Work is work. Fun is fun. But sometimes work and fun do happen simultaneously, like at ANTEC. If you're not a polymer scientist, the Annual Technical Conference, sponsored by the Society of Plastics Engineers, has plenty of slow spots. Lots of carpeted, poorly lit function rooms andhard-to-read slides showing interlocking molecular structures.
After covering ANTEC for five of the past seven years, I've learned to simply avoid the more technically dense paper presentations. You won't find me hanging around those poster sessions, either.
Of course, that's the opinion of a newspaper reporter. A reporter is the ultimate generalist. Thank you, but no, I do not need to be an expert on ``Mechanisms Controlling Creep Deformation of Polyethylene,'' so I skipped that paper. I want to know a little bit about a broad range of subjects and meet tons of people.
That's exactly why ANTEC shines. It's the opposite of those two-days-at-the O'Hare Hilton seminars. ANTEC remains a vital event because committed people attend each year.
It's a great place to renew acquaintances. Industry leaders stand in the halls shaking hands and introducing people, making contacts, ANTEC after ANTEC after ANTEC.
It's a great way to meet industry pioneers. They keep coming back, attending the luncheons and even giving papers, well into their senior citizen years. Henry Finkel, an early plastics designer, epitomized that spirit. He died just before the Boston ANTEC this year. He was in Boston, in his hotel room, when he had a stroke. He was 84. Finkel's wife, Rose, and daughter, Nina Valery, stayed in town and attended the lunch ceremony where he was named an SPE fellow. That's class.
I never met Finkel, but every year at ANTEC I run into people like him. I think ANTEC reflects the roots of SPE - an organization founded in 1942 by individuals, not companies, to socialize and share information.
So yes, ANTECs are fun, despite that massive tome of technical papers 4,400-pages long and 13 pounds heavy.
Speaking as a ``veteran'' of five ANTECs, I offer the following suggestions to make it even better:
Offer to help plenary speakers, who can be highly technical, write their speeches. Plenary speakers kick off each conference day, drawing a large audience of hundreds of people. Believe me, at 8:30 in the morning, the eyes glaze over for lots of us when those molecule charts go up on the screen. I know technical details are important. But what about some interesting, deeper insights? What drives you? Describe the process of innovation; how does it work? What do you see as the most urgent problem facing plastics?
This goes double for the International Award where, too often, the introduction by a colleague is more fun than the winner's speech itself.
Speaking of the International Award, this most-prestigious annual U.S. plastics award deserves more respect. SPE should start by creating a permanent International Award display at the National Plastics Center and Museum, with photographs and extensive background files of every winner.
Remember that SPE was founded by a group of Detroit salesmen. They had fun, talking about business and playing golf. Don't allow ANTEC to become too esoteric. To SPE's credit, society leaders have tried holding various management forums and ``super sessions.'' Some of them are creative, such as the explosive Donahue-style TV show in New Orleans in 1993. Although ANTEC '95 lacked the big blockbuster event, the Marketing and Management Division did a nice job coordinating several business-related sessions, including one on resin pricing.
So SPE, just remember your roots and tighten up those speeches, and ANTEC will never be boring.
Bregar is a Plastics News reporter based in Akron, Ohio.