For the second year in a row, FCI magazine is sponsoring an educational panel at the Surfaces trade show and exhibition in Las Vegas, Jan. 30-Feb. 1. And for the second year in a row, I find myself in the enviable position of watching a collection of industry professionals reaching deep into their collective experience to try and better the installation segment as a whole.

This is not to say that I necessarily welcome the idea of public speaking with open arms. The concept is solid: I enjoy watching and listening as intelligent, well-spoken individuals share their experiences and knowledge. It’s the speaking portion of the process that invokes the night screams. I equate my addressing a forum of 200 expectant audience members with watching a car stall out in the number one lane on the freeway. You just know something bad is about to happen.

There are, however, methods by which to ease the trauma. I couldn’t tell you who said it first or when, but when in doubt, surround yourself with the best people you can find. The seminar is titled “The Inspector’s Corner: What the Inspector is Looking For When a Claim is Filed.” As of press time, we are fortunate enough to have the participation of Carl Williams of The Academy of Textiles and Flooring, A.J. Hough of Solutia and Dennis Blake from Better Floors and Restorations.

If things go as planned, I will be the flooring man’s Phil Donahue, running up and down the aisles fielding questions from the audience, wielding a wireless microphone as one of King Arthur’s knights would have his sword in the heat of battle, defending the crown to his dying breath…

But I digress.

The other highlight of Surfaces 2002 directly involving FCI is the World Floor Covering Association’s National Installation Contest. FCI is one of the co-sponsors of the contest, as is our sister publication National Floor Trends, and this year’s event looks to be one of the best ever. WFCA Technical Director Jon Namba is taking the reins for the first time, following in the footsteps of the recently retired Dick Bray. The transition should be seamless, as should the hands-on projects of the competitors.

All in all, I’m not exactly sure what to expect at this year’s Surfaces. Will it be business as usual, or will the folks at Hanley-Wood introduce some new components to the machine? I like the idea that every event offers the chance for some surprises to be unveiled.

On Jan. 30, we’ll see what’s under the wrapping.