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Las Vegas Convention

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3 April 2006

"What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas!" - a slogan I choose to ignore, as we had another good convention. Thinking back, I don't remember ever going to a bad one. My first was the 1990 convention in Chicago, the year we set an all-time attendance record - over 10,000! A group from the Minneapolis-St. Paul chapter chartered a bus, and we had a great time from beginning to end. The first time I ventured onto the exhibit floor, I felt like a kid in a candy store, and choosing seminars was a problem, as there were at least two I wanted to attend in each time slot.

I went to the San Diego convention a couple of years later, where I learned why everyone wants to move to California. One of the memorable events that year was the Sherwin-Williams dessert party, where I decided the next time I went to a convention I would bring my wife. The 1994 convention, in San Francisco, was the first one we used as the start of a family vacation. Other conventions have other memories, but "firsts" are always easier to remember.

This was my first year attending as an Institute director, which brought a new perspective to the event. I still enjoyed what I consider the essential "three Ps" - programs, products, and parties - but this time I was more critical of those things that make a convention work. One improvement from last year's convention in Chicago was the proximity of the exhibit floor and the seminar rooms. This year, the exhibit hall and seminar rooms were on the same level, separated only by a small open space with a coffee shop, and going from seminar to show floor took only a minute. On the other hand, the coffee shop was the only convenient place outside the exhibit floor to get food, and it had little to offer.

There was a good selection of educational programs, covering a wide range of topics. Unfortunately, many members were unable to attend some of the seminars. The rooms were often too small; some seminars were closed after admitting standing-room crowds. One day (Thursday, I believe), the short distance between exhibit floor and seminars became a liability. Several seminars ended early, and an enormous crowd formed in front of the show floor entry, many of us waiting, shoulder to shoulder, for as much as forty-five minutes. Exhibitors, arriving in the half hour before the scheduled opening of the show floor, had to fight their way through the crowd. I understand the reason for adhering to the schedule for opening the exhibit hall, but there was little reason to hold the crowd at bay for that long. Because of the lack of food service, many members immediately went to the food stands inside the exhibit hall, giving up half an hour or more of floor time.

The food service on the show floor was inadequate. The stand I went to, immediately after entering on Thursday, ran out of Caesar's salads by the time I got to the front of the line. Not long after, I was told they also ran out of other salads and sandwiches, leaving only hot dogs, which also ran out.

One of the duties of our board of directors is to personally thank each exhibitor, and encourage them to come again next year. The task was probably easier this year than last, as we sold all booths and had a waiting list. The return to a traveling show was widely appreciated, and next year's move back to the June schedule was also popular. Despite the problems, the overall mood was positive, and I believe the convention was a success.

You might be surprised to know that most of our members do not attend conventions. In the past few years, the conflict with school schedules has been a problem, and it usually requires a significant investment of time, money, and travel - but it is well worth the effort. The education programs offer a year's worth of continuing education in a few days; the exhibit hall is a goldmine of information and knowledge, freely offered by our expert industry professionals; and the camaraderie, face-to-face discussions, and renewal of friendships are priceless.

Conventions have taken me - and my family - to places we otherwise might not have gone. I have missed a few, but CSI conventions are now an important part of my schedule. They go on my calendar as soon as I know the dates, and I sign up as soon as registration is open. It's not too soon to think about next year, so write "Baltimore" on your calendar for next June 20-22, and I'll see you there!

2006 Sheldon Wolfe, RA, FCSI, CCS, CCCA, swolfe@bwbr.com 


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