Conferences and Events

Manheim Darlington recognizes 75-year history

ATLANTA - 

In celebration of its inception 75 years ago, Manheim Darlington most recently commemorated it's over seven-decade history by hosting a May Diamond Jubilee Sale that followed four other special sales.

Founded originally as Clanton’s Auto Auction back in 1943, Manheim Darlington has grown from a single-lane operation to an auction with a total of 12 lanes and digital channels that can turn up to 1,200 vehicles per week.

“Our seven decades of success would not be possible without our team members, loyal clients and community support,” Manheim Darlington general manager Danny Brawn said in a news release. “This historical milestone allows us to reflect on how it all started, as well as consider the exciting possibilities ahead."

As part of the auction's month-long festivities, a Polaris all-terrain vehicle that sold for $9,300 was auctioned off to benefit the American Red Cross, and Gary’s Auto Sales obtained a restored 1975 Chevrolet C-10 pickup truck during an appreciation event for dealers.

“Equally as important as the way we serve clients and the industry is Manheim Darlington’s commitment to our community and charitable organizations,” added Brawn. “Our operation has supported the American Cancer Society, Relay for Life, the Darlington County Schools and Darlington County Fire and Safety.” 

Additionally, NextGear Capital offered its dealer clients special promotional credit terms of 75 days for $75, according to the auction.

Last year, Manheim Darlington said that it completed a 768-panel, roof-top solar installation project at its main auction building and retail solutions facility that spans 48,000 square-feet.

The solar array powers almost 30 percent of Manheim Darlington’s energy needs, according to the auction. Meanwhile, the auction's large retail solutions facility contains 32 vehicle-lifts, as well as two four-car paint booths.

Florida Congresswoman to appear at NIADA Convention and Expo

ARLINGTON, Texas - 

A trailblazing federal lawmaker who took a stand against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is set to address the independent dealership community.

Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) will be the featured speaker for the Welcome Luncheon at the 2018 National Independent Automobile Dealers Association Convention and Expo, coming up June 18-21 in Orlando, Fla.

Murphy, who in 2016 became the first Vietnamese-American woman elected to Congress, represents Florida’s seventh district, which includes downtown Orlando.

In only her first term, NIADA highlighted she has already built a strong record of supporting small business.

The former businesswoman serves on the House Small Business Committee — she is the ranking Democrat of the Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce — and has been the lead Democratic co-sponsor on several bipartisan bills aimed at promoting the interests of small businesses.

Murphy was one of 11 Democrats who in May voted in favor of repealing the CFPB’s controversial 2013 indirect auto lending guidance.

She is also a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of House Democrats who according to their mission statement are “dedicated to pursuing fiscally responsible policies, ensuring a strong national defense for our country and transcending party lines to get things done for the American people.” She is co-chair of that caucus’ Fiscal Responsibility Task Force.

Murphy says she is “working to reduce the regulatory burdens on small businesses, increase their access to capital and help strengthen our region’s economy by creating more well-paying jobs.”

The 72nd annual NIADA Convention and Expo is expected to be the largest event in the used car industry thanks to NIADA’s recent acquisition of the National Alliance of Buy-Here, Pay-Here Dealers.

The combined NIADA/NABD Mega-Conference will include a record 60 education sessions in five educational tracks — retail, BHPH, legal and regulatory, certified pre-owned and digital marketing — and the largest Expo Hall in the event’s history with more than 210 exhibitors offering the latest state-of-the-art products and services designed to help dealers compete and succeed in today's ultra-competitive used vehicle market.

More details can be found through this website.

IARA summer roundtable to convene in Florida

ALCOA, Tenn. - 

With the event three months out, planning is in the works for the International Automotive Remarketers Alliance Summer Roundtable at the J.W. Marriott in Marco Island, Fla.

This year's roundtable is set to run from Aug. 21 to Aug. 23. Registration for the event will open on Tuesday, and early registration fees will be available until July 23, IARA announced Monday.

Additionally, there are also sponsorship related opportunities still available for companies to take advantage of.

Spots are open for this year’s Tabletop Expo, as well as in this year’s program guide, according to IARA.

“The IARA encourages any company interested in getting its name exposed to IARA's consignors to participate before all sponsorship opportunities are gone,” the company said in a news release.

The summer roundtable’s full agenda, in conjunction with the keynote speaker, will be available at a later date.

Click here for more information about the upcoming event.

GM Financial set to blast off with annual Elite Sales

FORT WORTH, Texas - 

General Motors Financial is gearing up for one of its largest annual wholesale events of the year that the consignor is hoping vehicle buyers see as being “out of this world.”

GM Financial is hosting its fifth annual elite sales series, which gives dealers exclusive access to thousands of some of the best pre-owned GM vehicles at auctions across the U.S. At a series of one-day sales, dealers have access to hundreds of NAAA-certified Gold and Silver vehicles.

This year’s sales series highlights the lineup of premium inventory for participating dealers with the theme “Elite Liftoff,” a tribute to space exploration. Elite sales also include promotional features, including a video advertisement.

“With more off-lease inventory available across the country than ever before, this year’s focus is on ensuring elite sale vehicles are front-line ready,” said Dan Heinrich, senior vice president of remarketing solutions at GM Financial.

“Our elite sales are designed to offer dealers access to high-quality, pre-owned GM inventory that, ultimately, increases profitability for their dealerships,” Heinrich continued.

Each sale will feature a majority of NAAA-certified Gold and Silver vehicles to make it as convenient as possible for dealers to pick up the quality inventory they’ve come to expect from these sales.

Last year’s sale series attracted more than 100 new buyers to GM Financial lanes, helping the company sell 95 percent of the vehicles offered.

Along with high-quality inventory, dealers can expect high-quality service from auction sites. Four of the eight auction hosts are among GM Financial’s 2017 Auction of the Year award-winning locations.

The 2018 elite sales series begins at ADESA Dallas on Thursday and continues throughout the summer and fall with sales at the following auction locations:

— America’s AA of Saint Louis on May 10

— Manheim Milwaukee on June 12

— Manheim Denver on July 31

— ADESA Minneapolis on Aug. 14

— ADESA Kansas City on Aug. 28

— Manheim Nashville on Sept. 12

— Manheim Orlando on Oct. 16

“We rely on our auction partners to support GM Financial’s objectives, efficiently manage the increasing volume of vehicles, exceed operational expectations and provide an exceptional buyer experience,” Heinrich said.

“These auctions are committed to providing best-in-class service and ensuring quality inventory is readily available,” he went on to say.

Innovators in AI and more set to gather for FICO World 2018

SAN JOSE, Calif. - 

Some of the world’s leading experts in artificial intelligence (AI), applied analytics and decision management will gather in Miami Beach, Fla., later this month for FICO World 2018.

Silicon Valley analytic software firm FICO highlighted that Sebastian Thrun, chief executive officer of Kitty Hawk Corp., and co-founder and president of Udacity, as well as chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, will be the keynote speakers at FICO World 2018, which begins on April 16.

With the theme of “Analytics for the Customer-Obsessed Business,” FICO World will focus on how organizations can advance their business and improve the customer experience using analytics. As the use of AI and machine learning expands in organizations, FICO World attendees will learn how to best leverage analytics and decision management technology to solve business issues.

Thrun and Kasparov are two of the foremost innovators in their fields. Thrun is the CEO of Kitty Hawk, a personal airborne vehicle company, and co-founder and president of Udacity, an online private educational organization. He was a Google Fellow and vice president, and a research professor at Stanford University. Thrun works on revolutionizing transportation, education, and mobile devices. At Google, he founded Google X, and led the development of the Google self-driving car.

Kasparov is a pioneering figure in computer chess, most famous for his two matches against the IBM super-computer Deep Blue in 1996 and 1997. Kasparov has researched and collaborated with many high-tech luminaries and companies on human-machine cooperation, the economic consequences of tech stagnation, and the future of intelligent machines.

In addition to keynotes from Thrun and Kasparov, FICO World will offer more than 75 presentations across 12 tracks from thought leaders in a variety of industries, including speakers from Southwest Airlines, Citi, Mastercard, UBS, Sprint, and SunTrust. 

The event will focus on topics such as AI, cybersecurity, risk management, customer engagement and innovative applications of decision management.

“FICO World 2018 promises to unlock the value of advanced analytics, human creativity, and industry best practices.  Three decades of artificial intelligence advancements will take the stage for the benefit of our clients worldwide,” said Wayne Huyard, executive vice president for sales and marketing at FICO.

“It will be an event rich in analytic-actioned experiences, solutions and vision,” Huyard continued. “All can benefit and every business worldwide is invited to attend.”

As one of the foremost international conference on applications of predictive analytics and decision management technology, FICO World 2018 is sponsored by leading organizations in the field. Amazon Web Services (AWS) will be joining as a Platinum sponsor. Credit reporting agency Equifax and TSYS, a leading global payments provider, are Silver sponsors.

FIS, a global provider dedicated to financial technology solutions, is also a sponsor.

The full conference agenda can be found here.

On April 16, prior to the official kick-off of FICO World, FICO is offering a one-day intensive hands-on training on the basics of analytically driven credit decisions.  Attendees will be able to participate in various sessions presented by FICO experts, including consultants from Fair Isaac Advisors, FICO’s consultancy group.

FICO will provide a comprehensive introduction on the FICO Score.  Sessions will also address origination fundamentals, customer management, and collections and recovery.

Attendees will leave Credit Bootcamp with best practices on how to incorporate analytics into operations and what decisions need to be made across the credit risk lifecycle.

There is limited space available. Attendees can register for credit boot camp here.

NADA, AIADA welcome incoming chairman for 2018 in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS - 

Both the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) and the American International Automobile Dealers Association (AIADA) welcomed their respective new chairman for 2018 this past weekend.  

The new NADA chairman and president of Extreme Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep-Ram in Jackson, Mich., Wes Lutz, outlined his goals and focus areas for the coming year at NADA 2018; while AIADA named its 2018 chairman — Salt Lake City, Utah, dealer Brad Strong — at its 48th Annual Meeting and Luncheon. 

NADA Chairman outlines goals

Lutz, during his first official speech at 2018 NADA chairman, focused on how technology is changing the industry — for the better — as well as his priorities for the coming year.

“It’s true, technology makes sharing a car more convenient than ever. But, what the naysayers forget, is that technology also makes owning a car better than it used to be,” said Lutz, who has been a dealer since 1976. “Auto dealers are going to sell the vast majority of electric cars sold … The automobile is the most exciting platform for innovation in the next 100 years.”

Lutz explained he plans to advocate for new-car dealer concerns within the industry, as well as in the legislative and regulatory sectors. Lutz said he will also encourage dealers to continue adapting to future retailing challenges.

“Just because a new system pops up, doesn’t mean the ‘old one’ is dead. Just because technology changes, it doesn’t mean that a car’s usefulness is gone. At almost every turn, dealers have faced challenges—some major ones. But our troubles didn’t define us. How we responded to them did.”

Earlier this year, he discussed with Auto Remarketing this very topic of change. Ridesharing, in particular, was one shift he addressed. 

“I think a variety of options are going to coexist. The future, in my opinion, is going to be a combination of vehicle ownership and ride sharing,” he said. “It’s not going to be one or the other.”

Lutz explained at the NADA conference that auto dealers “have a role to play in the future of the industry,” in terms of investing in both new franachises and facilities, as well as new technologies.

As for NADA’s role, Lutz said,  “NADA will continue to fight for you in our nation’s Capital —in the face of regulatory and legislative burdens. We will continue to reach out to manufacturers and build strong relationships moving ahead.”

Lutz served on NADA’s board of directors until 2004, and then returned in 2017 as chairman of the association’s regulatory affairs committee. He also served as president of the Michigan Automobile Dealers Association in 2012. Most recently, Lutz served as NADA vice chairman under outgoing chairman Mark Scarpelli. 

New AIADA chairman focuses on threat of ‘trade wars’

AIADA’s new chairman is the co-dealer principal of Strong Volkswagen, Audi Salt Lake City and Porsche Salt Lake City.

Strong, a third-generation dealer, runs the stores with his brother, Blake — two of which have been in operation since the 1940s. The pair opened their new downtown VW store last year.

At the AIADA event, Strong focused on the role dealers play in the U.S. economy, as well as what they need to do to “defend their businesses” — with a particular focus on trade wars in light of recent news stemming from the Trump Administration.

"We need to work with AIADA to hold congressional visits at our dealerships where we can share our investment numbers and our employment stats,” said Strong. “That's the best shot we have at convincing lawmakers that trade wars aren't abstract fights between nations and political parties. Trade wars have real consequences, and unfortunately for us, they can have real casualties.”

In fact, Strong, who has served on AIADA's Board of Directors since 2009, focused on the threat of new trade and tariff policies and what this means to international nameplate dealers in a recent column that ran on Auto Remarketing

"Washington has no sense of how price sensitive this industry is, and just how easily their tax and tariff schemes could send annual auto sales into a tailspin, costing thousands of jobs," Strong said.

 

 

NADA chair Lutz talks opportunities, challenges in used-car market

CARY, N.C. - 

Millions of vehicles are flowing out of leases into the used-car marketplace, and many will land on dealer lots.

Challenging? Yes.

But a blessing, too? Perhaps a huge one, if managed right.

“The return of a record number of off-lease vehicles will be one of the biggest challenges dealers will face, but it’s also one of the biggest opportunities,” said Wes Lutz, the 2018 chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association, in an emailed Q&A.

“Obviously, the number of lease returns will put a lot of pressure on new-car sales, and used-car sales will likely increase because of the influx of late-model, lower-priced trade-ins returning to the market,” Lutz said.

“But there’s also a great opportunity because we are a little over capacity on the new side right now. The key for dealers will be properly managing their inventory.”

And inventory, it will be plentiful.

Cox Automotive is anticipating 3.89 million off-lease units in 2018, which would be up from 3.59 million in 2017. While that’s more than an 8-percent hike, the growth in off-lease volume is slowing down a bit.

Off-lease volume in 2017 was up more than 16 percent, following a more than 22-percent gain in 2016, according to data in a Cox Automotive presentation. Still, 2018 is expected to be a record year for lease returns, according to Edmunds.

It could also be another record year for certified pre-owned sales, helped in good part by that off-lease volume, which tends to be the bread-and-butter of CPO inventory.

In January, Cox Automotive economists said they were expecting approximately 2.7 million CPO sales in 2018, and if that comes to fruition, it will be the eighth straight year of record CPO sales. According to Autodata Corp., there was an estimated 2,645,718 CPO vehicles sold in 2017, compared to 2,642,986 sold in 2016.

That’s a gain of just 0.1 percent, but it was enough to bump certified sales to their best year on record.

“One of the biggest industry trends right now is lease returns, which will likely result in the eighth consecutive year of sales increases (for CPO). CPO sales are driven by the influx of late-model used cars coming off lease,” Lutz said. “I’m confident that we’re going to have another strong year for used-car sales.”

Lutz is the president of Extreme Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep, RAM in Jackson, Mich. Asked how top dealerships, including his, have handled increases in off-lease volume, Lutz points to CPO.

“The rise in off-lease volume and subsequent CPO sales is an opportunity for both dealers and car shoppers,” Lutz said. “There’s a substantial price difference between a new vehicle and an off-lease vehicle.

“The manufacturer-backed CPO programs offered at new-car dealerships provide consumers with numerous options for an affordable, late-model and low-mileage vehicle under factory warranty along with competitive financing rates and other perks,” he said.

Of course, lease returns aren’t the only used-car challenges faced by franchised dealers, just as CPO vehicles aren’t the only used cars they sell.

Another issue in recent years has been the margin pressure on used cars.

Asked if margin pressure was still an issue on the pre-owned side, Lutz said: “There’s margin pressure on generic late-model used vehicles. By that I mean, a rental fleet that orders the exact same model and brings them to the market at the same time will exert a lot of pressure.

“There’s not so much pressure on unique models or personally pre-owned vehicles returning to the used-vehicle market. For example, there would be a lot pressure on retail pricing if 100,000 minivans — all equipped the same — went to auction and resulted in everyone having the same product on their used-car lots,” he said.

“But if there’s a 100,000 lease returns that are a different mix of vehicles, then you wouldn’t have the pressure on those margins as much.”

Like his dealer peers, Lutz embraces, adapts to tech-focused change

CARY, N.C. - 

Wes Lutz lives in what he considers to be a “relatively rural area.”

So the president of Extreme Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep, RAM in Jackson, Mich., owns a car that gets him where he needs to go. But when Lutz drives that car to another home he has in downtown Chicago, he keeps it parked and takes an Uber around the Windy City.

“Ridesharing isn’t replacing my personal vehicle. It can’t! But it’s adding to my options. So I don’t look at it as an either-or proposition, and I don’t think my customers do either,” Lutz said in an emailed Q&A with Auto Remarketing.

“I think a variety of options are going to coexist. The future, in my opinion, is going to be a combination of vehicle ownership and ride sharing,” he said. “It’s not going to be one or the other.”

Lutz, who is the 2018 chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association, said this story is emblematic of how consumers typically approach vehicle ownership these days. 

And that’s something he chats with them about when they visit his dealership some 30 miles from Ann Arbor, Mich. 

They’re not trying to get rid of their cars — but there are other vehicle access options when they need them.

“The consumer is ultimately going to decide what the future looks like, but right now I don’t see any indication that consumers are looking to change the current ownership model,” Lutz said. “And I ask customers that question all the time when they’re here.

“My interaction with our customers tells me over and over that they’re just not ready to share their vehicle, and they’re definitely not ready to give up their personal vehicle. Will that change? I think things are going to keep evolving, and that evolution will lead to greater and greater options,” he continued.

“Uber and Lyft are penetrating more and more rural areas. That’s allowing options where they didn’t exist previously. But that doesn’t mean it’s always going to be more convenient to use a ridesharing service even when it’s available and affordable.”

Dealers ready for change, prioritize consumer advocacy

The ridesharing usage Lutz talks about is just one component to an automotive landscape that is being changed by technologies in purchase, ownership and usage methods (digital retail, ridesharing, car sharing, subscription services) as well as tech within the vehicles themselves (autonomous vehicles, electrification).

And, of course, there is overlap.

One area on which NADA has its eye is how the government and auto industry reacts to some of these developments in mobility.

“The ways in which the government attempts to regulate the development of autonomous vehicles, promote ridesharing services and push electrification into the market are going to be huge,” Lutz said. “And that’s because, in my view, neither the industry nor the government has a good pulse of the consumer on this. I think they’re misreading the public’s willingness to give up their vehicle, give up control of their vehicle and give up really efficient and affordable internal combustion engines.”

But he emphasizes that dealers are not resisting this technological change, calling it a “wonderful and incredibly important” development. 

“But I think we’re going to be a really important advocate for the consumer as these things unfold, because we’re already seeing a tendency for the government and the industry to get way out ahead of what the average consumer wants in terms of autonomy, ridesharing and electrification,” Lutz said.

“Our job at the end of the day is to serve our customers and provide them with mobility no matter how they want it, where they want it or what it looks like. We’re really agnostic as to what that product is,” he said.

“But I’ve got to tell you, the balance between what the government wants consumers to have and what consumers actually tell us they want is getting out of whack, and it’s only going to get worse. So I think we’re going to be a critical advocate for the consumer, even more so than we are now, going forward.”

‘Long way off’

Another wrinkle in the mobility scenario is that that the true impact from such trends as greater electrification, autonomous vehicles and ridesharing on dealership sales and operations could be further down the road, Lutz said.

Though he certainly is watching them.

And preparing.

“Now, I think we’re a long way off from having these things in the marketplace in significant numbers,” he said. “But at the federal level, we’re passing laws and writing regulations now that will set the table for the deployment of these types of vehicles in the future, so dealers and NADA need to be engaged on these issues, and we certainly are.

“I’m excited about being one of the dealers who gets to figure out how this is all going to play out.”

His take on digital retail

One area of the auto tech revolution that is already playing out — and has been, for some time — is digital retail and ecommerce in automotive.

Like the approach to increased mobility options, Lutz welcomes the opportunity.

And similarly, he and other dealers have prepared and adapted to the changes brought to the retail environment from ecommerce/digital retail platforms.

“I think these all of these platforms provide great opportunities for dealers to do what they do best, which is develop strong relationships with their customers,” Lutz said.

“The reason dealers are embracing digital retail is because they recognize that the Internet is simply a medium for dealers to build and maintain better and stronger relationships with their customers by communicating with them on a platform they might be more comfortable using,” he said.

“My dealership has always been very progressive digitally,” Lutz said. “In the late 90s and early 2000s, we were told to prepare for the demise of the franchise system because the Internet was going to put dealers out of business. Instead, we sat down and sifted through all that information and, at the end of the day, we harnessed the power of the Internet to be productive for us,” he said.

“We didn’t fight it. We said: ‘Look, there’s some great things here that can help us serve our customers better.’ And I think we got better at serving our customers because of that technology. I think we have a similar opportunity today. We just have to figure out how that’s going to happen.”

In a way, that has begun to take shape.

Various third-party providers offer digital retail solutions that help facilitate sales online or provide ways the consumer can transact with the dealer online. 

Some online retail platforms have brought dealerships into the fold.

Many dealers, as the world around them changes, have taken proactive measures to make the most of these online retail opportunities.

Adapting to change, particularly the tech variety, are perhaps what dealers like Lutz do best.

NADA chairman’s thoughts on political, legislative climate and state of Big 3

CARY, N.C. - 

Auto Remarketing’s Q&A with 2018 NADA chairman Wes Lutz — president of Extreme Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep, RAM in Jackson, Mich. — also covered his thoughts on the current climate and happenings in Washington, D.C., as well as Detroit.

His responses to questions on the political/legislative environment and automakers, respectively, are below.

Auto Remarketing: Is the political/legislative climate for franchised dealers better or worse than it was a year ago? Why?

Wes Lutz: I think it’s better than it was under the previous administration, and that’s because, perhaps more than anything else, there is again a genuine desire among policymakers to seek input from a range of stakeholders, including the private sector, about the impact proposed actions will have on all parties before those actions are implemented. That’s the biggest difference in approach we’ve seen over the past year, and it’s been refreshing.

But it’s also not new. Federal agencies have always been required by law to solicit input before pushing through new rules and regulations. That’s how our system of government is supposed to work. We just saw that system break down under the previous administration.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was perhaps the best, although not the only, example of this. Another example was the Obama Administration trying to lock in fuel economy rules for model years 2022-2025 before all the new data was analyzed. We’re now back to a data-driven review, which is what everyone agreed to years ago.

Overall, I’d say the Trump Administration has brought us back to normal, which we view as a positive, because we believe a truly informed, data-driven process for developing public policy has the best chance of producing the most effective and fairest set of rules for everybody.

AR: As a longtime Chrysler dealer in Michigan, I imagine you have a unique vantage point into the world of the automakers, particularly the Big 3. What are automakers doing now strategically that impresses you, and what in your opinion, needs some fine-tuning? 

WL: One of the big things they’ve done over the last 10 years is develop an incredible range of SUVs. That’s what the consumer wants, and they’ve done a great job of developing all kinds of SUVs to meet all kinds of needs, desires and budgets.

And they’ve done it while at the same time continuing to increase gas mileage of every vehicle. Those are things that I think they’ve done very well, especially the Big 3.

I also like the enhanced safety features that every manufacturer continues to roll out. Everybody likes to be helped when they’re driving. Blind-spot monitoring and lane departure warning systems have been very well-received. Parking assistance is another feature that people very quickly embrace.

My customers rave about adaptive cruise control. These are the types of autonomous enhancements that customers love. Across the board, I think automakers are building probably the best product that the industry has ever built right now.

COMMENTARY: 8 tips to run on all 8 cylinders at auto conventions

CARY, N.C. - 

In Hollywood, it is awards season (at the time I’m writing this in February) and on the basketball hardwood, it’s tournament time (by the time you’re reading this in March).

In the auto industry, it’s convention/conference season.

Not only have the auto shows been in full swing, but perhaps the largest auto industry event of the year is also upon us: NADA Show 2018 in Las Vegas.

And for those of you who are loyal readers of this magazine, your travels may soon take you north, as well.

Just after NADA’s annual convention is our Auto Remarketing Canada Conference (March 27-28) and Women & Automotive: Canadian Leadership Forum (March 29), both of which are being held at the Westin Harbour Castle in Toronto.

So for many of you, it might mean a lot of travel.

Well, I say bring it on — I’ve got a packing list for you.

1. Business cards
One of the most valuable pieces to NADA, AR Canada, Women & Automotive and conferences of all kinds is to put names to faces, make new contacts and friends and build relationships. While a handshake and happy hour are good places to start, having that business card to take home is a physical reminder to follow up and take the next step in building a business relationship. 

2. The apps
Speaking of business cards, my cohort Nick Zulovich introduced me to Cam Card, an app that digitally uploads those business cards you pick up at conference networking. Before leaving for a trip, it’s always handy to upload those kinds of apps, including the official conference ones. I’ve also discovered there are on-demand apps for dry cleaning.

Haven’t tried them yet, but it could be useful when sporting fancy clothes for an extended period of time.

Also, it’s worthwhile to download apps that serve as a local guide to the city in which the conference is being held — Foursquare, for example.

3. Handkerchief or stain wipes
As far as cleaning clothes, if you’re anything like me (I spilled coffee on my slacks in the NADA press room a few years ago), grab some of these.

When on-the-go with no time to change, a handy handkerchief or a stain removal wipe from a certain consumer products brand (“A little bit louder now”) is a must.

Just avoid being like me — and keep the poutine gravy off your attire when you make your way to Toronto.

4. Pack just enough; keep it light
If you can manage to keep hot beverages and tasty sauces off your clothes, one rule of thumb I learned from our publisher-emeritus is this: Travel with items you can mix-and-match.

The “Ron Smith School of Traveling” is based on packing efficiently.  

For a fella like me, that might mean a dark suit jacket I can wear with dark or light pants.

5. Comfy kicks, nice jeans
Another good rule on the versatility tip is to pack some nicer jeans and casual and comfortable shoes. That dinner with co-workers and business colleagues after the conference closes down for the day. 

My MO is to swap out the slacks for jeans and comfy loafers, along with a blue blazer and button-up, which are two other musts of mine.

6. An appetite
And not just for the local cuisine. Workshops and general sessions are prime opportunities to soak up information, but so are side conversations and, in the case of us media folk, interviews and press conferences.

These events can be information overload, so a digital recorder (or the app on the smartphone) and a pen and notebook are key. Then after the conference, go back and digest the info.

7. Neck pillow
Best $22 I have ever over-spent in an airport. If you’re not in first/business class, and you don’t get a window seat, these are mandatory in my book. Catch a few ZZZ’s on your connecting flight while keeping the neck from straining.

It may even prevent snoring if you don’t tilt your head all the way back. But you would have to ask my airline seatmates about that.

8. Vitamin C ya later sniffles
If you’re reading this with some leg time before you hop on a plane, take some vitamin C. Like now. 

Remember I mentioned handshakes earlier? Yeah, there are a lot of them at conferences. And all that crowded space and air on a plane. Build up that immune and cold-fighting army in your system. One easy method is to hit your local grocery store or Target and grab some juice with high vitamin C percentages.

Well, you best get to packing. Happy travels!

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