ACS 2009: The panels


Sure I was helping my girlfriend move in and dealing with my tooth that needed a root canal, but it’s been hard for me to write up this year’s cheese conference, harder than in years past. In fact, think I will give up after my next post about my favorite cheeses.

Some years I have given detailed description and analysis of panels I attended and the thoughts they provoked. Unfortunately that didn’t happen this year. I mean, I went to panels*… they just didn’t provoke any thoughts.

I don’t want to call anyone out here in public – and I have great hope for next year and the future – but I am declaring a zero tolerance campaign against the panel infomercial. I think we should walk out on anyone who is there to self-promote rather than share information. It’s not like I even have to organize, people voted with their feet at every panel I attended leaving most rooms more than half empty by the end. You could tell how many people left by how cold it got. It might be a Texas 105 outside, but inside the Hilton it was chilly enough to wear my sweatshirt. I didn’t feel comfortable enough to ask anyone I was sitting with to huddle together for warmth.

A good rule… if a panelist doesn’t mention at least 1-2 things that they are currently having problems with, or at least a couple of things that threatened to derail their goals, the panelist is not there to cooperate, they are there to puff up their business. Nothing wrong with that at a consumer event I guess, but at a trade event with a history of helpfulness and honesty, this should not be tolerated. At the very least moderators should be required to ask tough questions and not just let people do their half hour, power-point prepared, Home Shopping Network spiel unchallenged.

Some will argue that it doesn’t really matter… that the educational programming is just window-dressing for the schmoozing, networking, and the publicity for “artisan” cheese anyway. But I will honestly say that I have learned a lot in the decade that I have been going to the conferences and it would make me sad to write off the panels. And honestly, it makes it much harder to justify my workplace paying for my attendance.

Next year is in Seattle, one of my favorite cities, and my book will be out by then so I will definitely attend. After that… we’ll see.

*clearly I couldn’t go to every panel even if I wanted to so this isn’t a blanket dismissal of everything at the conference. I heard some panelists stood out in their expertise and honesty** even as a lot of other folks confirmed my feelings that other panelists were boring self-promoters.

**I was going to list the folks that people mentioned in these parentheses, but I think I won’t. I will inevitably forget someone. I’m already regretting trying to list everyone in the acknowledgement section of my book. Oh well. Too late now. Sorry in advance if I missed you.

2 responses to “ACS 2009: The panels

  1. You’re so right about too many of the panels becoming infomercials, and I have to confess I’m afraid I was probably one of the guilty parties this year. Mea culpa. I think we all have to work harder at bringing genuine educational dialogue back to the ACS education sessions. Thanks for calling it out.

    • Thanks. And for what its worth, I didn’t hear anything negative directed at your presentation.

      See you in a couple of weeks!

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