I love getting out and seeing our readers in person, and had a great time doing so at the recent Floor Installation Association of North America (FIANA) and International Certified Floorcovering Installers Association (CFI) conventions in New Orleans. It’s one thing to write about flooring installation techniques; it’s quite another to see trainers on their hands and knees, an engaged class asking knowledgeable questions. I had to jump between two hotels to cover both shows, so I didn’t have a chance to see every session, but any good convention has too much to do and too little time to do it in.

Another thing I appreciated about this convention was the sense of partnership. FIANA and CFI worked out an arrangement where both shows would be in the same city, with both groups sharing a tour to the nearby USG facility and FIANA offering CFI the final day of their show to come and talk with FIANA exhibitors one-on-one. I spent most of the first full day of the convention on the CFI side, so jumped to FIANA for the second and final day. I knew the CFI members were planning on entering the convention together in their CFI jackets as a show of camaraderie, but hearing about their plans and seeing them in action were two different things. Immediately the energy on the show floor picked up, laughter and conversations began among the CFI members and the exhibitors, and that optimism and energy lasted all the way until the end of the event.

A great thing about this industry is how close it is. When I really stop and think about it, in all the shows I cover each year I probably see at least the same core group of 60-70 people, whether exhibitors or attendees. As a journalist who spends most of his time in front of a glowing screen, not out on jobs and in the thick of it like all of you, I always love the opportunity to get out of the office and see firsthand the pride you take in your work, and the generosity with which you share your knowledge to better the profession.

Yes, the installation industry is still having its problems. On the lips of everyone at CFI was the continued lack of education and training for the majority of installers. And to be sure the people who make it to conventions are a very small part of the whole pie. But as long as there are people as passionate about the industry and its future as all of you, I feel confident that we’ll reach a turning point.