Expo: A first-timer’s guide

When you’re exploring the largest bus and motorcoach show in North America, it’s easy to get sidetracked and maybe even a little lost. But when you’re in the same room with some 2,000 professionals in the field—operators, manufacturers, vendors and thought leaders—you don’t want to waste a moment of the opportunity to network, shop, seek out advice and otherwise grow your business.

From Jan. 6-10, UMA Motorcoach EXPO 2019 will take over the entire Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center’s 200,000 square feet of exhibit space. Organizer Maggie Vander Eems, UMA’s vice president of member services and meetings, suggests you:

  • Register in advance to save time on-site at com.
  • Review the schedule and get a feel for the week’s events, then plan out the sessions you want to attend. Many run concurrently, so you’ll have to make choices or divide attendance among others in your company.
  • Research exhibitors you want to meet and see where to find them. The easiest way is to go to com and find both the list with booth names of exhibitors and where they’ll be located on the corresponding map. Find those under the “Expo Hall” link.
  • Pack for the business casual show floor and potentially breezy beach party.

Stacy Tetschner, CEO, United Motorcoach Association, suggests that attendees download the EXPO app to their smartphone or tablet and review the schedule of events in advance. Setting alerts help ensure you’ll not get sidetracked and miss a session you’ve identified as one most suited for your business needs.

“For example, if you are having challenges with ELDs in your operation, seek out the educational sessions as well as the vendor partners that specifically are addressing ELDs be sure to mark the session/add to your calendar on Monday, January 7, on ‘Handling ELD Malfunctions and Operator Errors,’” he said. “If you are a younger operator, be sure to set aside time to be part of the 40 under 45 Operators Roundtable to connect with other young operators. Knowing these are must-attend sessions, everything else that you learn or are part of becomes icing on the cake.”


UMA is here to help

David Moody, UMA board member and general manager of Holiday Tours Inc., advises show-goers to chat with UMA staff members to make sure they’re taking advantage of every member benefit. There’s also a strategy he shares from personal experience: using the sneak preview night to get a feel for the show floor and cement his objectives but without talking in depth with vendors until the show opens.

There should be time to visit every company you’d like to connect with, but it’s a good idea to stop at your top priority company booths first, says Brent Maitland, MCI’s VP of marketing and product planning. Often, there are fewer people.

“After seeking out a specific booth on your list, check in and ask to meet with a representative of your choice, whether sales, financial services, technical support or product information. Everyone is welcome in the booth to explore our latest products, and all three products on display are new or newly updated: the all-new J2500, our 25-foot coach; the J4500 with updated interior and now electric cooling fans and swing out radiator for improved serviceability; and the D45 CRT LE with patented low entry vestibule.”

Prevost sponsors a Driver’s Competition you won’t want to miss as well as the Leadership Awards Celebration, notes Deborah Piner, manager of Prevost Marketing Communications. Head to the main booth to see new features being introduced on the H3-45, X3-45 and Volvo 9700 coach models and adjacent services booth to learn about new operator services introduced this fall.


Business cards, session-going and more

Bring business cards to hand out generously to connections you make but also extras to drop into the bowls many vendors put out for raffle-type stuff, says Dave Millhouser, industry insider and Bus & Motorcoach News columnist.

Also, “wear comfortable shoes,” study the list of other attendees (to save the embarrassment of having to stare at name tags) and have specific goals in mind of who and what you want to see. “Wandering aimlessly is fun, but you may miss something.”

Education sessions are one thing you shouldn’t miss, notes Chris Duffy, vice president of media relations and principal of Goff Public, even if it means bringing extra people from your company so you can hit them concurrently.

“Attendees of my session will walk away with implementable tasks to make sure they’re prepared to respond to bad press or negative social media posts. Sometimes bad things happen to good organizations. There are things companies can do – both proactive and reactive – to get through a bad day with minimal damage to its reputation.”

Speaker Beth Ziesenis of “Your Nerdy Best Friend” advises the use of apps to manage tasks back at the office while you’re advancing your career at EXPO. Use IFTTT to set up automated actions for incoming email and tasks. Sign up for Fancy Hands to delegate little tasks to a virtual assistant. And turn to the most simple but perhaps effective tech tool: an out-of-office message with an “in case of emergency” contact. “Almost everything can wait until you return,” she says, “as long as you set expectations.”

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