Mark Skaer

Since this issue is dedicated to pointing out what was new at the 2008 Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition, let me point out something that is far too old with the industry’s top show: The third day.

Yeah, the third day.

While the first and second day of the annual industry event is usually fast and furious, the third and final day is usually slow and laborious. I did not say it was nonproductive. Due to a lack of foot traffic, those manning the booths can catch up on needed sleep. Or e-mails. Or phone calls.

At one time there was talk of making the expo two days only, which really would not break my heart. While I find myself having more opportunity to talk to manufacturers on the last day, I am not against limiting the expo to just two days. Sure, it would make the show faster and more furious, but with roller blades, getting to one and all could be doable. It might require getting in better shape to survive the nonstop action, but nothing wrong with getting in shape, either.

Chances are Clay Stevens and the folks at International Exposition Co. will keep the three-day format in place unless the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) raise a stink. Or, the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) threatens to pull out if Day 3 is not dropped.

The third time is supposed to be the charm, but, in this case, it’s a real snoozer.

It’s time to change things.


If dropping the third day is not an option, then let’s make the best of it. After all, how often do we have this many manufacturers together under one roof? Rather than have each waste time and money, why not fill the place with the general public, media, students, and everyone else in between. Let’s do whatever it takes to spread the good word of the industry.

If the show was open free to the public on the last day, I’m wondering if traffic flow would increase. Officials may have to sweeten the enticement by having a “name” celebrity make an appearance on the last day. Somebody that could draw ’em in. Once in, it would be up to the manufacturers to have a game plan in order to keep ’em in.

After all, this industry is always saying it needs exposure. Why not market the heck out of it on the third day? Why not give away an entirely new HVAC system to several lucky homeowners? Why not have hourly sessions covering HVAC basics? Why not have a public question-and-answer session with a few experts? Let’s put on our thinking cap.

Heck, offer free food for the day and the local media will come out. This industry could always use “positive” press. There are so many angles to cover, each local TV station would not be competing against the other. There are plenty of photo opportunities and stories for the local print media to create, too.

One year in Chicago, I was pulled in to talk to a local TV station regarding heating and cooling. I thought that was pretty neat. Even though much of what I had to say on the subject fell on the cutting floor, I applauded the station for taking the time to come out and give this industry exposure.


Having so many industry spokespeople in one building, why not invite local schools – high, grade, trade, vocational, and every other school in between – to the third day? Or, at least all guidance counselors. Since this industry is screaming for qualified workers, this would be the perfect time to convert the young. Or, at least turn their attention to this industry. They are not necessarily hearing about this industry’s void from guidance counselors or parents. We have to sell the product ourselves.

This is not the sole chore of manufacturers, either. Contractors and wholesalers need to be in the mix. Maybe the ASHRAE Winter Meeting could shut down that day, so attendees could be present on the third day for a full day of helping the industry spread the good news. There could be guided tours of local community hot spots, whereby the importance of the HVAC system could be told. There could be mentoring possibilities. There are just so many possibilities.

Why pass this up?

Publication date:02/18/2008