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11th Digital Dealer Conference; Observations, Experiences and Opinions from Las Vegas

The Observations, Experiences and Opinions of an Automotive Digital Marketing Professional after attending his 11th Digital Dealer Conference at the Mirage Resort in Las Vegas...



Las Vegas, Nevada - It is the Saturday after completion of the 11th Digital Dealer Conference and I am staying in the ADM Penthouse Suite at the Mirage until Sunday.  Dr. E and I are attending some shows and relaxing while collecting our thoughts and observations after a blistering pace during the three "official" days of the Digital Dealer Conference, as well as two days of Automotive Resource Partners strategic planning sessions at the Ravella Resort at Lake Las Vegas.  While still fresh in my memory i wanted to share some of my thoughts, observations and perhaps a few lessons learned during this past week.


First and foremost, let me start by saying that I have attended and presented speaking sessions at all 11 Digital Dealer Conferences... Which may be the cause of certain biases and perspectives that may or may not be shared by those who either have or will attend their first Digital Dealer Conference.  On the other hand, I do not work for Dealer Communications, nor have I ever been compensated or received payments for anything from the owners and producers of the Digital Dealer Conference... So here goes; regardless of what anybody says, reports or publishes, the simple fact is that Digital Dealer Conference has improved in the execution of its mission and the achievement of its stated objectives on a steady basis since the first event was held in Nashville during the Spring of 2006.  This event continues to get better and better in its execution and production quality to a point where, in my opinion, the Chairman (Michael Roscoe), Dealer Communications and the team at Premcor that manages the event truly deserve recognition, appreciation from the entire auto industry and a broad based thank you from all of us who have attended these events, paid registration fees and who are basically the customers of the Digital Dealer Conference... So, I want to say thank you to Mr. Mike Roscoe, the Dealer Communications and Premcor staff for delivering your products and services with excellence. 


Secondly, after attending at least 50 Digital Dealer Conference general sessions, panel sessions, speaking sessions and workshops (other than my own) I am sincerely both amazed and puzzled by the range of competence displayed by the speakers chosen by the Digital Dealer Conference selection team.  There are truly quite a few highly talented speakers that are available at most Digital Dealer Conferences, but there are also several speakers that are quite painful to watch delivering their presentations.  Unlike many other conference attendees, I am far less disturbed by a session speaker who manages to slip in a promotion for the products they sell or deliver for a living, than I am by lame, incompetent, boring and unintelligible presenters who are supposedly professional automotive presenters!  In many cases I will attend a Digital Dealer Conference speaking session because it is a friend or business acquaintance I admire and respect, only to be profoundly disappointed NOT BY THEIR MATERIAL, BUT BY THEIR LACK OF PRESENTATION SKILLS!  So here's  my advice to anyone who is selected to present a session of any kind at Digital Dealer... Get some coaching! If you are going to stand up in front of a room full of clients, peers and competitors, be prepared to present your material in a dynamic and engaging manner that makes those who attended your session be happy that they chose yours over the other 8 alternatives... Or, if you are giving a general session, you better ROCK the audience and prove that you deserved to be selected for the honor of presenting a general session at this very prestigious event.  


I am not going to name the people I witnessed who embarrassed themselves by being so lifeless, reading the text on their slides out loud in a monotone, or were just plain painfully boring, but will say that the standards of how you should measure yourself are set by the best Digital Dealer Conference speakers... To see an example of these presentation standards, attend sessions delivered by the best, such as;

  • Sean Wolfington, who amazes, thrills and delights just about any dealer (or supplier) you talk to after one of his sessions... Possibly the most compelling and inspirational speaker to ever take the stage at the Digital Dealer Conference.
  • Sean Stapleton from VinSolutions, who can take the most boring and dull of digital marketing topics (such as data mining) and present it in such a way that even I get excited! There are certainly many speakers at Digital Dealer who are calm, cool and professional in their approach, yet are a delight to watch.
  • Phil Sura from Unity Works Media. I saw Phil moderate a panel session, probably one of the most challenging of speaking assignments, in such a way that the entire audience, including me, were fascinated with his questions, the way they were positioned and the skillful manner in which he prompted the panelists to address those questions.
  • Bryan Armstrong, who is NOT a professional speaker, but works as a manager in a dealership like so many other members of ADM... Bryan injects humor, a self deprecating style and projects sincerity and warmth in a way that makes him a delight to watch present his stories and best practices.
  • Kevin Frye from Jeff Wyler Automotive always delivers the goods and showcases his lessons learned from designing, executing and measuring the results of his digital marketing and Internet sales strategies and tactics.
  • Shaun Raines who may be guilty of excessively promoting ReachLocal, but is so good in his delivery of any presentation that I go out of my way to see him present on any topic at any event.
  • Kendall Billman, who despite his sarcastic wit and almost British sense of humor always seems to deliver the goods in the form of true insights into the world of designing and managing dealership websites, and always has the data to back up those conclusions.
  • Budd Blackburn has a low key and low drama style of presenting that still keeps everyone's attention because he emphasizes the points that actually put money into a dealer or manager's pockets... And, he is so competent in his delivery that he inspires confidence.
  • David Boice, who I have watched deliver presentations since 1999 is so smooth in his delivery and yet skilled enough at riveting your attention with emphasis on the "Profit Points" that when his sessions end, the attendees are almost disappointed that he has run out of time, because he makes his audience want more of the good stuff.  
  • Larry Bruce may be the angriest man in the auto industry, but he always gets me riled up and he will inevitably arouse strong opinions either in agreement or opposition to his recommendations. I have debated Larry in several venues, but regardless of whether you agree with him or not, he is truly entertaining to watch present his guidance and lessons learned.
  • Tim Clay from ClickMotive has a calm and reassuring presentation style that is very comfortable to observe and inspire credibility. Plus, Tim always seems to deliver data and research from his work that is unique and not available anywhere else.
  • Dennis Colome is another speaker I have seen present several times for more than ten years, and he is supremely competent and professional in his delivery.  His sessions are well delivered and I enjoy them despite disagreeing with many of his recommendations... He is that good!
  • Ray Fenster is a seasoned veteran who has a powerful speaking style that leverages on his experience and captures the attention of all who attend his sessions.
  • Dennis Galbraith is a true gem for anyone interested in learning how to be more effective in their sales and marketing practices.  At the first Digital Dealer Conference he taught me things that I can attribute to a 1,000 annual unit sales increase at the dealership i was working at, and he continues to deliver the goods with a southern gentlemen style that is deceptively powerful in its effectiveness as a professional speaker... Don't miss Galbraith's sessions, ever.
  • Joe Webb is a delight to watch present, and uses humor to enhance the learning by his audience.  I do not necessarily agree with every thing Joe recommends, but am a big fan of his sessions and enjoy his presentation skills and style.
  • Rob Lange from Autotrader is a seasoned and polished presenter who delivers valuable insights from the Kelley Blue Book organization with such skill that his sessions are highly sought after and well attended.
  • Matt Murray from is one of those presenters who delivers in a calm, cool, professional and smooth style that is both confidence inspiring and comfortable.  Plus, Matt always seems to include dramatic data driven insights that make me seek out his sessions.
  • Todd Smith is an automotive digital marketing professional who I seek out and enjoy watching present.  He is smooth, polished and professional while delivering powerful facts based conclusions supported by the data that he shares with his audience.
  • Jerry Thibeau is a professional phone skills consultant whose insights drive me crazy every time I watch him present because he is like the kid who tells the emperor he is wearing no clothes... And, he calls out what none of us want to admit; most people in the auto industry should not be allowed to answer the phone without proper training! Well worth watching Jerry present.
  • Ralph Paglia - You didn't think I would miss including myself... Did you? I have received enough feedback, adjusted my delivery, tone, pace and incorporated a dose of humor, along with always making sure to include what works, as well as what I have tried that did not work so well.  This results in what i believe to be a balanced and enjoyable experience. But, you tell me!


There is no doubt in my mind that many of the other presenters at the 11th Digital Dealer Conference who I have not mentioned must do a great job, but I cannot comment on speakers I have not watched deliver a presentation... Unfortunately, there are a few presenters who I have not mentioned, but who I have watched present, and who obviously need to get some coaching in order to learn how to deliver their presentations more effectively.  The bottom line is that with as many as nine sessions running concurrently, attendees of Digital Dealer need to choose wisely so that they are not stuck in a session that is a dud while somebody who is highly skilled and effective at moving an audience is being missed in another meeting room.


I also want to thank the many Digital Dealer Conference attendees who attended my sessions on Guerrilla Marketing, Recruiting, Screening and Hiring the Right People and the Bonus Sessions on Friday afternoon where I presented the Brickell Honda Social Media Marketing case study... You were all great audiences with lots of questions and engaged to a degree that made my role as a presenter a lot easier.  I take the responsibility of delivering my presentations quite seriously and always make sure to include a blend of humor and reality that goes beyond the data alone.


As I started out saying, the team that delivers the Digital Dealer Conference twice a year continues to get better and better at what they do... Now, it is up to all of us who are selected to speak at these conferences to step up our game by becoming better at delivering our presentations and session topics.  


Lastly, the ADM Professional Community Member Reception in a Penthouse Suite at the Mirage for those attending Digital Dealer was a blast... Certainly the best party of the conference and had over 200 Digital Marketing Professionals who are ADM members come through while networking, meeting each other face to face and enjoying spirited discussions, great drinks and a lively audience... All the way up to the moment when Mirage Hotel security shut us down for being overcrowded and too loud.  Thank you to all those who attended and thank you to Tier10 Marketing, Team Velocity, PCG Digital Marketing and Hire The Winners for their support of this event, which has now consistently become the best party after conference hours at Digital Dealer! 

Photo Above: Ralph Paglia and John Giamalvo from share experiences using Edmunds to sell cars and get customer commitments during ADM Member Reception in Penthouse Suite at Mirage Hotel during DD11.

Additional Kudos and Appreciation:

There are many important people and companies that should be mentioned in any review of the Digital Dealer Conference.  The suppliers that pay to support the conference as exhibitors and sponsors deserve a healthy dose of appreciation and congratulations, because they are as important to this event as the speakers, panelists, moderators and session presenters.  Without the Digital Dealer Conference exhibitors it would be a lot less fulfilling of an event as they close the circle of information with their demonstrations, literature, logo merchandise give-aways, best practice examples and expert advice.

Having said that, in addition to my previous congratulations to Mike Roscoe and Premcor, I'd be remiss if I did not put in a note of appreciation and congratulatory comment for all the folks who worked hundreds of hours over the last 6 months from Greg Noonan's team at CEI, which is responsible for selling those exhibitor booths, sponsorships and advertising which is where the funds are raised to produce the Digital Dealer Conference.

I congratulate Brad Feik, Joel Shuflin, Greg Ree, and Pam Noonan who masterfully worked with all 105 Digital Dealer exhibitors, sponsors and advertisers, set the show floor and helped in front and behind the scenes on so many aspects of the conference.

Without these people, the Digital Dealer Conference that so many of us have come to know and appreciate could not exist...  Once again, many thanks to Greg Noonan, Mike Roscoe, the Conference Team and all those, including the ADM members who attended the 11th Digital Dealer Conference for making it the best it has ever been.


Ralph Paglia's 11th Digital Dealer Presentations:

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Tags: 11th, Conference, Digital Dealer, Experiences, Las Vegas, Observations, Opinions


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Comment by Aj Maida on October 13, 2011 at 1:04pm
I have seen or did see this week most of the people on Ralph list and would have to concur with him....even though the last guy is a little sketchy!!!! I would also like to give a shout out to Premcor, CEI and Dealer Communications for a job well done. I caught presentation by two women and would like to state that Kathy Kruze and April Rain did wonderful jobs...Kristin sorry I missed yours. Angela it was nice to finally meet you, I mean in person as opposed to on social media channels.
Comment by Kristen Judd on October 13, 2011 at 10:56am
I just wanted to thank Angela Martin for her words.  It is very gratifying to hear that Angela found my session worthwhile.  It was my first time speaking at Digital Dealer (though I have attended and exhibited several times).  I felt honored to be selected to present.  With the strong line up of presenters assembled by the Digital Dealer event team and the investment dealers make in on-going education by attending the event, I took the opportunity to present very seriously and felt a responsibility to provide valuable content as every presenter should.
Comment by Ralph Paglia on October 13, 2011 at 5:08am
ADM Member Reception at 11th Digital Dealer Conference in Las Vegas on October 6, 2011 at the Mirage Hotel Penthouse Suite:
Comment by Rob Lange on October 12, 2011 at 10:39am


Thank you for your candid review and for inclusion on your speaker list. As I read through noting all of the speakers whose sessions I have enjoyed and tremendously benefited from over the years I am truly humbled to be included. Knowing the source and what you contribute to this business, and more importantly the people involved in it, it puts a bounce in my step to continue to learn and share. Coming from the trenches I am very sensitive to the challenges faced every day and there's no better feeling than trying to help someone lighten the load by sharing information that makes a difference for them personally, professionally and for their family. Thank you!


Comment by Ralph Paglia on October 12, 2011 at 1:40am
Here's a photo I was able to get when I ran into April Rain from Minneapolis while cruising the Exhibit floor at DD11 with Daymond Decker...
Comment by Ralph Paglia on October 12, 2011 at 1:36am
Curtis - What I picked up on a lot at the 11th Digital Dealer Conference is a consistent desire on the part of dealers to tie everything together... For lack of a better description, I'll just call it a pervasive pursuit of truly integrated marketing.  Whether it be the augmentation of lead data with historical sites visit history, to parsing that data into a lead management tool, or simply getting a consistent message communicated to customers via multiple channels, including social media and digital advertising, the overwhelming most common desire was to get all the pieces working together far more seamlessly than most dealerships have it set up today.
Comment by Curtis Whittaker on October 11, 2011 at 2:52pm

Another excellent Digital Dealer Conference!  I'm curious as to what you feel like the 'zeitgeist' was for this conference.  In the past, it seems as if the conference revolved around certain themes (social, reputation management, mobile, etc.); I have my interpretation.  I'm curious to hear others!

Comment by Ralph Paglia on October 11, 2011 at 12:42pm
Angela - I agree with you and am embarrassed to say that I did not attend any sessions at DD11 that featured women presenters... This is a mistake on my part.  I will surely seek out women presenters at the J.D. Power Automotive Internet Roundtable that i am traveling to today, and will seek out female led sessions at the 12th Digital Dealer Conference.
Comment by Angela Schliinz on October 11, 2011 at 12:27pm
I Agree pretty much 100% with your list of inspiring speakers Ralph.  The ONLY problem I see is that there is not a single woman on your list.  I have been to a few sessions led by women that have been wonderful and inspiring such as Delia Passi and Kristin Judd.  Our industry needs more support of these women in order to continue to bring more wonderful women into the automotive business.
Comment by Ralph Paglia on October 11, 2011 at 12:55am

Here's one of my favorite photos from the ADM Member Reception, taken by Daymond Decker:

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