by Kyle Majchrowski

When the 2018 Leadership Conference in La Jolla was announced, I thought about the COAA events I’ve attended for the past 7 years. Very quickly I decided to find a way to attend the conference in La Jolla. With so many options out there on conferences, as an Owner, I have found COAA’s conferences to be the best value for 5 reasons.  

Reason #1: Content 

COAA conferences do a great job delivering content designed specifically for the owner project management group. The early conferences I attended emphasized topics like BIM and project management systems, then a few years later included IPD case studies and facilities management systems.  

Sessions range from entry level courses like Pay Application review, to large project case studies, to hands-on workshops where attendees participate in the discussion. The past few events have included focuses on Leadership Development and overall industry improvement. One unique aspect of the conference is the content looks at every aspect of the capital project delivery process. The content at COAA events is tremendous from an Owner’s point of view.

Reason #2: Fellow Attendees  

I’m an introvert and going to conferences taxes me. It takes effort to talk to strangers, even if it is just small talk. Early on, I found that many COAA attendees are similar – which ironically makes them easy to talk to.  

I also found that people who attend do the job my group does, which makes striking up conversations very easy. The format of the conference, with the meals, breaks, and Q&A time for each session does a good job helping this introvert connect with others.  

Since many of the attendees do similar jobs, they are open to talk about what works and what doesn’t. People don’t seem to mind talking about failures and what they learned from them. Most importantly – the people who attend COAA conferences more than once are those good people trying sincerely to change our industry for the better. I like to spend time with those people. 

Reason #3: The COAA Way   

The COAA Way was introduced in Pittsburgh in the Spring of 2018. The COAA Way is beginning to articulate what it means to be a good owner. Shared success, mutual respect, sharing of practices (good and bad!), and industry improvement are the major elements that I heard.  

These themes have always been present at COAA events, and it was great to hear folks from COAA start to formally define what to some is just a way of doing business. It’s clear that those leading COAA believe that being a good owner really matters. The COAA Way effort is working with the members and conference attendees to define what a good owner is, then help us all truly embrace being a good owner.

Reason #4: To Explore Solutions To The Industry’s Macro Problems 

COAA content includes sessions and discussions regarding the industry’s macro problems. Transitioning projects upon completion to facilities has been a standing session for many years. For the past few years there has been a session on workforce shortage. Then in Pittsburgh this Spring, a series of case studies was presented on how people are working to overcome the workforce issue around Pittsburgh.  

Every so often there are sessions on the macroeconomic view of the design and construction industry. To be able to talk with other owners about industry wide challenges that have no geographical boundaries and what others are trying to do to solve them is a unique opportunity.

Reason #5 Location: 

COAA conferences are held in locations that are thoughtful, affordable, and add to the experience of the conference. COAA usually tries to host or point attendees to a local, post conference, event (a boat excursion, baseball game, tour of the Hoover Dam) to get to see the sights and continue building the relationships created during the conference.  

These events are low key and a great way to wind down after the conference. When you couple a location that has some cool stuff around with the extra local event post conference, that helps drive my decision to attend. 

There are indeed a lot of conferences available to us as Owners, though very few offer the combination of all five points above. With high demands on our time, I truly want to go where I will get the most value. I have felt and continue to see the value in the people, content, and overall experience at COAA. Hope you’ll join us in La Jolla.  

As Senior Project Executive within Banner Health, Kyle supports the team that manages renovations and new construction throughout the Western Division.