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Changes in Store for NACE

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For more than three decades, NACE (the International Autobody Congress and Exposition) has served as the collision industry’s dedicated event for product and service exhibiting, training, and networking. But the event, which is set for Oct. 16–18 in Las Vegas this year, has suffered from shrinking participation among both exhibitors and attendees.

Dan Risley, the ASA’s interim executive director, says NACE will continue, and that the association is “gearing up for better years” with some significant changes. Risley discusses what’s next for NACE under his leadership, and how he expects the enhancements to steer the event in a new, positive direction.

Why has participation at NACE been declining?

We’re not giving customers what they want. We’ve received feedback from the industry that the show has not adapted to change and hasn’t taken into consideration the things that people have been asking for. We want to give attendees a show that’s for them and about them; something the event hasn’t produced lately.

The world is changing, and the days of static exhibitor booths are going away. People don’t have to walk by a booth at NACE to make an equipment purchase. They can do that same thing right from their shop rather than spending money to attend a show. We need to be able to give people something different—value that can’t be obtained by staying home, such as demonstrations, hands-on product experience, education and networking.

What is the biggest complaint the ASA has received?

People don’t like supporting two trade shows in Las Vegas at the same time of year. You just can’t have two shows back to back. It’s not fair to the industry. The decision to have both NACE and SEMA co-located in Las Vegas was not made in the best interests of the industry.

What is the ASA doing to eliminate that problem?

The ASRW show is going to be significantly overhauled in 2014. It will be tremendously different compared to what it’s been.

The show will not take place at the same time of year. We already cancelled our 2014 plans for Nashville. I can assure the industry that the event will not be held in the fall as it has been traditionally. We’re looking at dates earlier in the year.

The event will also take place in a different type of location. It will not be a glamorous destination city like Las Vegas or Orlando. It’s going to be a place where attendees can focus on getting the most out of their experience. Moving the event is in the best interests of the industry.

The 2014 event is still a ways off, and the 2013 event is still scheduled for Las Vegas, only two weeks before SEMA. Will this be another tough year regarding attendance at NACE?

Absolutely. It’s going to be difficult. By virtue of having both shows essentially at the same time, some vendors and attendees are choosing one event over the other. Nobody wins in this equation. If we could have changed the event timing this year we would have done it already. But we’re backed up against a deadline now.

Is that what caused the ASA to slice one day off this year’s event?

That change was a strategic initiative. We wanted to make the 2013 event as attractive as possible, while being sensitive to the fact that it will be costly for vendors to exhibit at both shows. We thought that reducing the event by one day would attract more exhibitors because it would reduce their costs to attend NACE, and reduce their capital expenditures overall to participate with both events.

What is the ASA doing to improve the 2013 event to provide more value for attendees?

We don’t have a lot of time to work with, but we’re looking to make as many changes as possible to the program this year.

The general session will be different. It’s supposed to be a show for repairers, so we’re not going to have a famous speaker talk to the group like we have in the past. We’re going to have speakers who attendees can relate to—people who can talk about topics important to repairers.

Show speakers won’t be limited to the general session and education forums. We’re adding a main stage area on the show floor that will feature a different industry speaker every hour.

The Welcome Reception will also change. It will no longer be a standalone event held at a separate location. The Welcome Reception will be right on the show floor so attendees have better opportunity to network.

The SEMA Show’s Collision Repair & Refinish section has grown rapidly over the last four years. How do you expect to compete?

We do not see SEMA as our competitor. SEMA is a great show, but it’s a completely different event with different purposes. NACE is the only national show strictly about the collision repair industry. We don’t want to even try to compete with SEMA because it serves so many different markets. We don’t want collision repairers to get lost in that mix, which is easy to do with the huge size of that show.

What criteria will the ASA use to determine success of NACE following these changes?

The focus will be on the value people get out of attending rather than numbers of people who come.

Success will be based on feedback. The information attendees provide us with will have a direct bearing on where we go in the future. Our ears are open. Our ears may have been open before, but maybe we just didn’t hear very well. We’re listening now, though.

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