With roughly 3500 attendees at this year’s IFA Convention, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel lost in the crowd.

In fact, “I’m starting to feel the overwhelm,” is a phrase repeated over and over among many attendees. This is an inevitable part of the large convention experience, and IFA is no exception. This year’s registrations also exceeded recent years’ numbers noticeably (and unexpectedly), and since IFA follows best practices of booking space years in advance to get better deals, they also have the challenge of having blocked into space that isn’t quite large enough for the crowd they have attracted.

This was very apparent when Dr. Condoleezza Rice spoke at yesterday’s luncheon, and a handful of attendees, who opted not to stand in the line up to an hour before the event doors were opened, found themselves watching from a satellite screen in the public space. However attendees took it all in stride – and almost seemed to relish the crowd.

IFA does a number of things to help attendees navigate the crowd effectively – but it is up to the attendees to take advantage of these options. IFA provides more intimate, smaller, local meetings throughout the year, as many large organizations do with regional meetings. This is where attendees can plug into their local community and really build relationships that large conventions are not designed to create (even though they can foster them after they are formed).

IFA has also created an IFA-specific social community, aptly named “FranSocial” where attendees can be visible and connect in a more individualized manner.

However, many exhibitors privately confess they see little or no business from exhibiting at the national convention. They do so in order to be visible (the price of poker, as they say in Vegas) and support the organization at the national level, while working their local community and participating in committees to build real relationships.

So, while a large convention is great for networking and visibility, it is easy to get lost in the crowd if you aren’t already actively involved with existing relationships in the community where you play. IFA is one more example of this age-old truth that companies holding large national conferences and conventions would be wise to embrace and address.