Which fall event should you attend?
With so many great choices in industry conferences this fall, many dealership managers are asking which event to attend. It’s a fair question that I want to answer publically.
Personally, I will try to attend all of them. If you can do the same, you will certainly benefit. However, if you have to choose it’s not a matter of selecting which is good and which is bad. They are all good, but each has its own flavor and serves a different audience. Deciding where to go is an issue of learning which event is right for you and your goals.
JD Power Internet Round Table:
JD Power Internet Round Table is a high level Internet marketing event. It has a big audience, mostly made up of executives from OEMs, Agencies and Vendors. A very small percentage of the audience is dealership personnel; this event will have the fewest dealers in attendance of any. I assume that is by design. JD Powers seems to serve the agency, and OEM world the best.
The topics are not designed around the dealership operations level, but they are innovative, educational and inspiring at the 30,000-foot industry view.
This event is very high quality, good topics and speakers. If you are looking to network with technology execs and see high level OEM data this event is right up your alley. I always enjoy my time there.
Digital Dealer Conference:
The Digital Dealer Conference happens twice per year, in the spring and fall, unlike JDPAIRT, they specifically target dealership personnel. The event is large with lots of variety. Digital Dealer has a strong focus on the "101" stuff, in fact a whole day is dedicated to ”newbie training.” This is valuable if you are just getting into the business.
Unfortunately, I continually hear from dealers that big portions of the workshops are just a 45-minute product demo or sales pitch. This is a huge problem that Digital Dealer has been facing for years, they were smart to hire Cliff Banks and have him work on the issue. It's important to know which presentations are high quality and to make a plan of what to see to avoid wasting your time with bad info or a sales pitch disguised as a workshop.
I’d recommend seeing Sean Raines, Brian Pasch and Joe Webb without hesitation; they (and others) always provide huge value for your time. Joe Orr is a dealer from Oregon and will be speaking this year too, be sure to see his presentation. He spoke at the DrivingSales Executive Summit last year and did an amazing job. They were smart to invite him to speak at DD9; he will be one of the stars for sure!
In the end, DD9 is a good event, and the best place to lock in the basic education for your store.
DrivingSales Executive Summit:
The DSES is the youngest of the events. Last year it was an “invitation only" gathering for a specific group of progressive dealers. This year the doors have been opened for a limited number of attendees, but the focus is to exclusively serve more advanced dealers.
There is no “newbie” or 101 training at DSES. Every topic is for a progressive crowd and designed to support the dealership leader in creating and executing an advanced strategy.
Rather than sell speaking spots to vendors, DrivingSales has dealers suggest topics, and then hires the world’s experts on those topics to deliver the keynote messages. This puts the quality of the presentations at a whole new level above the other conferences. This year Jeremiah Owyang, a world-renowned web strategist and analyst, Dan Zarella, the social media scientist from Hub Spot and Scott Monty, worldwide head of social media for Ford, will be instructing the audience. There will be a dozen breakouts with dealers delivering case studies on how they achieved amazing results and industry experts running training workshops.
DSES is designed as a smaller, more exclusive event. The combination of the highest quality speakers, the advanced topics and the concentration of progressive dealers make this the best event for progressive dealership leaders. It may not be the right choice for an ISM just getting into their position.
How to see them all:
To see all the events in a year you should attend Digital Dealer in the spring, and then DrivingSales and JD Powers in the fall. Logistically this is easy to do because DrivingSales and JDPAIRT are both in Vegas, plus DSES ends the day JD PAIRT starts. It’s easy to see both in one trip.
Remember that many of Digital Dealer’s speakers present the same subject matter year after year. Attending their show in the spring will help you get the basics down, then you could take things to a new level at the more progressive shows in the fall.
In the end, I think there is very little dealer overlap between Digital Dealer and DrivingSales since the DSES topics are more advanced. There is a large overlap in vendor attendance at each show especially given that many Digital Dealer presenters come to DrivingSales not to speak, but to network and learn. This is a great testament to the level of speakers at DSES over the Digital Dealer events.
If you are a Dealer Principal, General Manager or senior executive and are still undecided let me close with this thought. If you have attended Digital Dealer in the past, consider expanding your educational experience and take your dealership operations to the next level by attending DrivingSales Executive Summit. With fresh content and the leading experts teaching on the strategies you need to compete in 2011, is there really a choice?
Your education is important:
Having conference choices is a fantastic thing for dealers. Each event is geared slightly differently and regardless of where you go you will be better equipped to handle the ever-changing market. If you must decide between events, go to the one that will serve your goals the best.
Remember the price of education is nothing compared to the price of ignorance! Make sure you attend at least one of the fall events. Invest in your education; its what makes you great!