Looking ahead to Las Vegas

By |  January 24, 2014

Megan Tanel, AEM’s vice president of exhibitions, offers a preview of the show.

Just how big will ConExpo-Con/Agg 2014 be? How can you best prepare for the five-day trade show March 4-8? And how can you take advantage of NASCAR’s presence in Las Vegas that week? Megan Tanel, vice president of exhibitions at the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), weighs in on these topics – and more – in an exclusive interview with Pit & Quarry’s Kevin Yanik.

P&Q: How does AEM expect this year’s ConExpo-Con/Agg to compare historically to previous ConExpo-Con/Agg trade shows?

MT: Previously, the largest show was 2.28 million net sq. ft. This show is already over 2.33 million net sq. ft., and we expect it to be right around 2.35 million net sq. ft. The show is at capacity, and we have been at capacity for indoor space for some time. It’s a great position to be in, but it’s challenging as well because you want to accommodate everyone in the industry who wants to be there.

In all, this right now is the largest ConExpo-Con/Agg ever. We’ve also kept it pretty much within the footprint of the [Las Vegas] Convention Center, whereas in past years we’ve used Riviera space. We’ve done a better job of trying to maximize the footprint of what we have available.

P&Q: The Platinum Lot is one addition to ConExpo-Con/Agg. What can you tell us about this lot, why it was added and what show attendees can expect to find there? Also, how can attendees best access the Platinum Lot?

MT: The Platinum Lot will better align product areas as people find their way through the show. In the past, we would sell out of product areas and have overflow lots or halls. You would come in and have a real mixed bag of product.

Our initial thought was we could accommodate the exhibitors who wanted to be here, but the attendees would have a hard time finding them. We wanted to better align the show with our product areas. We presented different options here, and we were able to not only realign the show, but realign the products. We’ve put asphalt and aggregates together and moved that away from the concrete side.

Now, the show is laid out with enough space so exhibitors coming in later will be a part of their product area. The platinum lot is “across the street” – just like the Gold Lot is. We’ve actually added two indoor spaces – one in Platinum and one in Gold. The added structure in the Gold Lot has earthmoving and lifting equipment, as well. When you look at the layout of the show it might seem more spread out, but it’s actually consolidated according to the products we have out there.

P&Q: Another new component to ConExpo-Con/Agg 2014 is the Demolition and Recycling Exhibits Pavilion that will showcase products specific to construction and demolition recyclers and demolition contractors. Can you tell us about the increased demand AEM has seen from C&D recyclers and demolition contractors over the years and what this new pavilion will entail for those with an interest?

MT: Because ConExpo-Con/Agg is the size it is and it does have maximum spaces for some companies, some haven’t been able to highlight every product line they have. They have to make some difficult decisions. In the past, demolition and recycling might have been put aside by the parent company, or come in smaller than they wanted.

Those areas have seen a bigger demand and are growing. We saw this as an opportunity to allow these parent companies to put a little bit more emphasis in this area. Really, this is just the basis of the growth we expect to see in this area in the future. We want to get started with a small pavilion – start with some recognition in this area and perhaps offer some demonstrations in future years.

This group has a number of education sessions, as well. It’s nice it crosses over with asphalt and concrete. We’ve been asking attendees what’s kept them going through the recession, and many talked about diversifying. We saw a higher focus on demolition and recycling products.

P&Q: What else is new for 2014?

MT: Wayfinding [is different] and how attendees will cover the 2.3 million net sq. ft. We put more attention on how wayfinding affects the contractor – getting off the bus or monorail. We’ve enhanced their ability to find what they’re looking for.

One of those ways is people power. When you arrive somewhere there will be people who will walk you where you want to go. We also have an enhanced mobile app (search “ConExpo-Con/Agg 2014” in the App Store) that you can download onto your smartphone or tablet that will take you where you need to go. Not everyone wants to navigate electronically, so having that person you can ask a question to rather than getting frustrated in a sea of equipment is an alternative.

P&Q: Can you somehow quantify how much work goes into planning ConExpo-Con/Agg and what kind of an undertaking executing a trade show of this magnitude is?

MT: I’ve been here a while and I remember when this was one of the only shows we did. Well, it takes a lot of planning. Now, we have a depth of staff, and we are able to work on this show and others that [coincide] with ConExpo-Con/Agg.

There are committees made up of exhibitors, our members and our partners’ members – contractors or producers. Those committees include the management committee, space and rules, marketing and education. On top of that, we have the AEM board, as well. These specific planning committees are meeting two to four times a year throughout the show cycle to set the direction, review things that are coming up, offer advice or more direction on where we should go in making decisions when questions come up.

P&Q: How can show attendees best prepare and organize their agenda for the trade show?

MT: I think it’s really important to spend some time asking what it is you want to get out of this event. I think if you’re coming to do business and you have specific needs in mind, visit our website or download our mobile app. Then, come up with some sort of plan.

Of course, you want to build in some time so you can add things. There’s going to be a lot of new equipment, so put a little prep time in to create an agenda. You can do that through the app’s My Show Planner feature.

One thing we’ve done for education after listening to our exhibitor customers: In the past, we would sell education tickets for specific sessions. If you bought a ticket and you didn’t make that session, you were out that ticket. So we’ve gone to a conference model. There’s the full-conference packet you can buy, meaning you can go to any session you want on any set day. If there’s something you wanted to get to but you were in the Silver Lot and couldn’t make it, there’s no feeling of, ‘I lost that money.’

You can also buy a day pass for education instead of a single-ticket session. We’re hoping this gives people more flexibility.

P&Q: Anything you’d like to add about the upcoming show?

MT: There is one other new thing: We are working in conjunction with the Las Vegas Motor Speedway because there will be a NASCAR race taking place the last weekend of ConExpo. We’ve been able to work with NASCAR to offer some package pricing to the races.

We have a ConExpo-Con/Agg night at the racetrack on Friday night (March 7). A person can get a ticket, and it’s all you can eat, all you can drink. You can do hot laps on the track, as well. All the cars will be there, and there will be some drivers there. You can get your own ticket through the show.

Qualifying races are during the day on March 7. There are races on March 8 – that will be after the show closes on the 8th. The [NASCAR Sprint Cup] race will be on March 9.

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry. He can be reached at 216-706-3724 or kyanik@northcoastmedia.net.

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