Next event: Feb. 14

3-D Symposium Hits Its 20-Year Milestone

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)
Randy Ray
Randy Ray

Meetings, forums, symposia and such have long played a key role in educating petroleum industry members in an array of topics.

Some of these get-togethers are a one-shot event, while others have staying power.

The RMAG/DGS 3-D Seismic Symposium on tap for Feb. 14 is a notable example of the latter.

This year’s event marks the 20th anniversary of the meeting, held annually in Denver since 1995.

“I was encouraged by the RMAG to put it on that first year to help sell guidebooks on 2-D and 3-D seismic,” said symposium co-founder and AAPG Honorary member Randy Ray. “RMAG runs field trips with guidebooks, and we like to have symposia where those who wrote the articles can give talks.

“That’s why it started, and because it was about geophysics and not just geology, I said let’s include the geophysical society,” Ray said. “I called my friend, Bill Pearson, who was past president of the Denver Geophysical Society, and he agreed to co-chair the meeting with me.”

Three-D seismic sage (and renowned AAPG author, speaker and past editor of the EXPLORER’s Geophysical Corner) Alistair Brown served in the role of keynote speaker at the inaugural event.

“We were worried if anyone would show up, and when we drew in 500 attendees, we were shocked,” Ray remarked. “So we said, let’s do it again.”

The twosome continued their official co-chair responsibilities for 17 years – a long volunteer gig.

Co-chairs for this year’s 20th anniversary milestone event are AAPG members Mary Sue Purcell and Jim Thorson.

A ‘Mystical’ Quality

Not surprisingly, the initial team’s 17-year stint had its share of moments, so to speak, ranging from good to bad to funny.

Ray recounted a few of these, such as speaker slides burning up during a presentation, fire alarms triggered during a keynote address and live workstation presentations gone awry.

“One of the most memorable meetings we had was the use of 3-D glasses to look at 3-D data on a 3-D workstation,” he quipped.

Then there was the “Blizzard Symposium” in 2009, so named when the event coincided with an unexpected major snowstorm. Some speakers were stranded at the Denver airport, while many other speakers/attendees couldn’t get even that close.

Still, the show went on, thanks to near-heroic efforts on the part of many folks.

Ray pinpointed the secrets to success for the phenomenal run of this annual confab.

For starters, he gives major kudos to the committee.

“Everyone on the committee has an active voice in all aspects of the job, from recruiting potential speakers to submit their abstracts, determining the final program and gathering sponsorship funds,” he noted.

A broad audience base is essential to success. This entails ensuring there are not too many talks that are overwhelmingly technical in geophysics, while simultaneously including geology and case histories needed to retain the interest of not only the geoscientists but also engineers, landmen and management.

A final secret to success: “The theme of each presentation is presented by the person who actually did the work,” Ray said. “This is not a meeting where the audience is subjected to professional sales talks.”

He also attributes part of the longevity of this series to the “mystical” Denver Snowballs, awarded to all speakers.

“The Denver Snowballs are paperweights hand-made by Bill Smith at RMAG, and they’re only made for these symposia,” Ray said. “I joke that they have mystical qualities, thinking about the Houston speakers picking up a Snowball in Houston in August and feeling a fresh, cold breeze from the Rocky Mountains to remind them of their talk.”

Joking aside, the case can be made for a very basic foundation supporting the success of this long-running show.

“I feel that the underlying strength of the symposium is its obvious homegrown nature,” Ray asserted, “and that the Denver geosciences community uses the meeting as an opportunity to showcase its depth of activity in so many categories.

“These include seismic acquisition, processing, interpretation, geology and the wealth of natural resources in the Rockies,” Ray said.

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