It’s now Saturday evening and the NRG Conference is essentially over. I’m now just waiting for the annual banquet. This year was at San Diego and this was the first year that I was one of the featured speakers and had my own sessions at the roundtable discussions. I feel vastly under qualified, but people were very kind and many stopped me to say that they really enjoyed my talk or my discussion session.
Because boatbuilder Douglas Brooks was my presentation partner, I did benefit greatly from the association, and feel very fortunate for the opportunity. Douglas Brooks has been studying actual Japanese boatbuilding through several apprenticeships in Japan and is also an accomplished American boat builder. He’s also an excellent speaker. We gave a combined talk on Japanese wooden boatbuilding and model building, my portion being on model building. As my portion of the talk followed his, I can tell you that he’s such a good speaker that it was very hard to follow him.
I would have been nervous anyway, not being a skilled speaker. But, my part of the 50-minute talk was short – only about 15 minutes. So, it couldn’t go too wrong anyway, and then it was done.
For the roundtable sessions, I bought the Urayasu Bekabune model I’ve been working on, along with notes, jigs and tools I’ve been using. I also brought a couple Japanese kits I had, so I could give people a first-hand look at what these kits are like.
There were supposed to be 5 roundtable sessions, and each presenter was supposed to get a break and skip one of the sessions. However, not having done this before, I had no idea how I was going to find out which session I was going to skip, and by the time I figured it out, that session had already passed. So, I pretty much talked for 2-1/2 hours straight. It wasn’t so bad, though, and I worked hard to repeat my presentation as completely as possible 5 times.
Vendors and Models
As I mentioned, there wasn’t much activity in the vendor room, but there were vendors, and there were models, models and more models. I’m told there were about 50 in all. Some people had indicated that it was the largest number of models they’d seen at an NRG conference. I personally had three on display. I signed up to bring a fourth, but then discovered I couldn’t fit them all in my car.
The vendors this year included Train Troll, with some neat new laser-cut kits and parts; Sherline, which showed off their lathe and mill; Douglas Brooks, who was selling signed copies of his book on Japanese Wooden Boatbuilding; BlueJacket, with a selection of their newest kit releases; and Ages of Sail, which not only set up three tables of ship model kits and fittings, but also set up a couple tables and a tool rack for Model Craft Tools.
At this point, I’m really tired. The conference was good, but there were some glitches, and I felt really bad for the vendors who spent a lot of money, time, and effort to come and support the conference. There was a problem in that the vendor room, and all the models on display, were on the 5th floor of the hotel, and all the discussions, lunches, presentations, meeting, were down on the first floor, past the lobby and the bar/restaurant area.
In past conferences, in between presentations and talks, there were short breaks. Not long, but long enough for people to wander quickly into the vendor room to look at goodies, maybe make a purchase, ask questions, etc., before the next event. But, with 10-minute breaks, and the vendor room so far from the events, there was very little browsing and the vendor room was, for the most part, dead. There were some sales, but it was very disappointing to me, and disastrous for vendors. I spoke up several times about it to the organizers. Some tried to do what they could to steer people up to the vendor room, but I also got some big time push back that made me rethink my NRG conference participation.
It didn’t really affect me directly, but I feel it hurt people that I was trying to help – people who are my friends. Worst part, there was some attitude exhibited that was clearly disrespectful of the vendors and what they do for the NRG. I know everyone worked really hard to make the conference happen, and they deserve much credit. But, the vendors who participate make relatively little money from the NRG membership, and spend a lot of money to travel, bring product, and pay for accommodations, etc. They deserve better.
We’ll see how preparations come along for next year’s conference, which is in St. Petersburg, Florida. I’ve been talking with the organizers for that conference. They were the ones that tried to make things happen this year when I brought up issues, so I’m very hopeful.
Speakers at This Year’s Conference
I can’t say too much about the speakers at the conference since I was mostly in the vendor area and not able to attend of the talks but my own. Most of what I know is only what I’d heard. For the most part, I heard a lot of positives and only one real negative and that was about a talk by a non-NRG member that deliberately ran long.
Sadly, one of the speakers, Mr. Michel Mantin, who came to the conference from France, and who was kind enough to come up and introduce himself to me following my own talk, had to be hospitalized before his talk on Friday. Fortunately, his good friend Don Dressel (from the Ship Modelers’ Association of Fullerton) was there and went to the hospital with him, and reported back on Mr. Mantin’s condition. Last I heard, he was improving, but would need to remain in the hospital for a few days.
I have since notified a couple friends of his in France and in Japan to let them know what happened, and I’ll be checking with Don Dressel for an update.
Next Year, St. Petersburg, Florida