As I gain more and more time and experience in everything HVAC, the large scope of the industry is something that hasn’t ceased to amaze me yet.

You really get a feel for how large and encompassing the HVAC world is when you attend a trade show. Big or small, everybody loves a good trade show.

I had the opportunity to attend such an event hosted by the Oil & Energy Service Professionals (OESP) from the sweet confines of Hershey, Pa.

Held at the Hershey Lodge, the show not only featured booths from top manufacturers, but also offered educational classes and many social events. During my visit, I heard a lot about what contractors are doing these days. Some in attendance expressed concern about how their competitors treat customers, sharing how customer service is becoming a lost art. Others questioned the role of technology, stating how difficult it is to keep up with the changes of today.

My favorite story was told to me by two older gentlemen, both were in their 70s, who jointly operate a small HVAC operation in Pennsylvania. They’ve been in the business for decades, but are becoming increasingly worried about the future direction of the industry. They shared concern that young people simply aren’t interested in the HVAC field, and they collectively wondered how the industry will move on without a new crop of service technicians.

These two care deeply about the industry, you could tell.

While eating lunch one day, I met another young man from Honeywell. We got to talking and found out that we both loved playing hockey. We shared some war stories about the frozen biscuit and then ping-ponged travel stories fit for an upcoming horror flick (you see, on my flight in, U.S. Airways had left my baggage behind. Regarding airlines, if it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all), and it was nice to chat with somebody from a different part of the country. Everyone I met boasted a great deal of respect for the industry, just like you and I, and everyone was focused on improving or solving the plethora of issues contractors face on a daily basis.

And, this is only the social side of such a meeting. I haven’t even begun to dig into the wealth of information I brought home.

Returning home from Philly, I already have my sights set on New York, for the 2014 AHR Expo, the biggest opportunity for contractors to meet other contractors, manufacturers, distributors, manufacturer’s representatives, and those of us in the trade press.

The 2013 AHR Expo in Dallas was my first opportunity to attend an HVAC trade show. The sheer number of attendees and industry events staged throughout the Big D was astounding. I know I had my plate full each day and night, and so did most of the other members of The NEWS team. The opportunities to expand your knowledge and network are endless.

Then there’s the hotel bar and the closest golf course, which are always filled with industry folk and the subsequent conversations that surely float above a couple of beers and birdie putts.

At these trade shows, not only do you get to meet contractors from all over, you get to see the latest and greatest products manufacturers are displaying. Attending these trade shows not only allows you to talk with others in the industry, but it really helps you stay on the cutting edge of everything going on. That’s a huge advantage that you can gain over your competitor, who’s likely sitting at home watching “Mash” reruns.

As Ricky Bobby famously said in “Talladega Nights,” “If you’re not first, you’re last,” and that’s exactly the mentality you should have when deciding whether or not to attend a trade show. In most cases, the opportunity to see, feel, and ask questions about the products you’ll soon be offering as optimum comfort solutions, is well worth the price of admission.

Publication date: 6/24/2013 

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