A remarkable convention in a remarkable city. By Steve Jordan.
Those who have never been to San Diego would, I suggest, find the place surprising. The image of a stereotypical American city is imprinted on most people’s minds: wide highways, no footpaths, outdoor advertising, MacDonalds, and gum-chewing waitresses demanding 15% on the bill. Not in San Diego it’s not.
San Diego is a stunning naval city, on a broad expanse of bay visited by vessels of all types from Laser dinghies to aircraft carriers, inclusive. The streets are clean; the traffic sparse and the drivers courteous; the local people are delightful and happy to engage in conversation at the slightest opportunity; and the city, particularly the ‘old’ centre, has real charm. As a stranger, it’s one of the least intimidating places I have ever visited.
The convention hotel, the Hyatt, was as close to ideal as I have ever come across for a major convention. It’s huge of course, easily eating up the 2000 delegates, while still giving them places to hide and meet in relative anonymity. But its twin towers, linked by communal public areas, mean that you are never very far from anywhere. That’s a very big thing when the event is dominated by a continuous treadmill of meetings with little or no time in between each. It’s quite easy on the feet.
The hotel is also very conveniently positioned, in Seaport Village, with bars, shops and restaurants for when the hotel’s charms wear off; the historic centre just a mile away; and, best of all, the Kansas City Barbecue (Top Gun Bar) just across the street which is one of my favourite places anywhere. I relax as soon as I walk in. Maybe I was a redneck in a previous life.
As always the convention was meticulously organised by Terry Head, Chuck White and Brian Limperopulos and the team from IAM. Having said that the pool area in which the welcome meeting was held was a little snug, especially with the pool itself in the middle. Quite how nobody ended up taking a dip, as the wine flowed freely, I have no idea – then again, I didn’t stay until the last knockings so it’s quite possible someone did before the night was out. And I did hear a few say that the food in the exhibition hall, compared with the lavish fare of last year, was a little meagre. But to complain would be picky in my opinion. There wasn’t anyone in the hall that was hungry: everyone was there to work not sample the cuisine.
And work they did. There was the usual crush of people around the concierge desk all trying to keep appointments with people they didn’t know, and frequently failing. However, the organisers had tried to help: there were three designated meeting places around the hotel, all of which remained relatively quiet the whole time. It was a simple matter to arrange a meeting at one of these with virtually no chance that you would miss each other. That said I don’t know how long in advance people had been made aware of the existence of these sanctuaries so, as most people had made their appointments in advance, it was a while before they were fully utilised.
The exhibition was well attended and rigorously policed by the convention staff. Nobody without a badge stood a chance of getting in. The stands too showed their usual level of creativity: a circus theme with motorised animal scooters from TMM; the cheer leaders from Grid Iron Forwarding; and a casino from TriGlobal in which punters could try a spin of the roulette wheel to receive live removals leads in their own country. Very popular. Those with more modest facades were still busy, with the hall buzzing from morning till night every day.
I didn’t go to all the business meetings but those I did go to were reasonably well attended and the subjects were interesting and well covered. Terry Head is one of the most naturally entertaining public speakers I have come across and I have never tired of his banter and marvel at his accomplished ability to handle a crisis. I can well understand why people are distracted by the opportunity to have just one more meeting with someone who might prove valuable, I succumbed myself, but it’s a shame more people don’t make an effort to attend the plenary meetings. There is so much to learn.
You will gather from this report that I like IAM. Some say it’s a heaving throng of insincerity. They would be right. But I like it anyway. It’s a place where you can exercise your salesman’s gene with abandon and know that you won’t upset anyone. Nobody will be offended if you have to cut a conversation short because a more potentially advantageous prospect has entered the room. If every moving convention was the same it would be a nightmare; but once a year, it’s a joy. If you are entitled to attend, but have never been, make 2016 a special year and give it a try.
Paramount Transportation Systems hosted a cocktail party during the IAM convention at the Parq restaurant and nightclub in the historic centre of the city. Around 600 people attended to help support the company and its adopted charity, the orthopaedic Institute for Children.
Some readers will remember the tragic story in our October issue (page 18) of Bibiana and her sister, Tindi. They are both albinos. In their native Tanzania the bones of albinos are prized by witch doctors. When they were both ten, they were attacked at home and Bibiana had her leg and two fingers amputated. They were left for dead.
During the cocktail party the surgeon who treated Bibiana in the USA, Dr Anthony A Scaduto, explained the work of the institute and showed a film about Bibiana. Then, to the shock and delight of the crowd, Bibiana and her sister walked onto the stage. Bibiana made a speech and Tindi sang a song, that she had composed herself, describing their story. It was a magical moment. Despite the size of the crowd the room was very quiet after as everyone was stunned into silence. An emotional and totally unexpected experience for all.
Photos: Above left; Dr Anthony A Scaduto: Middle right; Tindi (left) and Bibiana (right).
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