So What's a Symposium, Anyway?

It's a heady word, this word "symposium" is. Three syllables and as a good friend of mine is fond of saying, "high and mighty sounding." Well that may be, but the word has its basis in the darkest depths of antiquity. For those who know me, you know this is going to lead to a beer reference, and you're absolutely right.

You see, the word symposium, according to the Oracle of Wikipedia, comes from the Greek verb sympotein, which means "to drink together." It's since come to refer to any academic conference, or a style of university class characterized by open discourse, rather than a lecture and question–answer format.

In both definitions, symposium is absolutely correct for the Commercial HVAC Symposium, which is being held during HVACR Week this September in Baltimore, MD. The point is that for those of you in the commercial HVAC contracting business, it's that time of year for you to get together, drink the water of education, networking, and camaraderie, while recharging your batteries so you can head back to the office with inspiration and at least one idea that’s going to make you money.

The symposium focuses on how to continue being successful despite the condition of our economy. This is more important than ever with the economic and political situation facing American businesses today. If you don't believe me, check out Matt Michel’s Rant, "Winning the War on Business." There you'll learn about how those companies that not only survived, but thrived during the Great Depression actually did it.

The Symposium will provide you with tools to help accomplish this goal. For example, one way to improve sales is to find ways to overcome objections. Contracting Columnist Earl King will certainly give you the low-down on the best methods for accomplishing this in his session entitled, "Making Sales Intangibles more Tangible."

Sound innovative? Then there's the session, "Innovation Wins Customers," presented by Marty Gilliam, the service manager of very successful commercial HVAC contracting firm — Thermaserve — based in Jacksonville, FL. Gilliam will share his company's innovations in alternative compressor selections for larger tonnage applications, as well as alternative state-of-the-art sources for custom control panel, modifications, retrofits, and energy efficiency upgrades.

But wait, there's more: The winner of Contracting's 2010 Commercial Contractor of the Year Award, Gillette Air Conditioning, San Antonio, TX, is providing the expertise of Vince Gillette and Mark Napier, who will discuss how to be more efficient in your project planning process. Their session, "Planning the Work and Working the Plan: The Value of Advanced Planning," may just be the session that helps you bring more dollars to the bottom line.

In the Design/Build world, the concept of performance contracting isn't new, but today it takes on a much more important role for all commercial contractors. How so? Just check out the session, "Performance Contracting and Energy Service Companies," presented by Bob Swanger of Harris Mechanical Service, St. Paul, MN. Swanger will explain the advantages of working with Energy Service Companies, how to go about creating a partnership with one, and how to sell the benefits to your commercial building owner customers.

Of course there's always a service aspect to running a commercial contracting firm, so we tackle that topic with the expertise of Steve Scott of The Lee Co., Nashville, TN. Scott will explain how The Lee Co. sells bundled services in the session, "Single Sourcing and Bundled Services." Learn how to save your customers money without compromising your products or services. The Service Bundle solution is another take-away that can bring more profits to your bottom line.

If these sessions aren't enough, you also have access to the other two events that run concurrently: The Engineering Green Buildings Conference and HVAC Comfortech 2010. Visit,, or for more information.

I look forward to seeing many of you in Baltimore and perhaps we'll have an opportunity to tip a glass in a bid to sympotein.

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