Later today, I depart for Albuquerque, NM, where I will participate on the program of the annual spring technical conference organized by the Milling and Baking Division of AACC International. Last week, I and other Sosland Publishing Co. staff members sat in on part of the planning sessions for next year’s BakingTech presented by the American Society of Baking. In a little more than two weeks, our company opens its 32nd Annual Purchasing Seminar. In early June, the Institute of Food Technologists convenes its annual meeting and Food Expo at Anaheim, CA, and in mid-September, AACC International assembles its annual convention at Baltimore, MD.

All of this got me thinking about the work that makes the industry’s many conferences and conventions so interesting and successful. For the most part, this work is done on a volunteer basis, although with the support of our companies, colleges and colleagues. Of course, it boosts recognition of individuals and their organizations, but it is offered also as a collaborative effort to help our peers and our industries grow and prosper.

As much of these efforts that participants see, much more takes place behind the curtain.

I was reminded of all this backstage activity when the ASB Program Committee was recently in Kansas City. I served with that group a few years ago and now have three Baking & Snack colleagues participating in planning the 2010 and 2011 events. The committee members log many hours and miles in pulling together subjects of topical interest to ASB members. Each idea is vetted with serious consideration and debate. Each recommendation of a speaker is evaluated according to expertise and stage presence. Then, the committee members put in even longer hours contacting speakers and shepherding them through the preparation and presentation process. Speakers invest many hours and much effort in framing their materials, writing their words, preparing their slides, traveling to the meeting and presenting their comments.

Plus, the details of local arrangements must be considered, and that covers not only hotel and shared meals but also side events such as golf and/or tennis outings and tips about area attractions, dining and after-hours activities. For many events, it’s the local chapter or members who live in the area who handle these matters. ASB is fortunate to have the Bakers Courtesy Club, whose members, composed of Chicago-based allied men and women, serve as ushers, doormen and microphone wranglers. Of course, such volunteer efforts pertain to more than just ASB’s annual event. They characterize nearly every business exhibition, conference, seminar, workshop and meeting.

In these demanding times, the decision to attend a business event depends on the attendee’s budget as well as interest. Now, more than ever, those going to such meetings must be prepared to come home with practical ideas they can put to work in their organizations. It’s these ideas that program committees and speakers work so hard to present. The truth is, you won’t get the benefit of all this behind-the-scenes investment unless you attend, and this doesn’t even take into account all the networking you can also accomplish.


This article can also be found in the digital edition of Baking & Snack, June 1, 2009, starting on Page 12. Click

here to search that archive.