NTEA Conventions of Today, Tomorrow

April 1, 1999
THE PHRASE "drinking from a fire hydrant" may have become a cliche, but it is an appropriate description of activities at this year's National Truck Equipment

THE PHRASE "drinking from a fire hydrant" may have become a cliche, but it is an appropriate description of activities at this year's National Truck Equipment Association Convention in Indianapolis.

The report we present to you in this issue is detailed, but it is not complete. For the past 34 years, Trailer/Body Builders has had at least one editor at every session of every NTEA convention. This year's event, though, had more events going on at different places at the same time than we had people to cover them. On a couple of occasions, we had to choose which sessions our editors should attend, based on the topics we felt would cover the most new ground for our readers.

NTEA offered three tracks-a traditional convention program track, presentations by eight chassis manufacturers, and a new format called "Inter-Action" sessions in which a moderator presented a topic to a small group of people for their information and discussion.

With as many as three chassis sessions going on simultaneously, along with multiple Inter-Action sessions and a business seminar, convention attendees had plenty of choices. But as deep as this year's program was, next year promises to be more so as NTEA gears up to make its convention and exhibition of interest to more people than ever before.

As our story on Page 44 reports, NTEA is planning major changes to its exhibition. Along with the new show format will come corresponding increases in the scope of the convention program. The association plans to more than double the number of sessions on next year's convention schedule.

Steve Carey, NTEA meeting and membership services director, says that those attending the 36th annual convention next year in St Louis can expect to see more than twice the number of convention sessions.

"The educational component is just as important as the show," he says.

To gear up for the event, the association already has begun polling its members for ideas regarding convention topics. The objective is to have some 40 breakout sessions along with two or three general sessions for everyone to attend. The breakout sessions will include 10 presentations from chassis manufacturers. The remaining sessions will address industry topics such as those suggested by the survey of NTEA members. The association is searching for timely topics to present. However, NTEA also is looking for industry people with firsthand knowledge who are willing to make the presentations when the association convenes February 23-25, 2000.

A strong convention program will be mandatory next year in order to help attract people to what amounts to a supercharged Supershow. As NTEA executives explained during the "Driving the Future-NTEA Strategic Plan" session, the scope of the exhibitors and the target audience of the show will be expanded significantly.

The new show, the "Commercial Truck, Trailer, and Technology Expo" (T3 2000) will not be the tightly focused exhibition in which manufacturers exhibit in order to reach truck equipment distributors. Distributors will continue to be the primary audience, but NTEA will spend this year promoting T3 2000 to attract the people who buy commercial trucks and trailers-not just those who distribute them.

As one might expect, not every truck equipment distributor who attended the briefing session liked the idea of sharing next year's show with his customers. The potential for manufacturers bypassing the distributor appeared obvious to many.

Yet others saw the format as an opportunity that they have not had. They could see themselves working alongside their manufacturers to sell product to the end user. Working in partnership with their suppliers, they thought, would enable them to provide more value to their manufacturers and their customers.

Whether bringing suppliers, distributors, and end users under one big umbrella will be a help or a hindrance to the majority of truck equipment distributors will become clear in time. The show may become more competitive. If nothing else, NTEA will have created a microcosm of what is going on in the marketplace.