As the day gets closer, and you head out, many of you may not know what to expect. My very first show, I had a very late night flight to Atlanta. Hell, I was excited just to fly. For those of you that don't know me, Im quite the #avgeek. Anyways, we got in late, then realized our bags didn't make the flight, but none the less, got a cab to the hotel. The next day couldn't come soon enough, I was ever so excited to see what the NPME as they called it, was all about. On arriving to the show, we picked up our badges and headed for the first class. I couldn't believe all the people, it was just awesome. We got into a class by Jeff Stokes and Brad Humphrey. I had my notepad all ready to go. The whole time I was just in awe that these people spoke asphalt, and spoke it well. They both became some of my favorite speakers. After classes we went to the floor. I was armed with a bag of business cards, notepads and a trusty Polaroid camera. Holy cow, I couldn't believe my eyes....everything pavement related....did I die and go to heaven? At the end of the week I ended up seeing so much, learning so much, and making several connections. I was pumped to start the season. Fast forward to present day. Many of you will have similar experiences for your first show. Hopefully the airline wont lose your bags, and you will also not be packing a Polaroid camera.

As I mentioned in the earlier post, arrive early to the show, and take as many classes as you can. The next thing, network like crazy, bring business cards, and swap them often. Its great to build a network of friends all over the country. Almost daily I have a calls with contractor friends of mine from all over, in fact just last week, me and a contractor from CT flew to meet up with yet another contractor and mutual friend in Florida. How cool is that? All because of the show, my friends and contractor network span the globe. I would encourage you to do the same thing. Now, when you get on the floor, grab a trusty goody bag right at the door, and start on one side of the hall. The strategy is to go row by row, however we all inevitably get side tracked. Stop in grab some swag at each booth, and visit with the vendors. You never know when they offer something that you might be able to add to your business. You will see everything from equipment, to software, to tools, and even safety lighting, and everything in-between. One year, there was even a guy selling Jerky. Once you make it through the floor, start over and do it again, you undoubtedly missed a few booths the first round. After the show you can go through the bags of swag and create files for the information you wish to keep. Truth be told, even to this day, I usually end up UPS'ing a box back home, full of seminar handouts, product info, and swag. As you walk the floor, engage with the sales people and ask the tough questions. What makes their sealer better, or why should I buy this tool etc? Dont be afraid to ask the Titan guys why they include cupholders, and ask Graco why they dont. One of my show floor success stories came from a company called LiquidTube, they make a material that seals leaks in tires...from stripers and blowers to heavy equipment. Well we have a Skid Steer that for the life of us couldn't keep air in it. It had been at the tire shop an dealer with no permanent luck. Well one year at NPE, I came across a booth with a guy stabbing tires with a steel punch...what the??? Well, he then showed how his product would seal a tire that had been punctured. I thought what the heck, but worth a try, so I ordered a pail right at the show, and had it shipped. Well, it worked awesome, and we haven't had a problem since.. Okay, I know maybe a cheesy NPE success story, but still, it shows you there is value on the floor. You will find similar situations for yourself not only on the floor but in the classes and Roundtables. Its all what you make out of it, but if you with a good attitude and willingness to learn, Im pretty sure your first NPE will be one for the record books. Stay tuned for more NPE Updates. Register to post here on Pavement Guru, and also subscribe to this blog!