Dealer Expo modifies layout, adds services, events

Powersports industry trade shows have become numerous during the past year, with the addition of three off-road-only shows and a couple of cruiser-only events. Nevertheless, the grand-daddy of all powersports industry trade shows, the International Powersports Dealer Expo, is scheduled to return to the Indianapolis Convention Center and RCA Dome, Feb. 14-16, with more than 900 exhibitors and an updated floor plan show organizers say was designed to make the event easier to navigate for the more than 18,000 people expected to attend.
“One of the key reasons dealers attend the show is to find new products and we’re working with them to make that as simple as possible,” Tracy Harris, general manager of Advanstar’s Powersports Group, told Powersports Business. “With so many new companies at the show this year, the ability to find them easily is more important than ever.”
Last year, the Dealer Expo attracted 16,474 visitors and 950 exhibiting companies. Advanstar gauges much of its planning on surveys attendees fill out each year. Harris says they tell organizers more about what the dealers need to get from the show to better achieve their goals.
Perhaps the most obvious of changes planned for the 2004 Expo is the clear delineation between the main portion of the event and the V-twin-related Big Twin East.
“Not only is Big Twin East in a completely stand-alone environment in the RCA Dome, but it also has its own registration, cafe and other attendee services this year,” Harris said. While both shows are now “separate and equal”, according to Harris, visitors will be able to move between the two as if they were one.
Other elements added to help show attendees: highlighting nearly 100 new companies in the show directory and its companion floor plan, available from conveniently-placed Information Counters; the offering of an constantly updated exhibitor list on the Web that performs searches by markets and products/services; and complimentary shuttle services running from hotels to the convention center and from the convention center to the airport.
Harris said housing “remains something of a topic with some show participants”, but says Advanstar added a housing company, Ambassadors, to aid in the reservation process.
“One of the big benefits they brought to the table was the opportunity for people to call in their reservations or changes,” Harris said. “Previously, show participants could only e-mail, fax or mail their requests. The ability to speak with someone was missing from the mix – and was sorely needed. So far, the change seems to have been very beneficial and people seem less frustrated with the process.”
Advanstar blocks 90-95% of the hotel rooms in downtown hotels. Harris said the division of room blocks between exhibitors and attendees is made “so each group has a shot at getting a room in the hotel of their choice.”
Powersports Business asked if Advanstar’s new off-road-only show scheduled for October in Las Vegas will have an effect on the Indy Expo. “Absolutely not,” Harris responded. “Dirt Expo is a chance for the off-road industry to meet at a good time of year for the market and just talk ‘dirt’. Dealer Expo is, and will remain, the show where dealers can see it all.”
“Dealers who have a clear idea about what they want from the show will get the most out of it,” Harris said. “The 900-plus exhibiting companies have brought their product, they’ve brought technical people, people who can write deals, the top guns – everyone and everything that’s important for the dealer doing business with them. They’ve made the investment to meet with their customers, so it’s up to the dealers to take full advantage of this great opportunity.
Harris says visiting retailers should take a couple of hours to prepare for the show and jot down a list of priorities. Bring current store inventory information and prepare to discuss possible vendor issues.
Once there, wear comfortable shoes; make notes; take literature and get contact names from exhibitors when interest is urgent, or ask for literature if interest is just developing. A division of show responsibilities among a dealership’s staff members also often proves helpful.
“There’s a lot of expectation and a huge demand on a personal level” for exhibitors, Harris said. “Basically, you have to be ‘on’ pretty much 24/7, talking to customers and colleagues both at the show and again after hours. The best thing for exhibitors to remember is that things will go wrong – mostly little things that can be fixed or worked around. If they can’t fix it themselves, there’s someone at the show who can help them. Show management or their floor manager is a good place to start.”
The International Powersports Dealer Expo will be held at the Indiana Convention Center & RCA Dome, 100 South Capitol Ave., Indianapolis, Ind. 46225, and at The Westin Indianapolis, 50 South Capitol Ave.
Associated events include the Annual Industry Party, Saturday, Feb. 14, at Union Station’s Crowne Plaza, sponsored by Tucker-Rocky Distributing and open to all attendees and exhibitors; the Blue Ribbon Coalition 6th Annual Breakfast Of Champions, Sunday, Feb. 15, 7:00am, Westin Hotel Capitol Ballroom; and the 2004 Cycle World Joe C. Parkhurst Education Fund Silent Auction benefiting the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.
Services include the aforementioned complimentary shuttles, schedules for which can be found at the Dealer Expo Information Counters and at the front desks of the participating hotels; a “concierge” in the convention center’s main lobby where visitors can check for messages, get assistance in making dinner and airline reservations, as well as find out more about Indianapolis; a business center for copying, faxing, phone calls, meeting space and other services; a coat and luggage check; a KiddieCorp’s licensed child care specialist for ages 4-12; and several Dealer Expo Cafés, including the Backroads Grill, Juke Box Diner, Raceway Lounge, Sports Bar & Grill, Food Court and Espresso Cafés.
Children brought to the Kids M/C Camp must be registered in the program by January 31, 2004.
For more information about the Dealer Expo or Big Twin East, visit http://show.teampowersports.com.

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