Industry Events: ACE 2019

Industry Events: ACE 2019
TADA’s executive team celebrated a very successful inaugural ACE event last year. (Photo: Jack Kazmierski)

The TADA prepares for an exciting 2019 Automotive Conference & Expo.

As an organization, the TADA is eagerly looking forward to our second annual Automotive Conference & Expo (ACE), which will take place this year in Niagara Falls, Ontario from April 10 to 11. The feedback we received last year after our inaugural event was truly encouraging, and we’re looking forward to making this year’s event even more memorable.

If you weren’t able to join us last year, we encourage you to do so in 2019. This not-for-profit event is unlike anything in the industry. The goal is not to make money, not to sell you anything, but to educate and inform dealers so that they can stay on top of the changes and emerging trends in our industry.

No sales pitches

In fact, the reason we started our own conference was to avoid the pitfalls many for-profit events have fallen into. Our members and our vendors were frustrated with third-party companies putting on conferences that only spoke to content that benefited them. In other words, it wasn’t about topics that were timely and important to dealers, and they weren’t focused on helping dealers. In some cases it was nothing more than, “This is the latest widget we have. Let us show you how it can help you, and if you’d like to know more about it we’re at booth number so and so.”

In some cases it was just a veiled sales pitch, and as an organization we were concerned about this trend because we knew that if this was allowed to become the norm, then dealers wouldn’t want to attend, and conferences would become a thing of the past. In short, our members would lose out on key opportunities to learn and to stay up-to-date with current trends.

We know how important continuous learning is for dealers, so we thought it important to deliver content that’s transparent, that keeps the dealers engaged and allows everyone in attendance to walk away at the end of the day having learned something new and valuable.

We’ve also created an environment where vendors can’t buy their way onto the stage. If we do ask a vendor to speak, it’s only because we feel that he or she is the best person to address a need in the dealer community at that time.

Audience feedback

The feedback we received after our first event was extremely positive, and the attendance numbers last year were exceptional. We really didn’t expect the numbers we got. We’re extremely happy to see dealer groups, GMs, sales managers and other people within organizations attend and learn.

We were also thrilled to be able to invite Kim Mitchell to serve as the entertainment for last year’s ACE. That created an opportunity for yet another great networking event, and the feedback was extremely positive.

After our inaugural event, we decided to go back to the sponsors, talk to them about what they wanted to do further, and I’m glad to announce that we signed long term deals with all of them to continue to put this event together for the foreseeable future.

The ACE has become one of our pillar events. It’s something we take very seriously. In fact, I have a full-time staff working on it year round, sourcing content and speakers, and working with our education committee to see what it is that our dealers need to learn about.

2019 highlights

This year, we’re going to continue to provide our dealers with relevant content. A lot of our members are looking at consolidation, so we have a specialist coming in from the United States that is well-known in consolidation circles, to speak to a dealers-only environment on just that.

We’ll also be taking a close look at the experience model: In the coming years consumers will no longer be shopping brands the same way they once did. They’ll be shopping for the experience they get from the store, and a lot of dealers are already managing through that.

We have a specialist, Dennis Moseley-Williams, who will talk in depth about the experience economy. “Dealers who attend are going to learn how becoming everyone’s favourite dealer, and increasing sales through word of mouth, have nothing to do with the cars or the service,” Moseley-Williams explains. “It has everything to do with how we make people feel. Experience isn’t service.”

Erin Kerrigan is coming all the way from California to talk to dealers about the buy/sell market for auto dealerships in North America. “Dealers will learn what is driving today’s blue sky values and buy/sell activity,” she says. “They will also learn what drives valuations higher and lower and the ROI expectations of today’s buyers.”

We have some surprises on the trade show floor this year, with sports celebrities who will be signing autographs on the trade show floor—and our keynote speaker, Rick Hanson, is an athlete in his own right. We worked for three months with his foundation to convince Rick to come and speak to us. He doesn’t speak based upon a fee. Rather, he insists that whoever hires him to speak can prove that they’re giving back to the community. So we had to provide information on the charities we support and how we do so, before he would agree to speak at ACE. We’re very excited to have him.

Finally, the entertainment this year will be Honeymoon Suite. We’re having an ’80s Kickback Night. They’re from Niagara Falls, and they’ll be playing all their greatest hits for us.

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