This time of year, I thank God for seminars.

You know, the all-day events where you get pummeled with data on the latest, greatest concrete segmental retaining wall units or the methods with which to install ’em.  The ones where half the manufacturer rep presenters are former installers and look like they are scared shirtless to be presenting anything in front of a big group.  The ones where you’d swear the owners and staff of a majority of your companies attending the event were holding a contest to see which company could best dress like hobos straight off a rail car.

I love ’em.  Especially this year, with the economy as bad as it is.


  • I get to get out of the house.  After almost two months of nothing but near-zero temperatures, stuck in front of a computer monitor, I start to get a little loony.  This gives me a chance to interact with people other than my family and my dogs.
  • I get to find out what’s new in the world of  (fill in blank with an industry) .  Usually, it’s a new product that looks strikingly similar to an old product, with claims of it’s ability outpacing what it can actually be used for.  But it’s still good to keep tabs on what kinds of products are coming around the bend, so when clients ask about ’em I don’t have a stupefied look on my face.
  • I get to pick up a trick or two.  I just learned something a few days ago about stabilized aggregate and it’s use behind retaining walls in place of geogrid.  Didn’t know about that before the seminar.  Also, I lucked into sitting next to a friendly competitor for the day – a competitor who did an insane indoor waterfall project (one that I balked on (or maybe more accurately, bawk-bawked on)) and has done a couple other water-related things that I wanted to pick his brain about.  I donated some knowledge I had in exchange for his.  We both came out ahead.
  • I can network with mfg reps and engineers; useful contacts when you’re in a tight spot and need a solution for a certain job site.  They’ll do all they can to solve my problem for me.
  • And just the swag alone was worth the price of admission.Goodies from Trade Show
  • For $25 I got a lunch, two knit hats, two baseball caps, a shirt, a book and a soft-sided briefcase.  Probably $75 in goodies.  Sure, swag doesn’t pay the bills, but pictured there are six or seven opportunities to motivate via gifts of appreciation of hard work of an employee.  Or maybe just something to keep my head warm.
  • It gets my juices flowing again to get out into the field and do some work.

I like that feeling.

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