Author: Joylyn Ortiz, Digital Marketing Manager, Descartes Systems, Inc. 

Parcel Forum 

Are you considering attending PARCEL Forum 2023 supply chain conference? As a first-time attendee in 2022, new to the shipping and supply chain industry, here are my top five takeaways from the event. This overview will help you decide if PARCEL Forum is a must-attend. 


1. Big Event Hall Energy 

Exhibit Hall Aerial 2

PARCEL Forum 2022 was a cornucopia of all things parcel shipping. Vendors and shippers convened in a vibrant convention rivaling pre-COVID attendance. The exhibit hall was packed with vendors in pre-COVID spacing configurations. 

Event Hall

Exhibitors went all-out with full booth kit setups, promo items, fancy furniture, and other surprises. My top 3 favorite event hall experiences: 

  1. Exhibit Booth Bingo. Get a stamp at every booth you visit. Each stamp = $1 donation to the Red Cross, and 40 stamps enters you into a drawing for $1,000. I visited every booth to get my stamps!
  2. Putt putt golf to win a prize (I definitely screamed when I got the ball in the hole and won the bag I wanted!)
  3. Classic arcade games reimagined as shipping themes. Imagine Super Mario and Pac-Man collecting parcels. I played my way through the platformer with great satisfaction.

Super Sort Man

Beyond the gimmicks, games, and prizes the event hall contained a variety of vendors covering different aspects of the parcel shipping process. From returns/receiving systems, to shipping systems, to supply chain management software, to WMS and TMS, to weighing/scales, there was something for everyone. 


2. Sessions Worth Attending 

Session 2

As a person brand-new to the shipping and supply chain world, I found the conference sessions to be informative and fairly easy to understand. I focused mainly on ecommerce-related sessions, and the menu of sessions provided enough variety to make me regret missing some classes.  

Most speakers were well organized, with compelling PowerPoint presentations also available for download. I took lots of notes and left each session feeling better-informed than when I started. I also gained industry insights to take home and share with my company.  

Here are the top 5 industry insights I gathered from the sessions: 

  1. Diversify your carriers. Don’t let any one carrier hold the keys to your kingdom.
  2. Carrier capacity is opening up. Bring in outside reps and negotiate carrier rates to get the best deals.
  3. Be open to autonomous solutions, from transportation to soft solutions. 
  4. Get as much operations data as you can; put it into a usable/shareable format; highlight anomalies/trends
  5. Work with internal customers/teams to make sure everyone is aligned on strategy and able to plan. 


3. Drool-Worthy Food 

Everyone knows supply chain conference food can be a little lack-luster. However, PARCEL Forum 2022’s menu contained more than a few culinary surprises that put a smile on my face. My 3 favorites: 

  1. Fancy taco bar. Build your own tiny tacos with a variety of fancy fillings.
  2. Hide-and-seek luncheon on the exhibit floor. Fresh pizzas, pretzels, sliders, and desserts were hidden throughout the exhibit hall. You had to walk the hall to find different foods.
  3. Ice sculpture chilling celebratory champagne. Cheers to 20 years of PARCEL Forum! 

Ice Sculpture

Side note: I am a vegetarian, so my expectations for thoughtful options are usually low. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of food at this event.  


4. Networking, Networking, Networking 

Women in Logistics

This event was designed with networking in mind, offering multiple opportunities every day to meet new people. Beyond the exhibit hall, conference-sponsored mixers provided time and space to gather in conversation. The early birds received networking breakfast opportunities, and I met people from at least 8 different companies at breakfast. Those who preferred to sleep in took advantage of lunch in the exhibit hall where people mingled at cocktail tables scattered throughout the ballroom. 

The dinnertime social event on Tuesday featured music by a live jazz band! This took the networking event to a swankier level as drinks and conversation flowed freely. Many attendees and vendors chose to continue their evening at the hotel bar and restaurant, while others scattered to nearby restaurants, bars, and casinos. Conference attendees seemed eager to take advantage of face-to-face conversation, and the atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. 


5. Birds-Eye View of the Industry 

Exhibit Hall Aerial

My biggest takeaway from PARCEL Forum 2022 was the birds-eye view of the industry. As a newbie to both PARCEL Forum and the shipping and supply chain industry (new hire at Descartes), I hoped to leave the conference with a holistic understanding of the parcel shipping world. PARCEL Forum did not disappoint. Through the sessions, exhibits, and networking I gained a high-level overview of the different components that make up the parcel shipping industry. 

From small garage-based businesses just starting to scale, to large international companies dealing with friction at customs, I learned about the problems and solutions most relevant to parcel shippers in 2022. As I put myself in the position of a shipper attending the event, I was able to imagine how the various solutions could impact my business. I could see how all the pieces fit together to help me grow. 


Should You Attend PARCEL Forum 2023? 

 If you are a parcel shipper or work in the parcel shipping industry, you may want to attend PARCEL Forum 2023 for the following reasons: 

  1. You are trying to scale, and you need technology to help you. Shop the exhibit hall and compare vendors. Talk with other attendees about what they use and how well they like it.
  2. You are trying to gain a competitive advantage. Educate yourself about the latest industry trends and forecasts, especially for peak season. Strengthen your network and observe competitors.
  3. You are new to the industry. Gain a comprehensive understanding of the small parcel industry and start building your network.  

Of course, there are many other reasons why you might benefit from PARCEL Forum 2023. If anything in this article sparked an interest, I encourage you to attend! Cheers, and enjoy the event.