Have you ever paid $8 for a movie ticket and still had to sit through commercial messages in the theater before they showed the main feature?
Commercial messages are an established part of the American way of doing business, and we’ve all learned how to sit through them when necessary. The same rules apply at a major conference like GreenBuild as at your local Cineplex. Even if you pay $700 for a ticket, you still have to sit through a few ads.
At national conferences, some speakers are invited because they are experts in their field. Others buy their way on stage.
At the opening plenary session of the GreenBuild conference on October 4, 2011, in Toronto, the audience listened politely to a commercial message from David Kohler, the faucet-and-bathtub magnate whose plumbing supply company helped fund the conference. At the closing plenary session, conference attendees listened politely to Scott Case, Director of Markets Development for UL Environment, as Case explained what his company, a conference sponsor, was up to.
However, the oddest speaker by far at GreenBuild’s closing plenary session, John Picard, was hard to categorize. Was this another advertisement from a conference sponsor? Or did the invitation for Picard to speak just represent a monumental example of poor judgment on the part of the conference organizers?
From all appearances, Picard is an entrepreneur drumming up interest from investors in his Silicon Valley start-up, Soft Power. From his October 7 speech, it appeared clear that he is a personal friend of USBGC president Rick Fedrizzi, and that they two of them like to hobnob with Republican politicians, especially New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The Picard speech was a train wreck — strangely fascinating to watch, all the more so because it occurred on stage before a crowd of thousands. His nervousness had…