Wow. What happened last week was amazing. Nearly every session at this year's DrivingSales Executive Summit (DSES) rang the bell. From the opening comments on Sunday to the closing minutes Tuesday, nearly everything seemed to gel with a couple standing ovations to boot. This, ladies and gentlemen, is engagement, learning and a focus on the dealer at its best.
Day one featured returning emcee Charlie Vogelheim introducing DrivingSales' own Jared Hamilton followed Paul Potratz, JD Rucker and Jason Falls as the opening keynotes. Having outside-the-industry, topic-rich speakers has been a hallmark since the opening of the DrivingSales Executive Summit in 2009 and this year simply added to the validity of such influencers.
Day two started with a social media study by Dealer.com's Kevin Root and Matt Murray, then featured Aaron Strout on location-based marketing which presented some still very-new ideas to the crowd of over 400 attendees*. Four sessions of breakouts followed, covering a range of in-the-moment subjects, in addition to the Dealership Best Idea presentations. In between, two powerful events happened: a new Digital Marketing Dilemma "battle" format that had people buzzing into the evening and beyond day three, along with the DSES-exclusive Innovation Cup Vendor presentations. After the cup participants used up their allotted time, all attention was on the evening keynote Gary Vaynerchuk. He stole the show, got the more-than-typically-timid audience leaning forward and received what was described by nearly everyone as a one-of-a-kind, never before seen standing ovation. And a resounding ovation it was, not a "my gosh that was a boring presentation but at least it closed the day" kind of applause with people standing. Gary Vee rocked the house and converted the few not-yet-socially-commited dealerships on the spot. He followed that with a signing for his "The Thank You Economy" book.
Day three opened with Google and closed with the cup. And in between we heard from Zappos' Rob Siefker and what could arguably be the automotive industry's "Big 5" CEOs representing Dealer.com, Cars.com, ADP, DealerTrack and AutoTrader.com talking about what's coming in 2012. Many viewers not only enjoyed the big-company heads, they were comparing notes about who hit the ball the furthest (Mark Bonfigli of Dealer.com provided the second standing -albeit provoked- ovation of DSES).
Even with heads-up prep prior to DSES by the DrivingSales team, the Google session seemed to miss what most of the dealers there wanted to hear including answers to, among other things, Google Places questions. So there is room to improve in 2012 as well as grow. And by all signs, DSES may be getting quite a bit better and bigger in the coming year.
Kudos to those that made the draw in the breakout sessions including Jeff Cryder, Joe Webb, Tracy Myers, Cory Mosley, Marc McGurren, Brian Pasch and Dennis Galbraith.
The most heartfelt appreciation and thanks to Jared Hamilton and the entire unsung DrivingSales Executive Summit team. They put together the finest event for North America's most progressive dealerships out of a passion for what makes the industry tick. It was also a bit of a compliment to many of the DSES speakers as they were also invited to participate across town at the JD Power & Associates Internet Roundtable. You know who you are and the fact that what you contribute makes a difference to the industry. It was a pleasure to spent some incredible time with you at Bellagio over three days in October 2011.
Until next year...be well, be listening, be teaching, be growing and be yourselves!
Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results
*Being as how DSES is the only automotive conference streamed live as it happens, we may not know the total amount of attendees above the 400+ in attendance, but it's easy to say the impact went well beyond the walls of the Bellagio Hotel conference center. Dealers everywhere were affected by the 2011 DSES. DrivingSales and DSTV proved once again that you need to serve dealers in the ways that you are founded on. Education goes everywhere...socially.
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