GPD: opening session named all time high; workshop participation breaks attendance records

The 12th Glass Performance Days Conference held 17-20 June 2011 turned out to be remarkable in many senses. Established in 1992 this world-leading glass expert summit has branched out to a biannual pa…

The 12th Glass Performance Days Conference held 17-20 June 2011 turned out to be remarkable in many senses. Established in 1992 this world-leading glass expert summit has branched out to a biannual parent conference in its native Finland with close to 1,000 participants and sister conferences in China, India and South America with several hundred specially invited attendees.
“We were especially pleased to see so many attendants even in these times of extremely challenging business prospects,” says Conference Chairman, Jorma Vitkala. “It was highly gratifying that our conference sessions were so highly appreciated, we scored particular success in our Architect Forum, in the Structural Engineering case study session, in Solar Materials and Technology and in the New Products and Applications session. Some called our Opening Session the best ever in the Conference history, which is not bad considering that our history dates back to 1992. We take this also as a sign that we have managed to revitalize the conference to match the requirements of changing times over the years since its inception.”
In statistical terms, the 12th GPD recorded 830 participants and 220 addresses at conference sessions and workshops. Total workshop participation reached an all-time-high of 327. The top three of a total of 18 were: The Future of the Architectural Glass Industry (47 participants), Solar Power-Opportunities for the Glass Industry (43 participants), and Fundaments of Glass Strength, Stress Analysis and Design methods for Glass Selection and Use in Buildings (38 participants). As usual, conference attendees represented the highest level of policy and decision makers.
“Considering that the workshops are specially planned to deal with a given subject in depth to enable participants to walk away with some concrete new insights we seem to have hit the bull’s eye with our latest selection,” Jorma Vitkala comments. “We were also especially pleased to see that not only the seasoned participants from previous GPDs attended the workshops but that a remarkable number of young professionals attended them as well.”
The GPD is an event where earlier participants return and new decision makers join over the years. At the 12th GPD Russell J. Ebeid, President of Guardian Industries of the US, made a special impact with his record of 40 years in the glass industry and several GPD conferences behind him. His closing remarks at the GPD Opening Session were labelled ‘No Time for the Timid’. It rendered him a standing ovation from the audience. Ebeid first attended the GPD in 1999 and he was pleased to see that many of his visions and improvement suggestions from the past had been successfully implemented.
“The GPD is always a highlight on the glass calendar – the best chance every two years to get together as an industry and look at the technologies and issues of the day,” Ebeid said. The 2011 GPD was no exception to this rule – timely and relevant topics were on the agenda for the best and the brightest people in the industry to address. I especially enjoyed sharing the stage with other thoughtful visionaries such as Ambassador Bruce Oreck. The true test of GPD’s usefulness is its longevity and the fact that for most attendees it is not the first GPD they have attended. When you do something that brings busy people back again and again, it means there is an event of value going on.”
Ebeid attaches special significance to the role of visionaries and bold management in challenging times.
“If we do it correctly, our time together at a conference like this allows us to challenge each other to be at the forefront of change. Here in Tampere, we can ignite inspiration and innovation and touch projects in Beijing, Berlin, Boston or Brazil,” Ebeid said. “In my conversations with attendees it became clear that the industry seemed ready to carry its banner forward. The old story about the horse and carriage and automobile, a transportation industry not limited to horses, is the same for us today – are we energy companies, solar companies, advanced building materials companies and so on? Glass is our core competency, of course, but where are we taking it?”
The quality of the GPD largely rests with the quality of its participants. Interaction and networking are important side functions of the formal agenda.
“I have enjoyed the chance to address the international glass industry three different times at the GPD,” Ebeid concludes. “Even more meaningful has been the conversations with young technologists with new ideas; entrepreneurs starting up new companies and the interaction with smart people from around the world. The people who attend this conference are responsible for change and that makes for a great audience.”
Attendance at the 12th Glass Performance Days Conference held steady at above 800 despite the economically challenging times. A marked feature of the 12th GPD was also the emergence of a new generation of participants. Seasoned conference goers now mingled with the newcomers who made inroads into the inner circle of the industry.
The versatility of the attendees was once again impressive and notably the 5% attendance of the media spoke of public recognition for the news worthiness of the event. Top management held a dominating position among GPD participants with a share of 37% with company owners in third position among the top three attendee categories. Architects topped the category list but the fastest growing attendance category, solar specialists, now came in second.
GPDs development from an exclusive seminar to the world’s dominating event of its kind is well illustrated by the attendance numbers. The last seven conferences in the time period 1999-2011 have had a steady participation in the 800 plus region with a record of over 1,000 participants in 2007.

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