In this tough economy industry organizations and associations are looking for ways to help their members reduce costs related to attending annual meetings, exhibitions and conferences. One example is the ceramic tile and stone industry whose leading associations merged their events into one larger one. In fact, I just returned from Total Solutions Plus, held near Phoenix earlier in November. This was actually the second annual combined conference of the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA) , the National Tile Contractor's Association (NTCA) , and the Tile Council of North America (TCNA). This creative solution accomplished several things:
1) members saved money and time by attending only one event instead of three,
2) overall attendance of the event was increased and
3) members from different segments of the industry were brought together and this fostered a spirited exchange of ideas and discussions.This last point is very important. Manufacturers, distributors, standards committee members and installers of ceramic tile and stone were in an environment that provided education and allowed for open lines of communication and networking. This proved to be very valuable in terms of unifying and promoting the tile and stone industry.
Trade shows and conferences typically offer a host of seminars and educational presentations in an effort to keep members informed about new developments. Total Solutions Plus organized a number of meetings on industry standards and information on how to ensure quality tile installations. Quality tile installations are a very important goal and concern for the industry. A bad installation is in effect negative advertising and does not promote the use of tile. This is the exact opposite of what all three associations try to accomplish.
CTDA’s education committee met at the conference and has training programs to educate industry members. NTCA had their technical committee meeting at the conference where their focus is on helping the installer avoid installation problems. TCNA had their ANSI and ISO meetings focusing on improving installation standards for the industry. The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) , a division of TCNA, also met to review their Certified Tile Installer program and to review the new UofCTS online tile installer training program to teach installers the thin-set standards. All of the associations are focused on improving the quality of tile installations to ensure the consumer gets all of the product’s benefits that they were promised.
Total Solutions Plus speakers all seemed to have similar messages for the tile industry. Futurist Dr. Jay Lehr, a well known and often interviewed expert, suggested that the tile industry needs to unite in its efforts to promote itself, similar to what the milk and egg industries did years ago. Got Milk! and The Incredible Egg campaigns were a huge success and changed the consumers’ image of those products.
Dr. Lehr challenged the ceramic tile industry to join together to create a statement about the value of ceramic tile. I came up with "Ceramic Tile is a Healthy, Durable, Lasting, Sustainable Investment, and our Art and Legacy for Future Generations." If all the ceramic tile manufacturers, distributors, and installers put that statement on their business cards, invoices, packaging, brochures, data sheets, websites, and showrooms do you think the consumer might get the message? You betcha...
Then there are the networking opportunities at the trade shows and conferences. You only get out of networking what you put into it. If you plan in advance to meet with individuals and groups, take the time to introduce yourself to new members and to catch up with existing members, attend all of the committee meetings and educational sessions so you have a chance to run into others as you learn from the sessions, then you will reap what you sew.
Probably one of the more important opportunities and benefits of attending an industry conference is that you get a chance to think and reflect on your business without the distraction of doing business. This process can be a tremendous opportunity to formulate new ideas, plans and strategies so you can go back to work and make a difference.
Considering the cost of attending industry conferences in terms of travel expenses and lost productivity, and how much in return you can gain if you plan and exert the effort to learn, network and reflect, it is an opportunity you can't afford to miss or waste.
Thank you for reading,
Visit the CTaSC website for more information.
Donato Pompo is founder of two well-known flooring industry companies focused on improving everything about ceramic tile and stone flooring and the businesses that produce and sell them. They are Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants (CTaSC) and the University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (UofCTS).