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Last month I had the good fortune to attend 2 major digital automotive events, Digital Dealer 11 and PCG Pitstop. I guess I can consider myself somewhat a veteran of the show circuit seeing that I have attended half a dozen events in the past year alone so I thought I’d drop a few observations on both shows now that the dust has settled.

Digital Dealer 11 – Las Vegas – Oct 5th to 7th, 2011

I always look forward to this conference as I have made some good connections, seen some great products and listened to some incredible speakers. Hitting Vegas with us this year was a larger contingent of Canadian dealers and their staff, it’s nice to see they’re starting to take our word when we tell them how important these conferences can be for their business. Registration was a bit of a nightmare, after revising the registration process online to several more steps many attendees who pre-registered got to the kiosks to learn their credentials weren’t ready (me included) and they’d have to get in a rather large line to get their registration processed. The hour long wait to get my pass fortunately was spent catching up with friends like Stan Sher (Dealer eTraining) and Carly Tam (Erin Park Toyota Lexus). The event staff who handled this wrinkle did a great job to keep a smile on their faces and to ensure everyone got taken care of.

Our group did our usual divide and conquer of the session content and marked up our convention schedules quickly. I did notice a bit of content overlap that was available from DD10 in the schedule, fortunately some of the newbies in our group were able to capitalize on some of those sessions that I thought were outstanding in the spring. My session selections provided me with a wide range of hits and misses. Most of my misses had little to do with the presenter or the content, it was more of a “been there, done that” sort of thing.

What I got most out of this conference was networking with a ton of people I have had the pleasure of getting to know via social media. Throughout the conference I used Twitter to set up meetings with friends and businesses alike. PR queen Laurie Halter and I organized an impromptu cocktail party in the expo that was well attended by the likes of Glen Garvin, Kathi Kruse, Bill Simmons, Greg Gifford and Dara Moore. Through all the R/L connections made we (Glovebox) walked away with a significant RFP that had to be turned around over a few days upon our return to Toronto. That opportunity revealed itself in the hallway while I was on the way to a session! Now THAT’s networking!

Attending Digital Dealer’s fall track twice now though I think I’ll focus on just the spring conference and use that window to explore other shows happening around the same time like Driving Sales Executive Summary, which I heard post event was exceptional.

PCG PitStop – Toronto – Oct.20th, 2011

I knew this touring conference was making its way to Toronto and was looking forward to checking out Brian Pasch and company. The locale for the event was 1 block from the agency, which was fantastic for me but I know from experience that if a dealer isn’t located right in Toronto’s downtown core he or she isn’t very eager to battle Toronto’s hideous rush hour traffic and pay hefty parking fees to attend an event where registration starts at 7:30AM. If they come back I would recommend that they focus on the north part of the GTA where some of our major freeways intersect.

The attendees count was night and day from DD11, and I know the PCG Pitstop isn’t designed for hoards of people but I was surprised by the low dealer turnout that was in attendance at the day’s start. I’m not sure if the event was marketed as heavily as it could be in Canada or that the dealers north of the border just didn’t know any of the players hosting this event to have it on their radar. I think the attending vendors and PCG team outnumbered the dealers signifigantly.

I was really pumped to get into the sessions as many of the presenters I had yet to see in a live setting. Paul Potratz and Gary May did fantastic jobs of their presentations as well as the cDemo team and Ryan Thompson from Kijiji. The workshops were definitely tailored to dealerships taking a more progressive stance on their digital marketing initiatives but they also allowed for vendors to present and demonstrate new technologies or evolutions in their current product offerings. I found this refreshing as I could sit through a product demonstration in a conference room instead of having a vendor staff member trying to “sell” me at a booth.

In the afternoon while taking a break from the sessions I had the pleasure to sit with Paul Potratz and just talk shop. Being in similar business models it was really gracious of Paul to share his experiences, how his agency is structured and the culture he strives to uphold. Having one on one time like this was fantastic and the take away was probably worth the price of admission. As stated earlier although the numbers were small I think that allowed for more of this type of interaction amongst the presenters and attendees. I’d definitely consider attending this event again if they decide to roll back through T.O.

 

Thanks to everyone who worked on both events, I know how much work is involved in running these and it's appreciated. Your efforts are not overlooked. I look forward to seeing what both conferences bring to the table in 2012.

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Tags: Bill, Brian, Carly, Dara, Dealer, Digital, Garvin, Gary, Gifford, Glen, More…Greg, Kathi, Kruse, May, Moore, PCG, Pasch, Paul, Pitstop, Potratz, Sher, Simmons, Stan, Tam, automotive, conferences, dealerships, digital

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