The AHR Expo is a marathon, and this year’s event in Orlando was no exception. Many exhibitors and visitors were on their feet for long hours visiting booths, learning about new products, meeting new people, and renewing relationships with previous acquaintances. According to my nifty Fitbit device, I walked nearly 14 miles in the show’s first two days. Needless to say, I dug out an old foot spa I received as a Christmas gift many years ago and made use of it when I got home. It was heaven.

It was especially refreshing to see so many women representing the industry. I was privileged to speak with several smart and educated ladies, including Nazee Hoglund, vice president of integrated systems product management, building efficiency, Johnson Controls Inc.; Jenny Abney Sivie, director of advanced business development for Titus; Danielle Putnam, president of The New Flat Rate; and Marjorie McAllister, business development manager for CPS Products Inc. and president of the Women in HVACR organization.

There is no question that men dominate the HVACR industry; however, the industry affords many opportunities for women to thrive, as well. This was the topic of an article I wrote not too long ago: “Women Flourish in HVAC Industry Positions.” During my research, I discovered that just 1.2 percent of the HVAC workforce was female in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s an intriguing topic and one that interested our readers, as well, because the article received more than 1,100 shares on Facebook and more than 600 on LinkedIn. I also received several calls and voicemails concerning the article. The response was overwhelmingly positive.

Back to talking about the show. Attending industry-specific tradeshows and events, such as AHR, are of huge value for not just women, but all industry professionals. I’ve heard some debate lately questioning whether tradeshows are worth attending anymore. But, tradeshows offer attendees educational value. Thousands of manufacturers exhibit at the AHR Expo every year, often displaying their newest products and technologies. The show also boasts dozens of free educational sessions covering a wide array of topics. So, attending industry events can help contractors and engineers stay up to date on the latest cutting-edge equipment and perhaps give them an advantage over their competitors.

While the educational value is nothing to sneeze at, perhaps the most important thing about tradeshows is they give exhibitors and attendees the opportunity for face-to-face communication, which helps create a personal relationship and trust. Personal interactions are often disregarded in today’s increasingly digital world, but you shouldn’t discount the power of a firm handshake and engaging conversation, because they can lead you to stronger business relationships.

In fact, one of the things I most enjoy about attending industry events is being able to meet people I’ve only spoken with on the phone or through email. It’s extremely satisfying being able to match a name with a face. Additionally, there is something refreshing about communicating in person.

I’m going to point out that Women in HVACR did all of these things — and more — at the AHR Expo. Not only were the organization’s members educating people who stopped by their booth, they were networking with show attendees, including members of The NEWS. They also sponsored two educational sessions and welcomed guests to an annual meet and greet one evening at Tommy Bahama Orlando.

I’ll never forget a conversation I had with one gentleman at last year’s show. He said, “The companies I consider successful, I continue to see at tradeshows, conventions, and things like that. The ones I hear complaining and struggling the most, I never see.”

Just some food for thought as you consider which industry events to attend throughout 2016 and beyond.

Publication date: 2/15/2016 

Want more HVAC industry news and information? Join The NEWS on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn today!