Hope to see you there.

When I was a kid on the boardwalk in Wildwood, N.J., I always knew where to find the next best thing. Between the siren calls of the “carnie barkers” and the hucksters up and down the boards, there didn’t seem to be a product that couldn’t improve your life.

These guys were the infomercials of their day. At a time when Ron Popeil was just learning the television ropes, the boardwalk guys were telling me how I couldn’t Mark Dzubanlive without a gadget that would extract juice from oranges with a single squeeze or would slice a potato into julienne fries in an instant.

I’ve been told that I can be just a little enthusiastic from time to time, especially when it comes to things that I’m passionate about – like the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2010. But if ever there’s been an event that’s deserved a larger-than-life sales pitch, it’s our annual conference – bursting at the seams with educational sessions and product demonstrations – Oct. 19-22 in New Orleans.

The guys on the boardwalk and TV, they’d gallop through the names of the sessions, tell you that operators are standing by to take your registration and promise to throw in an SCTE lapel pin – “a $30 value,” they’d say – at no extra charge. That kind of over-the-top salesmanship just isn’t my style.

What I can tell you is that Cable-Tec Expo is where problems and problem-solvers meet. The Expo experience will give you the fundamental knowledge, the forward-looking thinking and the technical innovation that will help you now, and in the years to come. At Expo, you’ll learn how to get more from your networks today, and how you can make the most of IP-based services that will optimize efficiency and improve the customer experience.

Jay Rolls and his committee have put together a program that provides a 360-degree vision of where cable is, and where it’s headed. From content delivery networks and IP video to DOCSIS 3.0 and home networking, and from 3-D video to energy management, we’re bringing together many of the brightest minds in our industry to share their views and insights on the technological innovations that are critical to our growth.

But at Expo, of course, the panels are only part of the educational story.

You’ll also see a show floor that will be abuzz with the product advances and the demonstrations that annually make the show our industry’s premier technology event. This is the part of the show where the technology discussed in the panels comes to life. You’ll see two pavilions that will showcase new ways for cable system operators to leverage smart energy and networked home solutions. And you’ll see a cross-section of cable technology – from field engineers to CTOs – who will be there to learn, to see and to share their experiences with one another.

I’m generally not reliant on a crystal ball – I leave that to the boardwalk fortune tellers – but I can tell you where cable is heading. Operators and our vendor partners are laying the groundwork today for the next-generation networks that will help them differentiate their service bundles and meet the demands of the digital consumers of tomorrow.

Cable-Tec Expo 2010 has been programmed to help all of us get there as quickly as possible. This is probably the most ambitious technical agenda I’ve seen in my 41 years in the industry, but it’s laser-focused on the issues that are going to impact all of us down the road, and it’s a bazaar of information that we need to prepare our networks and our workforce for next-generation technologies as soon as possible. But by no means is it the only vehicle.

One of the things we’ve heard loud and clear from the industry has been the need for a more efficient learning process. There’s a recognition that field engineers and staff need to have the skills that are necessary to make the transition to an IP future as seamless as possible; however, there’s increased concern that travel to and from offsite education is absorbing time that might otherwise be spent improving the customer experience.

In the months ahead, you’ll see us leverage the power of the SCTE website to balance the need for more curriculum and less travel. We’ve got Primers and Implication papers that can provide views on specific topics moving through the pipeline. We’re also ramping up the availability of two other important programs: Live Learning courses that enable engineers to participate online and Virtual Classroom activities that combine Web content with live instruction.

In the end, though, there’s still value in face-to-face interaction with peers and the periodic ability to see the products of the future firsthand. At the risk of sounding like the barkers and hucksters of my youth, there are times when our lives, our careers and our industry can be changed dramatically by the encounters with people and products and professional development resources.

Cable-Tec Expo is the kind of forum that can make that happen. I hope to see you there.