Are Small- and Mid-Sized Conferences Better than the Big Ones?

How to Run Your Dealership By The Book

This past week, I had the pleasure of attending two conferences that were completely different from one another. The week started (well, last week ended) with attending the infamous SXSW conference in Austin. From there, I attended “How to Run Your Dealership by the Book” in Charlotte.

On one side, I got to hear people like Al Gore, Matt Cutts, and Elon Musk talk about the future of the internet and the world in general. On the other side, I got to hear Bobby Compton, Troy Springs, and Dave Anderson discuss applying Biblical principals to running a car dealership. You couldn’t have had two conferences that were more different from one another. Now that I’m back home reflecting, I can say without a doubt that the small conference was where I gained the most useful knowledge, connections, and real friendships.

It says something about the state of conferences on the general and niche circuits today. Don’t get me wrong, there was a certain awe that’s always associated with the mega-conferences like SXSW, NADA, and New Media Expo that always give their attendees great takeaways from which they can make strategic changes to their business strategy, but the coziness of the smaller conferences lends something that you just can’t get at the big ones.

It’s the people. You can only talk to a handful of people in a day. Conferences often give us the opportunity to network and at the big conferences there are obviously more opportunities just based upon sheer bulk. However, the quality of the connections that I made at the smaller conference are the type that I believe will last longer, possibly indefinitely, and lead me and my company in different directions. With all of the masses of information that I took in at SXSW this month and NADA last month, I can say that most were really just useful tidbits. In Charlotte, I have tangible actions that are going to be applied immediately.

As you plan out the rest of your conference year and look to next year, take advantage of the cozy conferences. Next week, I’ll be speaking at both the Innovative Dealer Summit in Denver as well as the Internet Sales 20 Group in Dallas. Both are small – under 500 people combined – but I anticipate that I’ll learn more and meet more real people next week than at any of the mega-conferences. With the Automotive Marketing Boot Camp, AutoCon, Digital Dealer, and Driving Sales around the corner, those in the automotive industry should strongly consider attending them all. They aren’t NADA. That’s a good thing.

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Tags: Autocon, Automotive Marketing Boot Camp, Conferences, Digital Dealer, Driving Sales, Innovative Dealer Summit, Internet Sales 20 Group, NADA,


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Comment by Craig Lockerd on March 30, 2013 at 4:00pm

I love this thread....and the people that I met during those same 3 conferences JD....our world,the car biz truly is a small community within a giant nation.I'm just blown away by all the knowledge and things I picked up to run my business better...If I were still in a have offset much of the "Dumb Tax" I ended up paying...

Comment by Marsh Buice on March 30, 2013 at 7:31am
JD, the Automotive Super Conference in Chsrlotte was my first automotive conference ever. the next week I flew to Dallas for Dealer Synergy's IS20G and the connections, not contacts, but connections I formed with people like Craig Lockered, Dave Anderson, Bobby Compton, Turbo Spring, Ernie Kasperwicz, Roman van Stone, Sally Whitesell, Tom Wiegand, Sean Bradley, Mark Tewart, and you JD.. These people have made an impact in my life. The accessibility and generosity from all of these fine people- the relationships formed will continue to strengthen for man years. Thanks for the post brother- awesome experience
Comment by Sally Whitesell on March 26, 2013 at 7:35pm

I stopped attending the super conferences years ago. I
think people are bombarded with so much that they take away very little. How
many times do you need to hear the same speakers speak on the same topics? Although
I would have loved to have seen a larger attendance at the Automotive Super
Conference I really did enjoy getting the opportunity to develop real
connections to the attendees and presenters

Comment by NANCY SIMMONS on March 26, 2013 at 6:56pm

Great post, JD and thank you Bobby for the mention, but I step back and say from its conception, it was truly a collaborative effort with remarkable leadership by Craig and Tom!    There are many option and alternatives today, and sponsoring companies are beginning to see the value in making a presence at the smaller, building community style conferences, where relationship building is the central focus!

Looking forward to "How to Run Your Dealership by THE BOOK" 2!

Comment by Craig Lockerd on March 26, 2013 at 4:51pm

Just to quickly clear something up..."How to Run Your Dealership by the Book" I was part of a team,far from the only player involved!

Comment by Tom '1TeamSynergy' Wiegand on March 26, 2013 at 3:28pm

Terrific, JD.  I've never before experienced anything quite like the Automotive Super Conference in Charlotte.  Everyone made friendships with everyone else it seemed.  And, the difference is these friendships will prove lasting.  I'm energized having met some wonderful Godly people here, and meeting up again with others I've known.  As Einstein stated, we can live each day as if nothing is a miracle or live each day as if everything is a miracle; and from Tuesday evening through Thursday evening everything I experienced was a miracle!  God bless us all!

Comment by robert f stevens on March 26, 2013 at 1:51pm
The best way to get the most information is by interacting with our peers,with large groups of people we tend to get side tracked with the awe of amount of people and tend to just get tidbits of information,but with a smaller group we tend to listen and engage with others and get not tidbits but mountains of information that we can actually retain and put to good practice!.....over the years I've attended conferences that Craig lockerd has put together and have applied the information in a selfish way to make me the trainer I am thing I know is its easy the recognize the talent within..but it takes real talent to find talent in others
Comment by Craig Lockerd on March 26, 2013 at 10:47am

Real interesting take on this subject JD,I too was at the Automotive Super Conference "How to Run Your Dealership by the Book" and Innovative Dealer Summit and Internet Sales 20 and the networking and attendee engagement was "magical?" Information that can be used right away,friendships and connections were everywhere.

Just think how this has changed over the last few years and how many outstanding options there really are for everyone now to learn,improve not only their business life but personal life as well!....Great post!

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