If economic times are an indicator, this year’s AHR Expo should see fewer attendees and exhibitors. Don’t bet on it. In fact, for HVACR contractors and distributors whose goal it is to survive in 2009, the AHR Expo is a must-see. The proof is in the pudding.
The AHR Expo continually sets attendance records almost every year and will likely see large numbers this year in Chicago, where the all-time record was set in 2006 when 57,673 total attendees (visitors and exhibitor personnel) met to see, touch, and feel the products that drive the HVACR industry. The fact that the show is in Chicago makes it especially appealing.
“Chicago has always been a great location because the area has such a wealth of top HVACR companies and professionals within a 200 mile radius,” said Clay Stevens, president of International Exposition Co., which manages and produces AHR Expo.
But the location isn’t the only driver attracting industry professionals, according to Tim Ward, account supervisor for H+A International, which handles marketing for the AHR Expo. “Trade shows always provide a great value and return on investment,” he said, and pointed out several key reasons why it is so important for HVACR professionals to attend the expo.
• It is the only opportunity all year for HVACR professionals to see and compare product features and prices of thousands of products on display side-by-side from more than 1,900 exhibitors from around the globe.
• It is the best place to discover more cost effective products and suppliers. Many exhibitors offer “show special” pricing and contractors can realize significant savings by looking for bargains at the show.
• There are hundreds of new green/sustainable products on display that are in great demand from consumers. Attendees can touch and feel the products and discuss them with manufacturers. With all the “green washing” taking place, it is hard to determine online what products are truly green and which ones are not.
• Contractors and engineers can meet with both senior management and technical and R&D people from their current suppliers to discuss their specific issues and possibly negotiate better terms. It would be impossible to meet some of these people anywhere else.
• There are several opportunities to network with and learn from other HVAC professionals from around the country and the world who may have creative solutions to the same challenges others are experiencing. Participation in the expo continues to pay dividends for many months after the event as more cost effective products and solutions are implemented and refined in the field.
Ward noted there are dozens of educational sessions and workshops geared to helping contractors run their business more effectively and save valuable time and money. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) offer many of these seminars.
“Every year, new technologies are often held for introduction at the show, and the networking opportunities give attendees a chance to learn from peers and competitors alike,” said Jeff Littleton, ASHRAE executive vice president. “And with the AHR Expo being co-located with the ASHRAE Winter Conference, it gives the opportunity to influence codes and standards, and learn the latest trends and technologies when you attend both.”
SLUMPING ECONOMY A NON-FACTORThe ability to rub elbows with leading industry professionals justifies the cost of admission, according to Francis Dietz, vice president of public affairs for the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI).
“When the economy is down, networking to find new customers, new projects, and new revenue streams is more important than ever before,” he said. “What makes this even more powerful is that any new market share sustained or gained in a down economy grows exponentially when the market recovers; it’s an investment in the future.
“When you can do so much in one place, that makes it that much easier to justify the cost of attending the AHR Expo and the ASHRAE Winter Conference. Attendees can also learn about new markets, such as shifting from new construction to refurbishment, for example.
“I’d go so far as to say that attendance at meetings like the AHR Expo and adjoining ASHRAE Winter Conference is more important in a down economy than when everyone is flush with work.”
Ward said the expo is cost-effective for exhibitors, too. “For exhibiting companies, the expo allows them to reach thousands of prospective buyers (contractors and engineers) all in one place at one time,” he said. “The cost of a single sales call to get in front of a prospect is several hundred dollars. At the expo, they can reach hundreds of their key buyers for a fraction of what it would cost them to visit them in their offices.
“Attendees will find brand new, cost-effective technologies they can add to their product mix to generate new revenues and set themselves apart from the competition. It would take days of research to find these suppliers and their products online or through any other source.”
Ward also outlined why the down economy should be motivation for HVACR professionals to attend the AHR Expo. “For just the cost of getting to the expo (transportation and possibly hotel room and food costs), attendees can find innovative new products and solutions that can help significantly increase their business and profitability many times over while reducing their operating costs,” he said. “Since most contractors drive in and stay for the day, their costs might range from $50 to $100 for gas, parking, and a meal. They can discover some new innovative products and learn about some cost-saving operational techniques that generate thousands in new revenue and reduce their costs.”
Littleton noted that down economies create a “survival of the fittest” environment. He said, “Not attending the meeting is a penny-wise, pound-foolish philosophy that might prevent some firms from surviving. Avoid the downward spiral caused by lowering expenses in the areas that can identify new markets, new customers in existing markets, and new technologies that can benefit customers or reduce business operating costs.
“Just as importantly, the new presidential administration is likely to put greater emphasis on energy efficiency in buildings. Be ready for greater market potential.”
Dietz added perhaps the most important reason for HVACR contractors and distributors to view the AHR Expo as a must for business survival. “The AHR Expo is a one-stop shop for attendees to see the equipment and products their customers will be clamoring for,” he said.