Convention Recap: Beachside NAHAD 2022 Addresses Key Issues, Hose Solutions

MDM's Mike Hockett recounts happenings at NAHAD's 2022 Convention, which spanned May 14-17 in Miami Beach.

I was able to spend May 14-17 in beautiful Miami Beach, Florida, the site of the 2022 NAHAD Annual Convention. Bringing together hundreds of member distributors and suppliers of hose and hose accessories, the event served as a marquee networking, thought leadership and product showcase event for the hosing market.

As I noted in my NAHAD preview blog, this was my first time at the event since 2016, when it was in Colorado Springs. Held at The Fontainebleau luxury hotel and resort, the event’s scenery was gorgeous, as the venue was right alongside the beach’s walkway and had excellent views of the Atlantic Ocean. Knowing it was the site where Frank Sinatra and The Rat Pack frequented in the early 1960s and the filming site of major movies over the years including 1964’s “Goldfinger” and 1983’s “Scarface” added to its glamor.

The Fontainebleau was on par with NAHAD’s recent history of holding its convention at a destination location, which tends to work well with mixing work with play. There were more spouses at this event than any other industry convention I’ve attended. NAHAD planned plenty of downtime during the event’s three days, allowing attendees ample opportunity to explore the resort, hang out by its expansive pool deck or go check out the beach scene.

Before the event started May 14, the association’s most updated documents showed more than 850 pre-registered attendees and 130 exhibitors. On-site registration pushed that to over 900 attendees, which far exceeded the approximately 600 NAHAD had at its 2021 event and put it nearly on-par with the 950 to 1,050 that the association typically attracts; and perhaps the only thing preventing this year’s show from hitting that higher average was a lower turnout from its international members, many of which are still dealing with COVID-19 impacts.

NAHAD was one of the only distributor associations to hold any kind of in-person event in 2021, and its convention last year had to be relocated from San Diego, California, to Scottsdale, Arizona, only a couple of months before it was held. Despite that scramble, just the fact that it had a convention last year kept solid momentum heading into 2022.

I took in a handful of thought leadership sessions at the event, including two led by business motivational speaker and author Meridith Powell. She keynoted NAHAD’s General Session on May 15 and provided nine actionable items to turn uncertainty into competitive advantage, which served as the basis for my May 19 MDM Premium Blog that you should check out if you haven’t yet. Shortly after her keynote, I also attended Powell’s succession planning workshop that provided more thought-provoking points. A lively opening party on the Fontainebleau’s Ocean Lawn closed Day 1.

Day 2 featured Alex Chausovsky’s “Winning the War for Talent” keynote and ensuing panel discussion with leaders of distributors SBP Holdings and Alaska Rubber Group and manufacturer Flexaust. I thought it was great for attendees to hear from their peers about how these companies have dealt with a difficult labor market and attracting/retaining talent — perhaps the biggest challenge facing distributors today.

Business author Alex Banayan led Day 2’s luncheon with his “Exponential Success Through the Third Door” keynote, after which NAHAD presented its annual George W. Carver Outstanding Commitment to Industry Excellence Award posthumously to Dixon Gearhart LeGros of Westflex. Dixon’s son Elliott accepted and spoke on his behalf. NAHAD left the afternoon open for attendees before a happy hour and hospitality parties took over the evening. There were six different parties hosted by manufacturers, and it was great to hop between them.

Day 3 featured another General Session that was keynoted by Vijay Vaitheeswaran, an editor at The Economist, who touched on many factors impacting the current business climate and the likely roadmap to sustainable U.S. economic growth.

At last, NAHAD’s “Showcase of Hose Solutions” expo followed. One stark difference between this convention and all other events I’ve attended was that only four and a half hours were allotted for its expo. Almost every other association convention has at least four expo hours on multiple days, or 6-7 hours if on only one day. Going into NAHAD, I couldn’t help wondering if 4.5 hours was enough — a concern Mullins noted she also voiced to members in the past when planning the event. However, she said members have told her repeatedly that they like the smaller expo window as it encourages attendees to make their rounds in a timely manner and helps ensure that vendors don’t get bored waiting at their booths. It’s a great point. I’ve seen countless booth staffers at other events essentially relegated to staring at their phones at-length during expo sessions during lulls in foot traffic. Four expo hours certainly wouldn’t be enough for events that plan to host a lot more than 100 vendors, but from an outside perspective, it seemed to spark productivity on the floor at NAHAD. The ballroom allocated for the expo was appropriately-sized. Vendors filled it to apparent capacity, which ensured a bustle of foot traffic and a great buzz of conversation.

I had to depart the expo a little early to fly home, which was an ordeal I discussed in Thursday’s blog.

I also found the event’s Whova mobile app to be hugely useful. It’s where I frequently checked the agenda, looked up speaker bios, shared photos and made a few connections. I saw plenty of others using the app to submit questions, plan meet-ups and even find others to share an Uber or Lyft ride with. Any industry event that doesn’t find a way to offer an app is seriously missing out on a great tool for its attendees.

The 2023 NAHAD Convention will also head to a warm destination location: The Atlantis Paradise vacation resort in the Bahamas — which was to be the site of the association’s 2020 convention before it was canceled due to COVID-19. It will happen April 30-May 2 next year.

Speaking of industry events: We at MDM have rescheduled our in-person June Sales Transformation Summit to integrate with our Digital & Analytics Summit Sept. 26-27 near Denver, Colorado. Save the date! Same powerful content and speakers, including Maria Boulden, Dirk Beveridge, Benj Cohen, co-host Mike Marks and many others! Plus we’re expanding the conference with full content tracks on digital and data analytics. As we discuss in this podcast and all our platforms, every distribution company is in some degree of a business model transformation, which requires a hybrid sales model powered by digital and informed by data analytics. That’s our agenda for the September conference. Consider bringing your team to gain a shared vision for your journey. Stay tuned for more soon.

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