Have you ever spoken the words “BTA meeting,” and “I laughed so hard I cried” in the same sentence? If you think I’m crazy for even asking that question, you probably weren’t at the BTA Spring Break event in Orlando earlier this year.
I’ve been going to BTA district events for many years now. I’ve been educated, informed and occasionally amused, but I’m not sure I ever busted a gut laughing until the keynote speaker at that event got about halfway through his presentation. That speaker turned out to be Durwood Fincher, also known as “Mr. Doubletalk,” and to understand the laughing part, you have to watch this video of “interviews” done with attendees prior to the event itself (shout out to Chip Miceli at about 9 minutes in). Now, picture this guy being introduced as a regular speaker — someone having something to do with the government, if I recall, which made the fact that we had no idea what he was talking about that much more believable. The entire audience sat open-jawed for varying periods of time before catching on to the fact that this was a gag. But once we did … where’s my “laughing until I cry” emoji?
There it is.
Who's funnier: Mr. Doubletalk or Chip Miceli?
So. You think you know the BTA? You think you know what to expect from BTA meetings? I’m here to tell you that, like a good marriage, you may think you know what to expect and for the most part you do and that’s good, but there are the occasional surprises in store.
Mr. Doubletalk aside, I’ve had some really great times at BTA events over the years. As a baseball fan, the annual Fall Grand Slam events are favorites — what’s better than networking at Yankee Stadium or Camden Yards? (I’m disappointed to have missed Fenway, but I’m putting in a request now for Citi Field). But there is always a great networking outing connected to the BTA’s events — the World War I museum during last year’s 90th anniversary celebration, for example, was fantastic.
OK, so BTA events are funny and entertaining. That, clearly, is probably not a big enough selling point. So how about the education and the networking? As the industry has evolved over the years and trade shows have changed, the various BTA meetings have become some of the bigger gathering spots, with a huge list of exhibiting sponsors and a great setup that allows for plenty of time to visit the exhibits between the education sessions (honestly, having worked on events I can tell you how hard it is to nail down the right mix of education and exhibit time, and BTA does this very well). And it’s not only copier folks at these events — the list at the upcoming 2017 National Conference, for example, illustrates very well the changing nature of the industry, with a list of names including printer OEMs, VARs, leasing companies, managed IT firms and software companies alongside the traditional copier companies. It’s an interesting mix that represents a true microcosm of the imaging industry as a whole these days.
Education at the BTA events is also typically a mix of old and new. You’ll find solid standbys like Mitch Morgan, Jim Kahrs and Darrell Amy alongside unique keynotes like Meridith Elliott Powell and humorist Devin Henderson (who will present “When Life’s Hard, Laugh Harder!” — sounds like a must-see). The National Conference also includes the BTA’s annual Channel’s Choice Awards presentation, which is a great opportunity to feel the pulse of the channel. But if you still want the entertainment angle, the outing will be the Cirque du Soleil Mystére performance at TI. This was the first Cirque show I ever saw and it still ranks among my favorites, so it’s a definite perk.
In case all of this is coming across as just a lot of promotion, let me be upfront and say that I have personally benefitted a great deal from the information provided by the BTA. When I started in this industry more than 15 years ago I had the opportunity to work directly with the BTA, and I learned a lot — particularly from Brent Hoskins, who could laugh at my piddly 15 years in the industry but wouldn’t because he’s the nicest guy in the world. Oh, and maybe I skipped the most important part — but Bob Goldberg’s columns are always a great read and his presentations at the events are always one of the highlights. So if you go for nothing else, go for Goldberg, who is at the same time one of the funniest and smartest guys you’ll ever hear speak.
Bob Goldberg at the BTA's 90th Anniversary celebration in 2016.
Allow me to simply recap by saying, if you haven’t been to a BTA event in a while, it’s worth another look. Networking, education and baseball — do I need to say more? Go check out the BTA events page yourself and register for an upcoming event. Vegas anyone?