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Conference Brainstorming - How Should Automotive Conferences Change?

As Digital Dealer wraps up and a brief lull occurs in the major automotive conference schedule, I'd love to take some time to reflect on what has been going on in the industry and where it's all headed. Over the last several months, really since attending a conference in November of last year, I've been putting a lot of thought into how to improve the conferences in our industry.

I'm going to list some ideas that I've had, but I would really love to hear from the Dealer Elite community. This is important as we will be delivering the feedback to all of the various conferences in the industry once all of the ideas are compiled. Please leave your comments below and let your voice be heard whether you're a dealer or a vendor.

My initial thoughts:

  • Consolidation: There really seem to be too many conferences. I understand that they all serve different needs. but it's annoying when they seem to collide. Last month, for example, two mid-sized conferences were happening at the exact same time. Even when they aren't on the same days, there really needs to be gaps in the form of months rather than weeks.
  • Virtual Attendance: Driving Sales does it to some extent and many of the conferences offer a way to purchase some of the workshops, but I haven't seen a conference do a true virtual experience to allow most of the industry access to the learning. I've seen it done very successfully in other industries.
  • Tighter Workshop Options: My biggest complaint for some of the conferences is having to choose between 4, 5, or even 8 different workshops at the same time. I understand that it's important to offer options but surely two or three is plenty, right?
  • Vetted Presentations: Everyone has a "no pitch" policy but so many slip through the cracks. If I ever run a conference, I want to go over every presentation prior to the event.
  • Extended Learning: It shouldn't just be three days and done. The conference takeaways should carry over to have follow-up webinars, access to experts through a conference portal, and other ways that the benefits can truly be expanded beyond the initial burst of ideas.
  • More Dealer Presentations: Even as a vendor, I'd love to hear from dealers more than other vendors. We see a handful of dealer presentations at all of the events but I would love to see a conference do 50% or more with success stories and best practices shared by those who are making it happen at their stores.

This is just to get the ball rolling. I have plenty of other things that I would love to see at conferences, but it's important to get ideas from everyone who has them here at Dealer Elite. Please participate. Thanks ahead of time!

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Comment by Craig Lockerd on May 15, 2014 at 2:49pm

Yes!!!!

Comment by Mark Dubis on May 13, 2014 at 8:46am

J.D. thanks for these great suggestions and some have a lot of merit. The reality is these events are expensive to put on and to cover those costs you need sponsors.  Sponsors want to be visible and share their expertise and information on their services. Nothing wrong with that.  I feel that most attendees know they will be exposed to "pitches" in the presentation, but the reality is many of the pitches contain great information about services available to dealers.  

You mention having more dealer presentations but what will they talk about? They will talk about their success which was made possible by utilizing a training company, a software solution, an advertising program, an OEM support program or other solution provided by a vendor, consultant or other industry expert.  So it becomes an indirect pitch for a product or service.

As for consolidation, that will occur naturally as attendees stop going to Conference A and start going to Conference B.  Regional mini-events are also picking up traction and OEMs conduct many of these events too, along with folks like Brian Pasch, Jim Ziegler, Fran Taylor and Sean Bradley.   Remember you have just under 18,000 new car franchises so you could have two or more events every month and still not everyone could attend.  

The folks in our industry that want to learn, improve performance and enhance their skills will seek out the right resources for them and attend the webinars, seminars, conferences that provide the best value.  

We are lucky as an industry to have so many great resources and events to help us improve. 

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