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What I learned at INTA TMAP

I’ve been to a lot of legal conferences over the last decade. I’ve been an attendee dodging vendors in the exhibit halls in the past, but today I’m on the other side of the table selling IP docketing software. (It’s called Alt Legal. Check it out.) I thought I knew what to expect at INTA TMAP.

Conference organizers pitch us their conferences with enticing offerings like individual meetings with IP general counsel, great booth positions, and exclusive sponsorships. To decide, we normally use a return on investment (ROI) calculation:

While we’re not always so calculated, we obviously want to spend our time and our marketing budget well. But this year’s INTA TMAP has us thinking differently about what a conference can be and what it should be. We realized that our calculation was missing a key variable: community.

INTA TMAP is an annual meeting for trademark administrators, paralegals, and other IP professionals. It is two days of content and networking events in an exhibition hall. Given the smaller attendee numbers and the relatively large number of exhibitors, our ROI calculation was a hard maybe.

We couldn’t be happier that we decided to go. 350 attendees gathered in New Orleans, but calling it “intimate” wouldn’t be an exaggeration. Every IP professional there was friendly and approachable. It felt like a family reunion without the awkwardness or burned hot dogs. Everyone seemed to either know each other or was eager to meet one another. The conversations were lively, friendly, and intimate. Perhaps most memorable event was the final evening when people gathered to celebrate the birthday of one the conference organizers. (If you’re reading this, you know who you are. Happy 20 years x 2 birthday!)

Our formula also doesn’t consider warmth, friendliness, or shared values present at INTA TMAP. There is a genuine community that include exhibitors, presenters, and attendees. Attendees visited exhibitors that they had known for years. One vendor happily dog-sat for one of their customers/attendees. Exhibitors, even competitors, had a chance to meet or reconnect with each other.

With the winner of our INTA TMAP raffle, Michael Bradley

With the winner of our INTA TMAP raffle, Michael Bradley

We’re excited to get to know the broader IP community the same way we get to know our customers. We encourage more conference organizers to follow the lead of the team behind INTA TMAP and offer more intimate conferences that bring together attendees and vendors in a focused and professional, but genial and genuinely fun setting. We’ll certainly be using a different formula next year: If INTA TMAP is happening, attend!