Having evolved from NTCA’s longstanding workshop program, the 2011 NTCA Tile & Stone Symposium program began in December 2010. NTCA staff and industry professionals from Custom Building Products, LATICRETE, H.B. Fuller and MAPEI collaborated on the 2011 road-show program, keeping the core format but adding custom-tailored elements that distinguished it from past year’s programming. For instance, the flexibility of this year’s PowerPoint presentations gave each location host the opportunity to select a topic of discussion that was important in their area of the country: The topics covered included updates to the 2011 TCA Handbook, as well as one of the following: membranes, large format tile, use of backer board, installation of glass mosaic tile, and shower installation/water management.
Interactive formatBut the biggest change – an Open Forum – was intended to get attendee participation. At each Symposium, the third and final hour (first hour is a catered dinner with plenty of time for networking, and second hour is presentations) was devoted to the Open Forum, and moderated by the NTCA presenter – either Gerald Sloan, NTCA training director, or Michael Whistler, NTCA workshop presenter/technical consultant. A panel of technically-informed industry professionals was featured at each location, fielding questions from contractors, distributor employees, architects and designers in the audience.
“This interaction between the audience and the manufacturer’s technical representatives with Michael or me as moderator has been very well received by all participants,” Sloan said. “It allows the technical representatives to answer the audience’s questions in a non-proprietary way and give explanations on cautions and limitations for the products, tools, and methods that we work with to ensure a high quality tile or stone installation.”
This new Symposium format has received an enthusiastic response from hosts and attendees alike. For instance, Pamela Johnson, of ProSource Wholesale Flooring in North Little Rock, Ark., praised Sloan for a “very informative, organized, and timely seminar you gave at Daltile in North Little Rock, Arkansas on the 28th of July. I realized after commenting to a number of my colleagues how much I enjoyed your demonstration that I had never taken the time to tell YOU.
“I am correcting that error now by letting you know I cannot count the number of events like that one I have attended and yours was by far the best,” she added. “Keep up the good work and I look forward to catching another of your events when you’re in our fair town.”
David Kocienda of Best Tile of N.C., in Raleigh was grateful for the “three great events” in the area. “Gerald did an outstanding job keeping everybody who attended interested in the message that we as an industry are trying to get across. Nyle (Wadford, NTCA president) also was a big part of making our Symposiums a great success; being a ‘local boy’ the contractors felt he understood their concerns. All of our vendors were equally impressed with the turnout and the professionalism displayed by all involved.”
Devin Steele of Triangle Flooring in Cary, N.C. felt warmly welcomed by the Symposium team. “Meeting several of you (Nyle Wadford, NTCA president, Dan Welch, NTCA first vice president, NTCA regional director Martin Howard of David Allen Company, and NTCA’s Gerald Sloan)…was great,” he said. “The camaraderie between members was very much like a fraternity, friendly and open though most in the room are my competitors. Everyone was there to help each other as well as gain additional knowledge. “This was our first NTCA meeting and I would describe it to being similar to the Master Craftsman Guilds found in Europe,” he added. “The sponsors and coordinators did a great job in communicating the NTCA focus: expand members’ knowledge base and bring a high degree of professionalism in this highly unregulated trade.”
Eric Schlundt from Daltile in Fresno, Calif., said that the contractor attendees at the Fresno Symposium “learned a lot and found the meeting to be a benefit to them in their daily business. Michael Whistler did a great job in his presentation as he spoke about the TCNA Handbook and the upcoming changes to it: larger format tiles, thinset coverage and expansion joints to just name a few. We actually ran out of time as questions kept coming from the attendees throughout the evening.”
New membership opportunities
This year’s highly interactive format also resulted in many new members joining at the Symposiums.
For Steele, “becoming a member of the NTCA was a no brainer for us. Our business and our construction projects will be at less risk because we are plugged into the NTCA resources. My crews and I will forever be students of this ever-changing trade due to advanced leaps in construction materials, technology and complex construction schedules.”
New member Andy Carlson of Checker Tile Limited said, “I have enjoyed TileLetter for years, but the seminar we had here in Madison, Wis., really convinced me to join. I really enjoyed it. I look forward to learning more about NTCA. I have been doing mud work for 25 years now, but there is always something new to learn.”
In addition to being free of charge to all attendees, all NTCA Symposiums are worth two AIA CEUs (HSW-CEUs), and are as welcoming to members of the architect and design community as they are to tile and stone contractors.
A lot of work and planning goes into hosting a Symposium and I want to personally thank the distributors who stepped up to make 2011 the most successful year ever. They include: Artistic Tile, Best Tile, Big D Floor Covering Supplies, D&B Tile Distributors, Emser Tile, Floor & Décor Outlets, GranQuartz, JP Flooring, Louisville Tile, and Miles Distributors. We want to extend a special thank you to Daltile for their huge commitment of hosting 45 Symposiums in 2011.
I want to also thank all the NTCA Symposium sponsors. We have over 45 companies that have stepped forward to sponsor the NTCA trailers, helping to offset the expenses incurred sending two trainers across the country.
One of NTCA’s accomplishments this year is that despite these tough economic times, we set a record of holding over 80 Symposiums. One of them is being held this month and is a very tough assignment (wink, wink). On October 26 Gerald and Michael will travel to Hawaii to give a Symposium in Honolulu hosted by Daltile. With a workshop held in Alaska a few years back by Joe Tarver, we can now say that we have covered the whole country.
Our Symposium season is coming to a close for this year, but we are already planning for the 2012 run. Contact me at [email protected] or phone 601-939-2071 if you’d like to be a host or sponsor; and keep an eye out for a Symposium coming to your area. We’d love to meet you!