We just finished a busy Spring travel season for industry events, and it was a welcome return to in-person association conventions, expos and summits for the wholesale distribution sector. Nearly all in-person industry events were wiped out in 2020 due to COVID-19, and only a handful of events were held in 2021.
One such event was by NAHAD — the Association for Hose and Accessories Distribution — which gave the group a leg up when planning its 2022 event that was held May 14-17 in Miami Beach, Florida. The beachside event had a great turnout, as its nearly 900 attendees put it just shy of the event’s pre-COVID averages.
While at NAHAD 2022, I was able to have a one-on-one interview with the association’s executive vice president, Molly Mullins, which we turned into our latest MDM Podcast. Mullins oversaw the relocation of NAHAD’s 2021 Convention from San Diego, California, to Scottsdale, Arizona, just two months prior to the event. But even though the 2021 event was a scramble, Mullins acknowledged the momentum benefits it gave the association and ensuring this year’s convention would feel essentially back to “normal”.
“Holding last year’s event is one of the proudest elements of my career, to be honest,” Mullins told me at The Fontainbleau Luxury Hotel and Resort. “It was a hard decision to make. We kept listening to our members. They wanted to get together and we wanted to make it happen. All our board leadership was super proud that we pulled it off. It set the tone for this year’s event. They (members) knew how to get together, they felt safe in the process. They knew how to travel. They were in their businesses every day.”
Prior to NAHAD 2022, I had attended three other industry events between April-May, and for each, it was the first in-person event since 2019. Each was a considerably scaled-down version compared to their pre-COVID typical events, whereas NAHAD felt fully back in action.
Mullins said that NAHAD 2022 was only missing some of its international members who were still dealing with COVID-related travel restrictions, and she expects next year’s convention — to be held April 30-May 2 at the Atlantis Paradise vacation resort in the Bahamas — to be in full force for attendance.
NAHAD has a history of picking destination locations for its conventions, which ensure a great mix of work and play. This year’s event included plenty of downtime each day for attendees to explore the resort, and I’ve never seen as many spouses attend an industry event. Mullins said making sure attendees have plenty of time to relax is an important aspect that goes into the event planning.
“Work hard, play hard is a big mantra, we believe in very strongly,” she told me. “We try very hard to listen to what the members are asking us for. And NAHAD has had a history where you did educational sessions all day, and then what you see is people skipping them and missing out because they’re trying to hold independent meetings. So why do that to them? Why make them feel guilty that they’re doing business when that’s what they’re here for?”
A wonderful party to end a unforgettable Convention. NAHAD is grateful to our members for joining us in Miami Beach.
— NAHAD (@NAHADHose) May 17, 2022
Responding to that, NAHAD’s 2022 program included 47 confirmed company meeting time slots where distributors and suppliers could meet with customers in a private room and give presentations. “And that’s how they’re going to close more sales,” Mullins noted. Alongside those meeting opportunities, NAHAD packed in plenty of great educational sessions, keynotes and hospitality events where attendees could mingle with a beverage.
NAHAD goes to beautiful places, and I want them to be able to enjoy that,” Mullins told me. “Whenever you’re on the road,, there’s nothing worse than sitting in a windowless room for eight hours when there’s a beautiful ocean outside. I want to give you that afternoon off to go sit at the pool and soak it in.”
Besides chatting about the event and everything that went into it, Mullins and I discussed why NAHAD members like being a part of the association, as well as how distributor and supplier members are doing with communicating all the industry-wide price increases. NAHAD’s sessions lineup had a strong emphasis on labor issues, so we also dove into the nuances involved there.
Check out the podcast above to listen to our full 20-minute conversation.