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Trade Show Pros, Cons and Tips

Jennifer Clements
Pla-Mor Pools
Mechanicsville, Virginia

What do you love, or hate, about industry trade shows?
I have always enjoyed attending industry trade shows. It’s exciting walking the showroom floor looking for the latest, greatest innovation to make our work easier, or our customer’s pool more fun. It is also a valuable opportunity to have face-to-face encounters with vendors we partner with. The time in the booth, whether to troubleshoot, have hands on demonstrations or learn about new programs is always time well spent.

What’s the driving factor for your decision to attend one?
The search for new products and the opportunity to network are two of the main reasons we attend. Newer staff always benefits from the classes and certification programs as well. But the time of year and location are big factors for us.

Can you think of something you’ve learned at a past show that changed the way you do business?
I remember sitting in a session on retail design taught by a team outside our industry. They shared statistics on customer retention, which startled me. Happy customers, when interviewed, said they would shop somewhere else if the experience at the competitor’s location was “more fun.” We all focus on being the most knowledgeable in our field, but this information made us rethink how we deliver that knowledge to our consumer.

Is there anything you would change about how trade shows tend to be run?
The only disappointment when it comes to trade shows is the lack of follow through with vendors. When flights are required to get to the shows, it is unrealistic to try to haul back all of the literature on products we are interested in. Digital catalogs of the items at the show would be great, but might be difficult to get vendors to cooperate. All of these vendors scan our badges. If this information is logged digitally, is it possible for a member to access a list of the vendors who scanned their badges? If they won’t follow up with us, I’d like to be able to follow up with them — without having to carry home a stack of business cards, which might or might not direct us back to a product.



Jamie L. Braddy, business development manager
Parrot Bay Pools and Spas
Fayetteville and Raleigh, North Carolina

Do you plan to attend an industry trade show this winter?
Yes, we will be at the Pool | Spa | Patio Expo in Orlando. We like to stay relevant to our consumers and learn about innovative techniques and products. We find the education program there to be extremely helpful.

How do you divide your time at a show?
It is very difficult to divide up the time between the education seminars, the trade show, and the current vendor mingling and dinners. We make our decisions based on our priorities: education first so we can take care of our customers, then we make sure we visit with our current vendors to see anything new we are interested in from them. Then we search for anything else that we may not already have in our arsenal that may be of interest to our clients.

What’s the driving factor for your decision to attend a trade show? 
There must be solid educational seminars for any employees I may be bringing and me. We like a variety of owner-based seminars as well as sales and service training.

Do you take notes during seminars? What do you do with those notes once home?
Absolutely! I used to be a teacher, so I love notes! I hole punch them, place them in binders and I still refer to them years later for information to use during training and staff meetings. That way even the employees who were not able to be there get the information. I wish we could take the whole staff, but that’s currently not possible for us.

Do you set appointments with vendors/sales reps beforehand? 
I try to. I am very organized with my time so if it’s not already pre-scheduled I may not have time. Unless it’s for dinner — I always make time to eat.

Can you think of something you’ve learned at a past show that changed the way you do business?
There are too many to count. Our staff each takes different seminars and then we compare notes at dinner time. We work the whole time at the show. We are exhausted when we get home.

What do you love, or hate, about industry trade shows?
We never seem to have enough time at the big shows. The little shows seem too long and there are not enough good, solid seminars. Overall, we thoroughly enjoy learning new things and enjoy seeing our friends in the industry at the shows. It is a great way to celebrate the year in a work atmosphere and bounce ideas off of other leaders in the industry. Some of the best ideas come from sitting around the dinner table talking to other builders.


Eric Cassidy, vice president
Valley Pool and Spa
Pittsburgh, Ohio

Do you plan to attend an industry trade show this winter? Why?
Yes, the international show in Orlando and the Atlantic City regional show, in addition to my UAG convention. I attend trade shows mostly to ensure we stay ahead of the curve on new products and innovations within the industry. Secondary reason would be to gain additional education from the seminars, and to network with our reps and other dealers.

Will you bring other employees?
Yes, it’s usually my director of operations, one to two of my store managers, and me. Our company owner will also attend our UAG convention with us.

How do you divide your time at a show? 
If we do classes, they tend to set our schedule. When not in a class, we are on the trade show floor from open to close each day. I also try to set appointments ahead of the show with particular vendors that I know I need to confirm business with.

Is there anything you would change about how trade shows tend to be run?
I’d like to see actual incentives from the manufacturers to attend the shows. We also sell in other industries, and the pool/spa industry is the only one that it doesn’t matter from a purchasing perspective if you attend the show.

Do you take notes during seminars? What do you do with those notes once home?
Yes, and I use them to create my own notes to share within our own internal training sessions.

Do you set appointments with vendors/sales reps beforehand?
Yes, as many as I possibly can to keep myself more organized.

Can you think of something you’ve learned at a past show that changed the way you do business?
I really loved the more advance business specific seminars. I have used many tidbits from these types of classes over the years to improve the overall business. This industry needs more help being business savvy.

What do you love, or hate, about industry trade shows?
Many of the classes are “101” level. We need more higher-end speakers to train and teach more progressive business related topics. Many of the speakers are old school and are teaching things that came out five years ago. Our industry is very behind in this respect. I love that our industry is very casual at the shows, which makes it easier to do business. I also love the get-togethers and events to make it not just all business.



Glen Jacobson
owner
Swimming Pool Services, LLC
Birmingham, Alabama

Do you plan to attend an industry trade show this winter? Why? Yes, we are looking to possibly change vendors in some areas. It also allows us to take key newer personnel, and get great exposure to products. We’re looking at the International Pool | Spa | Patio show, Poolcorp Summit and possibly the NE show.

Is there anything you would change about how trade shows tend to be run?
Would like to see more vendor interaction. Many times vendors, especially larger ones, tend to be too busy talking among themselves to talk to attendees.

Can you think of something you’ve learned at a past show that changed the way you do business? Many things, including products used. Probably the biggest change has been the software we use.



Jan Cerminara
general manager
Pool & Spa Outlet
Greater Pittsburgh 

Do you plan to attend an industry trade show this winter? What’s the driving factor for your decision to attend one?
We will be attending the PSP Expo in Orlando and the Atlantic City Pool Show. We attend for the following reasons:

It’s a great opportunity to see new products in person. We like a hands-on approach and would much rather see new products in person as opposed to watching a video or reading an email about them. In our opinion, nothing can replace in-person, face-to-face interaction with manufacturer’s reps and the ability to view innovative new items up close, in action. We also enjoy spending time with our vendors and their representatives outside of our showrooms. Personal relationships with our distributors and vendors are extremely important to us. With 30 years in the pool and spa industry and three locations, we’re proud to be associated with our vendors and love the opportunity to spend time with them discussing products, strategies and, of course, catching up on their personal lives.

Will you bring other employees?
All members of our management team will attend the shows so that we can make buying decisions as a group, with input from both the sales and service managers. It is important to us that everyone involved be on board with the introduction of new product lines. We also offer the opportunity for all employees at the shows to attend any and all seminars that interest them. Our industry is constantly evolving and continuing education is key to our company’s success in our Pittsburgh market.

Is there anything you would change about how trade shows tend to be run?
We believe the pool industry’s trade shows that we regularly attend are run very well. It’s impossible to please everyone, but for the most part they’re satisfactory. I just wish they would be able to attract more manufacturers. It seems that every year, a few fewer of the big manufacturers are exhibiting.

We consistently attend the Atlantic City pool show, mainly because the majority of the manufacturers we deal with are located on the East Coast and exhibit at the show. Also, it’s located relatively close to Pittsburgh and provides the opportunity to mingle with many of the friends and colleagues we’ve made within the industry in the past 30 years. It seems that most of our new purchases are made at the Atlantic City show. Also, it’s easy to get away in January without it having a major impact on our three locations. We attend the PSP Expo depending on the location and if our schedule permits.

Can you think of something you’ve learned at a past show that changed the way you do business?
We always learn something new when we attend the show — whether it is a new, innovative product that will help our customers, a new manufacturer that is offering something unique that piques our interest, or a new service to expand to our customer base. The most important thing we’ve learned during our 30 years in the pool and spa industry is that you can’t be complacent or satisfied with the status quo. Consumer buying habits change, technical specifications change, product offerings change, advertising strategies change and the companies who become stagnant and don’t stay ahead of those changes will be lost in the shuffle.

What do you love, or hate, about industry trade shows?
I still love walking around the shows and viewing all of the innovative and amazing products that are introduced year after year! It’s amazing to have been able to watch the evolution of our industry throughout the years. I hate that many of the major manufacturers in our industry no longer display at our industry trade shows, but there are so many new cost-effective ways for manufacturers to get the word out about their products that I understand their reasoning. From what I’ve been told, cost is what prevents many of the manufacturers from exhibiting at the industry shows.

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