most provide plenty of interesting insight. Granted, not all the information is meaningful to everyone, but the information I take away certainly beats having to find it on my own. Whether you’re involved in mobile hydraulics, pneumatics, or industrial hydraulics, I’m sure you’d also find your time well spent.
One of my favorite aspects of the conference is how the speakers use cause-and-effect scenarios. For example, if the U.S. government cuts back on subsidies to corn growers, beef prices will drop, then go up, and dairy prices will go up and stay up. This is because corn is a primary food source for dairy cows. If corn’s price goes up, farmers respond by reducing the size of their herds to avoid having a substantially higher feed bill. This increase of cows heading to slaughterhouses raises the supply of beef, so its price drops. However, the smaller herds of dairy cows reduce the supply of milk, so its price goes up. 
This is just one of many business cycles explored at the conference. Most of them are interdependent, which makes for some interesting comparisons and forecasts. Some topics are closely targeted in breakout sessions that let you learn details about specific business sectors. These include:
  • economic issues as they relate to manufacturing
  • construction machinery forecast
  • agricultural machinery forecast
  • U.S. national and state, Canadian provincial, and global construction forecasts
  • market technology trends in pharmaceutical processing
  • heavy-truck market forecast
  • construction machinery forecast
  • agricultural machinery forecast
All events for NFPA’s Industry & Economic Outlook Conference will be held at the Westin North Shore Hotel, Wheeling, Ill., Tuesday, Aug. 12 and 9 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 13. (To view a list of people who have already registered, click here. To register for the conference, click here.)
My favorite part of the IEOC is getting together with long-time friends, meeting new ones, and discussing common interests. I’ll take that over LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter every time.