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How Many Auto Conferences Do We Need to Attend?

Discussion in 'Automotive News, Press Releases, and Events' started by kevinfrye, Oct 12, 2015.

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  1. kevinfrye

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    Great news! There are a large variety of automotive conferences to choose from today, whether it is Digital Dealer, Driving Sales, Internet Battle Plan, OEM Summits, 20 Groups, you name it. How many of these should a dealer attend each year?

    Call me cynical friends, but I see a lot of folks out there that seem to spend more time at conferences than at the very dealership they work for. Your dealer principal invests in you (your salary) and expects a return on their investment. The same thing applies when they invest money to send you to a conference. Now help me with this...

    When the various conferences tend to feature the SAME lineup of speakers that are often sharing the SAME topics throughout the year - how much value are you truly getting from attending these events every other month? Are you truly providing a great return on investment back to your dealership for all of the money they spend to send you to these shows? I'm all ears...
     
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  3. joe.pistell

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  4. JessicaRuth

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    It's a great question and I'm anxious to see how this gets answered.

    Huge difference between being known for something you DO instead of always being everywhere for self-promotion. How do you weed through the good stuff and implement it at the store if you're back out on the road to the next stop?
     
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  5. Baron Ringler

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    Here are the problems with all these seminars. With few exceptions, the speakers are going over the same things as every other speaker (as you mentioned). Furthermore, those speakers are often so far removed from the realities of the day-to-day car business that the things they share are either already common or obsolete, or just plain garbage that has been spewed for decades,

    If you really want to learn, and grow, and be better, forget the speakers and coaches and seminars. They have their place but not to take the place of real learning. The last of these seminars I went to, one of the speakers was an absolute idiot that I threw out of this store after 2 hours. My reps knew more than that guy. Maybe 1 in 10 are worth their salt when it comes to teaching automotive e-sales. And these are the people that are put forth to us as "experts"?

    I will say that I learn a ton from Jeff's posts, and from these forums. You learn during interactions like this forum, and with other INVOLVED auto e-Sales people.

    Here's what you do. Call the closest non-competing same-brand store you can find that is a little bigger and more successful than you are with e-Sales. Go to lunch with the Internet Manager and share ideas, best practices, and tactics. A store my size, it's difficult to find that same-size guy, but it just means you get a little farther out of your area and the phone works wonders. I make it a point to at least one per month spend an hour or so on the phone or at lunch with another store where I have found through whatever means is doing something I'm not, or doing something better than me.

    Also, every so often I travel to places to see how they do things. One of the best trips I ever took was to a large store so horrendous that I learned so much of what NOT to do.

    It's never anyone that I will have mutual customers with because I am supposed to crush my competitors, not resuscitate them.

    But the most important thing here is that it be an exchange of fairly equal proportions. You have to give as much as you get.
     
  6. kevinfrye

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    I think Jessica hit the nail on the head with what is a primary issue with dealer principals. Put yourself in their shoes for a second and think about this - why are you spending so much money to send someone to multiple conferences when their primary motive seems to be self-promotion and moving on to the next opportunity? It's an ugly reality within our market and we must be cognizant to remember that our first responsibility is the dealership we work for, and then on to other things.

    We require a "plan of implementation" from our folks that attend shows. That means sorting through one's notes, and making sure they put into action new strategies and ideas they learned to ensure we get a return on our training investment. Since the material (and presenters) are often the same across these conferences, I don't see how one can get a great return when seeing a lot of the same material over and over.

    As per self-promotion? It has never been easier to self-promote than in today's social media environment - the question one should ask (showing my age here...) is "where's the beef?"
     

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  7. joe.webb

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    I absolutely LOVE the call-out, Kevin. And I get it. However, I think it is different for everyone, and every conference. I was out with a well-known dealer retail guy last night who has NEVER been to a conference. And everyone knows him from the power of social media. Self-promotion is available to everyone, and it is getting shameful.

    With that said, I told this gentleman last night my story. As you know, I was writing for DD magazine since their 2nd issue, yet my owner wouldn't ALLOW me to attend the first two DD conferences in Nashville. When the 3rd was coming to Vegas, I had to pay my own way, and take vacation days to do it. What I experienced there was nothing short of career-altering. And I learned only a little, but the sessions made me realize I was part of a bigger collective. It got me thinking about how our segment would evolve, or for that, it was eye-opening. When I returned to my store, I presented a 17-page marketing plan based on my ideas and THAT is when things really started growing by leaps and bounds. I agree that everyone returning from a conference should have to "present" their findings to ownership. That is true, and that is a necessity. You want to make sure people are coming back at least thinking about how to better the future for the organization, and not how to increase their own personal brand awareness like some egomaniacal malcontent that wasn't hugged enough as a child.

    Now, after that rant, I will say you are cynical :)
    I see no problem with a glut of automotive conferences provided they each have their own goal of helping dealers. Moreover, more conferences will allow more dealers a platform to speak themselves. Especially when you include regional events in this mix because it opens up opportunities to learn for a wholly different segment of local professionals.

    You're a mainstay at Digital Dealers, Kevin. You're great and you deserve the accolades you receive. But there are several dealers wanting to share their strategies and stories that need to find the right conference/format/venue that works for them. The more people sharing great ideas, so long as those ideas aren't solely sales pitches and are based in fact, the better. While far too many people who don't deserve to speak, do, and others may provide bad content, that is up to the organizers to weed them out. (20 groups shouldn't be included in this talk as I find them invaluable).

    To that end,I see nothing wrong with the amount of conferences available to automotive. The fact that the best are trying to educate others to further the industry is enlightening. I DO see something wrong with those retail professionals attending conferences to solely party, get some undeserved attention/back-patting, and blow their own horn to make themselves feel special. I have my team mystery shop every singe dealer speaker or personality that comes along, and the truth is, most fail in that category alone, with very little substance in place at their stores. I do very little learning at conferences, but they get me thinking. I learn from networking and experimentation alongside my list of dealer clients. Conference attendance must result is something actionable above the amount of retweets you receive, meals you're bought, and group pics you're tagged in. But the more conferences, the better. Great discussion.
     
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  8. kevinfrye

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    Clarification: I have no problem with the number of conferences available in the market - in fact I think it provides great choices for the folks that attend (I am a big supporter of a free market). The concern I had is the number of conferences one attends each year. What is that magic number before you see diminishing returns on your actual investment?

    I think this is a different point if you are a vendor. You are working to be available at conferences whether they be at the national level, while also at the smaller events that local dealers might only be able to afford if it is close-by. In your efforts to serve dealers, you will likely (and be expected) to be speaking at multiple events.

    On the other hand, let's say you are an Internet Sales Manager at a dealership, and you have applied to attend your 9th conference this year. Don't you think your dealer principal would be scratching their head thinking "Am I really getting a return for this expense?"

    I would share that internally, I meet with my dealer principal team to review speaking requests early in the year, and we make decisions at that time with this direction - OUR dealership comes first for training efforts, etc, while we are also balancing our commitment to give back to the industry to help make it better (things we have pioneered with, eg. privacy, third party attribution, etc). While I enjoy speaking at events, my primary job is to serve the Wyler team. This is why I turn down many events. It is NOT because I don't like multiple conferences available, it's because my first priority is working for our team (and PLEASE know that I am incredibly flattered when I receive an invite).

    The semi-annual Digital Dealer recaps are fun (and a lot of work), but I fear many times that new, younger talent coming up in our industry might feel excluded if they are not in the recap. I work hard to find this new talent at these events and lift them up, while also balancing meeting with the folks I have such great relationships with. I am proud to have been one of those early pioneers with automotive eCommerce efforts, and I continue to work hard to contribute, BUT my primary mission more and more each day is to help develop and identify the next wave of talent in our industry that will take us to the next level. And with that comes a leadership responsibility to perhaps offer advice on "how many conferences should you attend?".

    I realize this is likely not a popular topic, but let's face it, the talking has been going on for a couple years now behind the scenes. We preach transparency - which is why I bring this to an open forum. As professionals, we (speaking as dealer personnel) should be closing looking at ourselves and making sure we are keeping our priorities in line. And that includes making sure we are not spending more time on the road doing multiple shows that don't necessarily bring more value to our dealership. Perhaps that means taking a close look at the real motives behind attending multiple events. Is it really to train and learn more? Is it more about self-promotion? Thank you Joe for sharing your candor on this as well.

    Glad to see this open forum still in place at the original place many of us met each other - DealerRefresh... Thoughts?
     
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  9. JessicaRuth

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    I completely see this is what @kevinfrye@kevinfrye is saying - it's not that there are too many available it's quality over quantity and being responsible with your time. Time your employer is paying for.

    @Joe Webb@Joe Webb You went to your first conference and spent your time there incredibly well and it paid off.

    This isn't just about dealer personnel (gasp!). As a vendor, when I go to conferences I go with a to-do list, sessions I must see, people I must learn from, and people I know to avoid because it's the same session they've given for years. Dealer or vendor - this applies.
     
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  10. ed.brooks

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    This is the question that everybody who makes the decision to send personal to a conference has to make; is it worth it to my dealership. For some, the answer is attending twice a year, for others it may be once every few years. There must be a value for the dealership.

    For vendors, it should be noted, this is a HUGE expense, as the number of "must attend" conferences continues to increase.
     
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  11. kevinfrye

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    Love to see the vendors insight on this as well. The reality is that multiple conferences are very expensive for vendors to attend (that's how conferences make money...) and dealers expect to see vendors at these shows. I would certainly expect that vendors are looking to make that ROI decision as well with their dollars as they choose which conferences to attend.

    Jessica - glad to hear that you go to a show with an agenda beforehand. Ed - I sympathize on the huge expense, curious as to what you look at to determine which to attend.
     
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