It comes around every year. The huge event that causes hvacr professionals to descend on some unsuspecting city like a swarm of bees. Yes, it’s time once again for the International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition, which is held in conjunction with ASHRAE’s Winter Meeting.

Some may think that attending such an event is a waste of time, and more importantly, money: Hotels and meals are expensive, traffic is terrible, and exhibits are crowded. Not to mention all the work you’ll have piling up back at the office.

Will you really learn enough to make it worth your time?

The answer is a resounding “yes.”

The AHR Expo provides the contractor with a prime opportunity to network with other contractors, as well as learn about new technologies and service techniques.

Survey says

For confirmation on the benefits of going to the show, look no further than those who attended the last show.

An on-site survey of last year’s attendees in Chicago showed that 95% rated the show either excellent or satisfactory. And on a scale of 1 to 4, it received a 3.5 rating.

In fact, 88% of those attending do not attend any other hvacr show.

Of the expected 18,000 to 24,000 show attendees in Dallas, approximately 30% are expected to be contractors — the largest majority of any group attending. That’s followed closely by wholesalers, distributors, and manufacturer representatives, which usually make up another 28% of attendees.

Probably the biggest reason for you to attend the show is that there are a multitude of items and services that the average contractor needs or desires available in one (albeit huge) location.

See, hear, and touch

If you want to know about new equipment, this is the place to be. It’s especially beneficial to learn about equipment from overseas companies here.

It’s possible to compare different alternatives right there at one time without having to go to different locations.

Want to learn new ways of installing a product? Many exhibitors have their engineers right in the booth, and they’re there to have their brains picked. If a contractor has a particular project of concern, it’s possible to get answers on the spot by discussing specific needs with these manufacturer personnel.

And there’s no better place to see all the tools, gauges, meters, and other gadgets needed for routine service. Just about any tool you could ever think about using is available on the show floor — often you can take it home with you that same day.

Software is another reason to attend. There is a whole exhibit area devoted to nothing but software that’s designed specifically for contractors.

Everything you need to run a business is available here, from accounting to job costing to estimating to inventory to whatever you need. The nice part is you can actually dive right in and play with the programs right there and ask questions.

Most manufacturers have their software up and running on several computers in the booth, so you can see how the programs work.

No time to go is not an excuse

Probably the best reason to go is that it’s a good way to make sure you’re providing your customers with the best products and services available, says Clay Stevens, president and show manager, International Exposition Co., Westport, CT, the company that puts on the AHR Expo.

“If a contractor says he doesn’t have time to attend, I’d say that he’d have to spend more time in the end to do a good job for his customers, because he’d have to do research — one company at a time.

“He’d have to find out on his own what the best available products are, and other ways of doing that besides coming to the show are very time consuming.”

Stevens adds that it’s a time investment to go, but the returns on that investment are really much greater than you can get anywhere else.

Elvis Johnson, project manager, TD Industries, North Dallas, TX, and current president of the North Texas Chapter of Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), agrees, saying that it’s essential for contractors to attend the show.

“Personally, I attend as many of these types of conferences as possible and the primary reason is to stay abreast of the industry. I want to know what’s out there that wasn’t there yesterday that I can use to benefit the work that I do — how I can improve my company to make more money, to improve the service I give my customer, and to make our employees happier and more content with what they do.

“I feel that that vehicle is where you obtain that information,” says Johnson.

Overwhelming event made manageable

There’s no doubt that attending the show usually results in sensory overload. Some may feel a little overwhelmed by all that’s available — and the small amount of time there is to fit in everything before you leave.

But take heart. There are ways to make your trip more enjoyable, other than just wearing the mandatory comfortable shoes.

Before you go to the show, make a list of the specific manufacturers you want to see. If you don’t know whether or not one will be attending, take a look at the complete exhibitor list (starting on page 10 in this issue). Jot down the booth numbers of those you want to see, so you won’t be scrambling once you get there.

(Speaking from experience, it’s beneficial to place the booth numbers in numerical order, so you’re not zigzagging all over the show floor.)

When you get to the show, be sure to pick up a directory, usually available right at the door. If you’re not sure which manufacturers you want to visit, look in the back of the directory for the product listings. There are well over 200 categories into which all exhibitors are placed (pumps, valves, motors, etc.).

If you’re looking for something specific, those general categories may not work for you. For example, there are a zillion different kinds of pumps out there, but they’ll all be lumped into the “pump” category at the back of the directory.

If you want a particular pump and are unsure of the manufacturer, you’ll need to consult the electronic product locator, which is available on the show floor.

The product locator is a computer that has a specific listing of each product available at the show. You can search the database and print out your results to take with you.

So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags, and we’ll see you at the show!