Lucky No. seven in Las Vegas
I think about The Rental Show as three different, yet related parts: The show floor, the education and the networking. When asked, “Why do I go to the show?” it’s very hard for me to pin down one or even a few things, as there are so many for me. So, here are my thoughts on it.
- The exhibit floor. This is my No. 1 reason for attending the show. I approach The Rental Show as a “must do.” This will be my seventh show. When I go to the show, I’m going for research purposes. I’m looking to see what’s available and how much it costs. Before I go, I always check with our salespeople to see what’s been requested or rented a lot. My staff members will say, “We need something like this and will you look for it?” I look for products, but I also look for efficiencies. I try to find anything that can do the work of two people — that saves money. I usually walk the aisles at least four times, so when I get back, I can remember what I saw and where I can get items. If you’ve never been to the show before, first and foremost, make sure you have a smartphone or a camera. I take pictures of everything, so I can remember the interesting items when I get home. The other thing I like to do on the show floor is go and visit my vendors and introduce myself. I use The Rental Show Planner to identify their booths ahead of time and then I stop by. I like to say, “Hi, my name is Dave Smiley. I bought 500 of these things from you and I really appreciate the service.” I also am not afraid of saying, “Hey I bought x and it didn’t work out so hot.” Thankfully, that’s a rarity. Building a face-to-face relationship with a vendor is super important.
- The education. I’ve had the great pleasure to sit on the Events & Tents Task Force for the last two years. Even if I didn’t sit on the task force, I would definitely attend the Events & Tents program. I feel that Events & Tents is a wonderful program that provides intensive information about many aspects of the party and event side of our industry. The resources that can be had there for smaller operators, such as myself, are not to be missed. Specifically, I try to force myself to attend the seminars that I am “less” interested in. I do this because I need the exposure to the parts of my business that I might not be so excited about. Most of the time, I wish there were two of me, so I could attend two seminars at once. In addition to the Events & Tents portion of the show, The Rental Show seminars are another “can’t miss” part for me. Specifically, I enjoy the Party Rental Town Hall meeting. This seminar allows attendees to ask questions to an open forum of folks and everyone can participate. I love that people will ask a question that I’m not 100 percent comfortable asking. I have learned so much from this seminar and have been able to meet great people there. That is why I consider this to be my No. 2 reason for attending the show.
- The networking. I think going to all the social events are great. I’ve met people, completely by coincidence, who knew my father from another industry and recognized my name from my tag. The social gatherings are so great. You talk to one person and he asks if you know so and so, and you end up chatting and emailing with someone else after that, and that’s priceless.
Part of the fun is meeting other people who do what you do. That means going out to lunch or grabbing a drink to talk and compare success — and horror — stories. You have to be willing to engage in that. Many people over the years have proven to be amazing resources for me and that’s the beauty of the show. They always are willing to explain and help. It’s an interesting extended family. If every person you talk to gives you one half of a good idea, you just come away with so much more than you arrived with.
My tips for having a successful show are fairly simple. First, wear comfortable shoes. I also always bring a backpack with me and I carry it around the floor because I pick up so much stuff. I carry a bottle of water, my iPad, pens, paper and about 1,000 business cards. The American Rental Association (ARA) also provides a bag at registration if you forget your own bag. I’ve seen people with roller bags on the floor because of the amount of stuff you collect.
I always come back from the show completely energized and motivated, and it rubs off on my employees when I return. If you can bring staff members, do it. I think it is reassuring to your employees to see that you aren’t crazy and that you do what most rental companies do. Hopefully, they will see something at the show that you don’t and that helps, too. That’s what the show offers. It’s reassurance that we’re handling things similar to other operations that are well-run party and event rental stores. Have some fun, too. It is Las Vegas, remember?
David Smiley, CERP, owner, Alpine Party Rentals, Gypsum, Colo., can be reached at 970-328-6707 or email email@example.com.