Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

the specialty coffee association of america

Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby sweetmarias on Thu Apr 23, 2009 7:06 am

The whole issue has made me think about the term Specialty Coffee, how radical it must have been at one time, and how it has evolved (or devolved, depending on your view). DOn, Your first-hand historical view of the SCAA is quite in line with the way I imagine it, since I did not have the benefit of being around. I feel that many participants now who already have contacts in the trade use the show to great effect, scheduling meetings with exporters and producers, having private or small group discussions with like-minded people over beers. These people (and now I have to include myself as one) are already connected, but they are also having a DIY conference, using the platform of SCAA but not really the printed program at all. I spent quite a few SCAA's wandering around like a ghost unseen, with few contacts, and at that time I really needed quality programming, I went to education sessions and panel discussions, a LOT of them, and volunteered a bit in the SCAA shop. This was before the RG, the workshops and such. I could not have afforded the paid add-ons like those. So these are the people I think about now, not exactly people like myself (who are irked by the tone with which Symposium was sold, by the price, by the time it requires that I can't afford, by our existing volunteer commitments, etc). The people who need symposium are the ones who can still walk down an aisle of the floor without stopping 10 times to greet people they know, and still go to the existing (albeit mediocre) sessions trying to make the most of their conference attendance. These are probably people who would be well-served by going to RG retreat but would have trouble affording it. If Symposium splits off to be a different event, I will probably have something in common with those folks - both will be choosing between the general show and the specialized event. doing both is impossible. Anyway, drifting off point again ...
let's cup through this ... together. |
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Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby Peter G on Thu Apr 23, 2009 8:24 am

I think you guys are right on to something, and many of your ideas are incorporated into the current vision we have of SCAA events:

Our specialty coffee community has grown to where we have a number of different audiences. We have the new folks, who Tom describes rather well, who don't know quite what to do yet, and need an introduction to our industry, and some basic education (this is, say, the first year). We have people who have achieved that basic level of knowledge, have made some new friends and connections, and are working on their skills. (this is, say, years 2-3). Later on, people get really serious about their skills, and have achieved the level of artisan, craftsman, or real tradesman (years 4-5?). Often, at this point, people in our industry begin to give back, and teach the newcomers, and help them to interact with the community. After a few years of that (say, year 6 or 8) these folks are ready to be challenged yet again.

It goes without saying that we should deliver the best possible quality we can to every person in this community, whether they have been in our community 1 year or 5 years or 25 years.

Ok, so here is the idea:

The Exposition is the ideal place for a neophyte to come, get a sense of the coffee community, and learn some skills. They get to see the vibrant coffee marketplace on the show floor, they get to see expert baristas perform at the competitions, they meet other coffee people in the hallways and receptions (we have a number of specific events especially for that purpose). This is the open-armed welcome to our community. They can also start to develop their espresso, cupping and roasting skills at the workshops. They might go to a few classes, which deal with topics specific to their needs as a year 1-3 coffee person.

As the years go by, these people become more engaged in the community, have made a few friends, and the SCAA event begins to take on a different personality. They now begin to use it as a networking and further education opportunity. They will start to volunteer to help teach the classes they were taking just a few years before, and they might begin to engage with others in their specific profession: the Roasters Guild, the Barista Guild, etc. Their company might begin to "show" at the expo, setting up a booth to exhibit their wares and skills to the community at large.

This leads them down the rabbit hole even further. A roaster might then choose to attend the retreat, to become immersed in their profession even further, and develop their skills. A barista might get involved in the barista competitions, or might go the teaching route, becoming an expert training barista. Or, the person might start to participate in Roasters Guild origin trips and Q certification training, developing their cupping and coffee buying skills.

Before long, our intrepid coffee professional is deeply involved in the community, having developed their skills, taught others, committed volunteer time to their association/guild, etc. After a few years of this deep involvement, they need to be inspired and informed yet again, this time with a different, more specific, kind of knowledge and community. This is what the Symposium was designed to deliver.

Have I expressed this well? The recognition is that we have grown to vibrant to have a one-size-fits-all annual event, and these different expressions of our community connect us all while giving value to various segments and experience levels within our community.

I don't think the Symposium was exclusionary or undemocratic at all, instead it was an event custom-tailored for what a core segment of our industry needs in order to walk forward. Again, the goal is not to take away from the Expo side of the SCAA event, but to ADD an entirely new dimension.

In the near term, Symposium 2010 will certainly be in conjunction with the Anaheim SCAA Event, attendant with the Expo etc.

Everyone's input here has been super valuable, and has definitely informed how we will craft the Symposium and its message.

Peter Giuliano
Specialty Coffee Association of America
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Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby Marshall on Thu Apr 23, 2009 9:32 am

SCAA had new outreach programs this year for new members. They were announced in the brochure as follows:
Welcome First Time Attendees!
It’s a big show. Wonder how to do it all?
First time attendees are invited to participate in a special program to ensure that you
reap maximum benefit from your time in Atlanta. Meet the industry leaders and SCAA
staff, make new friends and learn how to best use your time at the show.

First Time Attendees Reception
Thursday, April 16th at 4-5pm in Room A 309
just before the conference’s opening ceremonies

First Time Attendees Morning Coffee
Friday, April 17th from 8-9am in Room A 309

During Expo hours on the show floor, keep your eyes out for the wandering SCAA
Guru’s to help answer any questions you may have through-out the show

Any info on how they turned out?
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Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby Mike Ferguson on Thu Apr 23, 2009 1:29 pm

In 2002 I wrote an article about the founding of SCAA. I was reminded of this article by Donald's post. It is too long to post here but for those interested in it here is a link:

The reason I thought it might be appropriate to post is that the article reminds me that debate, innovation, new pathways, false starts, restarts, irrational exuberance, unfounded cynicism, turf, naivete, evolving success, sudden success, re-framing, guessing wrong, and guessing absolutely dead-on right have all been a part of SCAA's history, as much in the beginning as now. The community that Donald refers to surely existed and it did so in the midst of profound and passionate debate...not unlike this thread.
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Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby Sandy on Fri Apr 24, 2009 10:50 am

YES YES! I want to know. I am so tempted to create a new thread titled:

so, Was the SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?
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Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby Ric Rhinehart on Fri Apr 24, 2009 1:30 pm

In response to a couple of "How did they turn out?" questions posted here, I would offer the following responses:

The first timers events went well, with good attendance. The morning coffee event was well attended by SCAA board members, active volunteers and staff as well as the eponymous first timers. I overheard or engaged in many conversations that were surely helpful to the newest amongst us and we will keep this program in place next year.

The Symposium attracted some 280 industry participants from a wide range of geographies and positions within the coffee world. Our survey responses so far have been overwhelmingly positive as were the anecdotal responses we got in Atlanta. My own measures of success were twofold going into this. First that we got the right people in the room, and on that score I can say unequivocally that we succeeded. Second, we needed to challenge and inspire those participants to engage in an active dialog, and there too I feel we succeeded. We have received lots of feedback and suggestions on how to improve the logistics as well as the content of the program and we are well underway with implementing many of them for Symposium II in Anaheim.

Please feel free to draw your own conclusions as to the analogous relationship between Symposium and bovine excrement...
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Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby andynewbom on Sat Apr 25, 2009 7:45 pm

a producer rep friend of mine who attended said it was the best symposium/conference she had attended in all her years of SCAA and other coffee events. for what it's worth.
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Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby Alistair Durie on Tue Apr 28, 2009 3:04 am

Symposium was amazing, and was all that Peter said it would be. The only way it could have been better is if Tom Owen was there. I'm still digesting all that I learned, and hope to write more about my experience in length soon.
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Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby BanksThomas on Tue Apr 28, 2009 2:35 pm

I would like to second what Alistair said, the symposium was great and well worth the money. We at Salt Spring Coffee will attend again next year for sure. Thanks to Peter and everyone else that worked so hard to make this happen.
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