Seiche Sanders' portraitBy the strictest definition of the word, a “forum” should have an audience whose members outnumber the presenter or presenters. Normally, it’s a gathering at which information is disseminated by a speaker or expert, and the audience is given the opportunity to soak it all in before posing their own questions. If conducted properly, it should wind up a win-win for both parties, right?

Unfortunately, I was one of only four people (not counting ISSA representatives) who attended one of the membership expansion forums presented at ISSA/INTERCLEAN in Chicago last month. As many of you know, ISSA recently announced the details of its strategic plan, which includes exploring the idea of opening up association membership to end users.

At the forum I attended, ISSA’s executive director, John Garfinkel, made a presentation detailing why the association thinks end-user membership is the best move, and ISSA members had the opportunity to voice any objections to the plan, or just ask questions.

Keep in mind, this will ultimately come up for a vote before ISSA membership (exactly when has not been determined). I’m curious about your opinions. Was the forums’ turnout an indication of distributor apathy?

In this month’s cover story, “Standing Out,” SM examines the reasons customers favor certain distributors over their would-be competitors. Every company has something that gives it an advantage in the marketplace — its differentiating characteristic. The question is whether it’s promoted in the correct way — to customers, and to the company’s own employees.