A Record-Breaking Event


A Record-Breaking Event

 PIE 2015 is history. The first major parking event of the year broke all records for attendance and exhibit space. More than 1,120 parking pros attended the four-day event and 100-plus exhibitors plied their wares in the exhibit hall.  
“Awesome” was a comment heard over and over from those who braved 32-degree weather in suburban Chicago the last days of March.
Sunday, Day One, brought parking “boot camp.” “I don’t know why you call it ‘boot camp,’” said one attendee. “I’ve been in the business nearly 30 years, and I’m taking away a lot of good information I didn’t know.”
The first session was a traditional boot camp, which not only covered parking information, but also spent considerable time team-building and bringing an understanding of parking operations that was previously unheard of.  The afternoon session brought technology, with cutting-edge discussions stripping away much of the confusion that new products bring to the industry.
Quiet piano music filled the background Sunday evening as more than 250 exhibitors and speakers flocked to the Parking Today-sponsored reception, where they had the opportunity to talk in an unstructured and relaxed atmosphere.
Monday, Day 2, brought warmer weather and the beginning of the seminars. One attendee said that he had come to PIE 2015 for “super seminars” covering everything from auditing and on-street enforcement, to EMV “chip card” technology. One of the featured sessions was a meeting of former 3M customers who were able to compare notes and discuss options after the closing of the industrial giant’s parking division late last year.
The exhibit hall opened with the raising of the parking gates as attendees flocked to see the new, and not-so-new, parking products and services.  Exhibitors seemed uniformly impressed with the quality and quantity of the attendees. 
A change in PIE’s policy this year, which required that all attendees, including those just visiting the exhibit hall floor, pay a fee, not only did not reduce attendance, but ensured that those signing up actually came.
PIE is known for its networking events, and “speed networking” was no exception. More than 100 attendees faced-off across a table Monday afternoon to quickly exchange contact information and begin discussion on needs and solutions. These were followed up Tuesday on the exhibit hall floor.
Networking continued in force Monday evening at the “Casino Night” party, with Las Vegas-style “gambling” filling the hall and hundreds of attendees enjoying themselves. “It was the best networking event ‘evah,’” noted one exhibitor.  
“We could talk, have some fun, and there wasn’t music blasting everywhere that you had to scream over. PIE folks know how to put on an event.”
Tuesday brought temperatures in the 60s, and more seminars and exhibits. With the exception of a slight hiccup in the food-serving line, the seminars and exhibits flowed smoothly. “I really appreciate the fact that PIE doesn’t have seminars at the same time as the exhibits,” noted one exhibitor. “It means we have unfettered access to attendees. It’s good for us and for them.”
Wednesday rounded out PIE 2015 with a dozen seminars focused on technology. “Wow,” said one industry veteran, “there were hundreds of people still here. At most shows, the last day it’s a ghost town.” 
PIE 2015 was organized by Eric Abel, supported by Marcy Sparrow, Kelley Havener, Joyce Newman, Astrid Ambroziak, Sandra Smith and Francine Van Horn. The Parking Today staff took a week off from magazine publishing to support this year’s Parking Industry Exhibition.
“I am extremely proud of my team,” said John Van Horn, PT Publisher and Editor. “As usual, they rose to the occasion and put on a grand event.”
PIE 2016 will travel to Las Vegas next year and be held at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino (formerly the LVH, Las Vegas Hotel & Casino). The Westgate is the rebranded property next to the city’s Convention Center.  The dates of the event are Feb. 28-March 2, 2016. PIE selected Las Vegas as its next venue to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Parking Today. The Parking Industry Exhibition will return to suburban Chicago in 2017.
Article contributed by the Parking PT team.
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