Ah, the Young; Are Shows Too Long? T2 Hosts Good One; Merry Christmas

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Ah, the Young; Are Shows Too Long? T2 Hosts Good One; Merry Christmas

There seems to be no question that the NPA Convention & Expo in late October was a grand success. Numbers were up, exhibitors were smiling, and there was an “energy” on the trade show floor.
“This is the best NPA show ever,” commented one wag. “It’s exciting, it’s bubbling; there is business going on.” OK, I felt it too. But why?
I won’t take away from President Christine Banning and her NPA crew.  They did a fantastic job tweaking the event and making adjustments to help both exhibitors and attendees alike. They are to be commended. 
But there was something else. Something I didn’t feel at the NPA in Chicago last year or at the IPI in Dallas in May.
There was excitement. There was vigor. People were engaged.
In addition to Christine’s magic, there were two driving forces at the NPA this year.
First, the parking business – that is, the business of selling “stuff” to parking owners and operators – is booming. When I walked the floor last year and asked how business was going, I got a shrug or a “meh.”  “It’s OK.”  “It’s fine.”  This year, I got: “Super.”  “Fantastic.”  “Best in years.”
The feeling is that parking is back.  We see it in our business. Vendors are investing in their companies because they are selling. That means the folks in the booths at the NPA weren’t just going through the paces. They were excited. They were making deals.
The second reason is demographic. I saw a new generation staffing the exhibits. As I looked at the people in the booth next to us, I noted to a colleague that the women seemed like they were 14 years old. She told them what I said, and they laughed and said they were 24.
The influx of software and web-based companies has brought an influx of youth. I would guess that at least a third and maybe more of the people in the exhibits were under 35. And many under 30.
Youth brings energy, and energy brings excitement, and excitement brings sales.
As I walked around the hall, I saw these young entrepreneurs and their staffs literally bouncing on the balls of their feet.  Their enthusiasm was contagious.   More than once I had to tell someone to “slow down a bit” so I could keep up.
Our industry is giving birth to a new generation, not only on the street, but also in the boardroom. The baton hasn’t been passed; it’s been snatched out of our hands.
I’ll comment later on whether this is a good or a bad thing, but there is no question that it exists. You could feel it at the NPA 2014 show. (Did you know one party started at 11 p.m.?)
I was in Indianapolis last month and dropped by T2 Systems’ “Connect 2014,” its annual four-day extravaganza, and as usual, I was impressed. The company invites its customers to come to the event to receive training and to join in discussions on the specifics of their jobs and how they relate to T2 products. More than 400 attended this year.
I sat in on a few of the sessions and was impressed how open the discussions were.  Some of the attendees told of “work-arounds,” so they could perform needed tasks not included in the T2 software. The T2 crew was in every session and taking notes.
I spoke with Peter Lange, Executive Director for Transportation Services at Texas A&M University. He told me that the attraction of the T2 event is that even though attendees may be at different levels in organizations, or in different types, including universities, municipalities and private operators, they are all connected by a common thread: the T2 Flex software. 
“Sure, we bring up things we do that aren’t included in Flex, but often, a year or so later, we find that they have listened and included the new ideas in their product.”
I stayed only a few hours, but sincere thanks to my hosts Mike Simmons, Blake Laufer, and Irena Goloschokin. They put on a great event, which included about 20 or so sponsor exhibitors.  PIE, the NPA and the IPI better watch out; T2 is coming on strong.
Speaking of trade shows, have you noticed that the last day of the exhibition is really slow? At both the NPA and IPI events, exhibitors were pulling down their booths and packing up a couple of hours before closing on the last day. One time when walking around, I could count on two hands the number of people with “attendee” on their badges.
I know organizers feel that they need to have a certain number of exhibit hours and to do that they need three days. But on the last day, the NPA held training sessions during exhibit hours. Not really a good idea.
Don’t get me wrong: The exhibit hall at the NPA show in Las Vegas was literally booming the first two days, and exhibitors were happy. Maybe it’s time to cut down on the exhibit hours or at least rethink that last day. I know I was ready to go home, and I’m sure many, if not most, of the exhibitors were too.
As I write this at the beginning of November, it’s hard to remember that you will be reading it after Thanksgiving and just before Christmas. I know retailers start the Christmas season early. I saw Christmas decorations at Costco in August.
But I just read Melissa’s “Amateur Parker” column for this month, complaining of Christmas burnout left over from last year, and I know what she means.
As Melissa points out, we bring this on ourselves. No one requires us to become obsessed with holiday parties, presents, cards and the like. We seem to just get that “deer in the headlights” look and say, “Bring it on.”
I will direct you to my Parking Today Blog on Dec. 25 for my Christmas message, which I will write on Christmas Eve. There’s no way I can think about Christmas and its magic sitting in a hotel room in Atlanta on Nov. 5.
But I will say this – Merry Christmas to all our friends and business associates, whether they be Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist. Whether you “believe” in the religion that gives the holiday its name, please receive our goodwill and good wishes for a most merry, happy and holy holiday season.

 

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JVH
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