Top 5 Do’s and Don’ts of SPI (and All Solar Conferences)

1 Nov 2013

Sol Systems' Director of Marketing, Natacha Kiler, reflects on the top 5 do's and don'ts at SPI.

Sol Systems’ Director of Marketing, Natacha Kiler, reflects on the top 5 do’s and don’ts at SPI.

Solar Power International is generally a good time, but this year’s conference in Chicago seemed better than some of the conferences in recent memory. After reflecting on the week, and why this year felt so much better than some other years, here are Sol Systems’ top 5 SPI conference best practices.


1. Set up meetings and locations in advance. SPI has gotten way too big to have impromptu meetings. If you want to meet with someone specific, put the meeting on the calendar (with the right time zone and everyone’s cell phone number), and have an idea of where you will meet more than 5 minutes before the meeting. No matter where the conference is located, you can generally meet: next to the registration area, at lunch tables in the expo hall, established event networking centers, at comfortable chairs outside the expo, “the” coffee shop, or in the lobby of the conference hotel.

2. RSVP to parties. Event planners distribute invitations for their parties in advance and are often more flexible to prospective guests in advance of a party than they are when would-be party crashers show up at the door. Sometimes party invitations are “non-transferable,” but it’s better to find that out in advance rather than having to plead your case to the person working the registration table who may or may not know how important you really are.

3. Attend the SPI Block Party. Networking is great, the exhibit hall is interesting, and the panels are really interesting for whoever actually has the time to attend them. But the block party is the highlight of the 4-day trip, especially when it’s at a great venue like the Museum of Science and Industry, Disneyland, and even the Hard Rock Café.

4. Caffeinate & get enough rest. Even if you’re an extrovert, 16 hour days with multiple meetings, lectures, and numerous adult beverages can be exhausting at best. If you don’t drink coffee, consider drinking a cup or two; if you need sleep or alone-time to recharge, make sure you budget the time into your schedule. You are a better representative to your company when you are well-rested and at your best.

5. Walk the floor and attend a seminar or two. If you’ve been in the industry for awhile, you may wonder why you bother registering for SPI when it seems like you spend your entire day in business meetings or chatting with old colleagues in passing.  But it is the biggest solar event of the year, so you should budget some time to walk the floor, see the latest technologies, and listen to experts talk about the latest trends and best practices. You may not learn anything earth-shattering, but you will likely gain a better context for where our booming industry is heading.


1. Get too drunk.  Alcohol has a special way of making you forget your limits and punishing you for it the next day. Here’s a tip: before your start drinking, tell yourself a maximum number of acceptable drinks, and then hold yourself accountable to it. Maybe you’ll drink more and maybe you’ll drink less, but you probably won’t be incapacitated the next day.

2. Forget Your Business Cards. It shouldn’t be so hard, but for some reason, too many people come to these conferences with no cards or not enough of them. When you register or book travel for any conference, consider putting a reminder on your calendar to pack extra business cards.

3. Carry a heavy bag. There’s really no good reason to carry a laptop at a conference, which means there’s really no excuse for carrying a backpack. You never end up doing the work you anticipate anyway. Smart phones were invented so you could carry them in pockets and purses. Give your back and feet a break and pack light.

4. Showcase nervous tics during meetings. There are numerous ways that people manifest boredom and nervous energy, but do yourself (and company) a favor, and don’t showcase your nail-biting, lint-picking, gum-snapping, knee-jerking nervous tics during business meetings. Try putting your hands on your knees and focus on listening, smiling, and making eye contact.

5. Book a remote hotel. It’s more expensive to stay at the conference hotel, but it sure beats waiting for a shuttle, paying for cabs, and/or packing up for a 16 hour day.

About Sol Systems
Sol Systems is a boutique financial services firm that offers investor clients direct access to the renewable energy asset class and provides developers with sophisticated project financing solutions. Founded in 2008, Sol Systems focuses on meeting the most critical needs of the industry, including SREC monetization, capital placement, tax equity, and New Market Tax Credits. To date, the company has arranged financing for thousands of projects and facilitated hundreds of millions in investment on behalf of Fortune 100 companies, private equity, family offices and individuals. For more information please visit

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Natacha Kiler

Natacha Kiler