All Roads Lead To Vegas: AutoCon 2013 Edition

WelcometoFabulousLas_Vegas_Sign_1_editIn my career in the automotive industry, I got involved in conferences fairly early. I’ve attended many conferences in my life as an Internet Director, as a vendor employee working a booth to helping with marketing and organization for the conference itself. I’ve done everything from being wined and dined as a dealership employee to doing the wining and dining for dealership employees to helping to organize the wining and dining for a vendor.

I’ve also learned that car guys/gals must have an affinity for Las Vegas. I keep waiting for someone to create a conference in Jamaica or Hawaii but, sadly, that day hasn’t come yet. For now, we have Vegas. It probably doesn’t hold the same allure for me as it does for others for several reasons: I lived within driving distance of it most of my life and I have been there as a “tourist” many times. I don’t really gamble, either. I once spent 21 days straight in hotels in Las Vegas for conferences.. I think I’m still recovering from that trip.

However, over my professional career, I have come to realize one thing: getting the education is what matters. I come across way too many dealers today that don’t have a clue. Even worse is that they don’t know they don’t have it. I know that, with a little exposure to the right teachers, they will have a “bright light bulb” moment and start to realize that some of the things they don’t think are very important actually are.

I attended AutoCon in 2012 for its premiere. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I can tell you that I wasn’t let down. The organization, facilities, networking opportunities and educational sessions were great. Many of our industry’s brightest minds were there to share a piece of their knowledge with dealers.. and share they did. All I’ve heard was positive feedback since and, for those that know me, I’m pretty forthcoming in my opinions.

I finally solidified my plans to attend this year and I’m very excited. Conferences for the last few years of my life have been more about working and less about learning and networking on a personal level since I was there working for vendors. Now that I can actually take some time for myself to grow on a professional level, learn new things from some very smart people and re-establish connections that I haven’t been able to nurture, I’m super excited. It’s quite liberating to not be limited in possibilities for political reasons.

So, since my profession is one that involves social media and writing, and, since I’ve been quite busy with both, I wanted to share some of the enthusiasm I’m feeling.

AutoCon has assembled quite a large selection of speakers and topics so it’s hard to know where to begin and, since the sessions aren’t scheduled out yet, all I can do is create my “wish list” of speakers/sessions I think (and would recommend) people attend based on my personal knowledge of them and their expertise and/or ability to convey their message to an audience in an efficient (and entertaining) way.

First, and foremost, I hope that Ralph Paglia returns to AutoCon triumphantly and reinvigorated. I know that the dealer communities all respect Ralph and value his knowledge and contributions not only for creating vibrant communities for dealers to interact in over many years but also his commitment to educating them in any way he can.

I’m also looking forward to seeing DealerElite and AutoCon co-founder, Chris Saraceno, share his secrets of the top automotive sales consultants. In addition to his endeavors mentioned previously, being the Vice President of the Kelly Automotive Group certainly makes Chris uniquely qualified to have consolidated these insights from sources at all levels: blogs, forum discussions, conferences, industry experts and, most importantly, the retail world.

Brian Pasch is a mainstay in the dealer educational arena and his contributions to that arena have been admirable. He’s in demand and seems to be at almost every conference in existence! Whether its one that his company, First Class Educators, has organized or one of the many others, I have to say that Brian is consistent in his efforts and prolific in his dedication. Hey, it takes a lot of work to write quality blogs, hold webinars, create white papers and Brian certainly does them all!

I’m looking forward to hearing the VinSolutions guys speak as well. The Energizer Bunny looks at Sean Stapleton and says “Hey man, Slow down! You’re making me look bad!” Yes, Sean is a bundle of energy and a pleasure to be around and hear speak. He always has great topics and information. Make sure to bring a video camera so you can watch it in slow motion afterwards for those of us that operate at normal speed! In addition, the double whammy is on at AutoCon with Dan Moore also being awarded a speaking slot. This man actually once did a complete session in the voice of Eric Cartman from South Park. No joke. I have video. He can also see the future. Serious. He was evangelizing Pandora when people didn’t know what they were and now they’re a keynote speaker at this conference!

JD Rucker is Yoda. ‘Nuff said.

Larry Bruce? Are you kidding me? That’s like watching a fireworks show! There’s a challenge and debate involved here so this will be exciting! The Dynamite Monkey.. Wooooooo

Jason Barrie from Dealertrack is always a great speaker. They don’t let him out of his cage enough. You should take advantage of this opportunity.

I’m intrigued to hear Aaron Schinke from DealerFire’s session on content writing since, hey, that’s what I do! Kind of hard to argue the importance of content writing when you’re a content writer (amongst other things)!

I’ve met Jennifer Boland of Simply The Best BDC and she’s not only a super person but has her finger on the pulse of BDCs. My involvement with DealerKnows Consulting introduced me to her and I’m looking forward to hearing her speak!

I’m very interested in hearing Myril Shaw of CarWoo! speak about the trust relationship between an Internet Department and a consumer. I think it’ll be fascinating to hear what a consumer-facing website thinks is proper etiquette in transactions. I personally know dealers who are very successful on their program and, while I didn’t get a chance to use them while I was an Internet Director, I certainly would have. They seem to be in tune with both consumers and dealers and this session could provide valuable insight that would help an Internet Department sell more cars online.

Grant Cardone?  Grant’s a great guy and an incredibly entertaining motivational speaker. While we haven’t always seen eye to eye in the past, he’s always a pleasure to listen to and he’s definitely someone who will pump you up! His sales training material really helped my automotive sales career explode when I was a young pup in this business. I can attest that his material works from personal experience. Don’t miss his session. You’ll thank me later.

In the attempt at brevity, I certainly can’t mention everyone but I do feel as if I would be doing an injustice by not mentioning Craig Lockerd of AutoMax Training, Ali Amirrezvani and Amir Amirerezvani of DealerOn, Eric Mitlsch of DrivingSales, and AJ LeBlanc of CAR-MERICAL all of which are excellent speakers and very knowledgeable on their respective topics.

In no way am I suggesting that any of the other speakers are not good or not worth seeing. This is only my personal “wish-list” and recommendations for those who are interested. All of the speakers included in AutoCon 2013 are highly qualified experts in their respective fields and whom you go see really depends on what your dealership’s needs are.  Only you can decide which areas you need help with in your store and that, by itself, should guide you to the right sessions.

…to be continued

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