If you know me, you know that I know a little about conferences. If you don’t know me, just check out my LinkedIn profile and you’ll see that I’ve been involved in some capacity with 16 automotive conferences/events in the past 5 years. Some of them I was super involved in organizing curriculum and marketing the event for the conference itself and some of them I was working for vendors in one capacity or another – sometimes even multiple vendors at a single event. I believe that it is in the best interest of dealers to get the education they desire to take their sales and dealerships to the next level.
Favorites don’t matter to me. Sure, I have the events that I like to go to, as does everyone who has attended conferences. I personally don’t care which conference a dealer wishes to attend. The whole point is for the dealer to attend a conference that offers content that they feel will help them be more successful in our business. That’s why I created a list of every physical automotive event I am aware of and even included a form for people to submit events that I’m not aware of. This is an unbiased list that I hoped dealers would use to identify events that may be convenient for them to attend. Let’s face it. Only 5% of dealers actually attend events. Sometimes that’s due to budget. Sometimes it’s due to a lack of motivation. I thought it would be a valuable resource and have had a lot of positive feedback about it. In fact, I’ve heard feedback from vendors that they also use my list because there are so many events that it’s difficult to keep track of them and make decisions on where to allocate their budgets.
I’ve seen a lot of bickering and in fighting over the years between cliques (for lack of a better word) of people concerning events. I am certainly NOT innocent in this. In the past, I was definitely pretty blunt and not afraid to promote an event I was involved in even if it meant ruffling feathers. I’ve learned my lesson and I do my best to no longer get involved with these politics and stay as under the radar as possible. Hell, I’m not good at being PC anyways so why bother.
The genesis of this blog post is that I just attended an excellent educational event for auto dealers. At this event, I met a person who has only been in the automotive industry for TWO MONTHS. At one point, this person candidly asked me which event(s) they should attend. This person shared that as they connected and interacted with people on social media, they would get messages from people saying they shouldn’t interact with certain people; that they were not good influences; that they were bad people. This person has seen the insane hostile conversations in public between vendors. They have only been in our business for two months and it’s already apparent to this person that there are cliques of people; that they don’t like each other; that they bad talk each other… and it’s really turning this person off.
Everyone wants to talk a good game of education for dealers as a primary goal. If that is true, let’s all focus on providing those opportunities for dealers. I’m not saying that everyone has to like everyone else or that we all need to hold hands and sing “Kumbaya.” All I’m saying is that dealers that are just entering our business are noticing all of this fighting. If newbies know about it, is it not very probable that veterans also do?
When this person finished telling me this, I felt ashamed. I am ashamed that dealers are being put in a position in which they are being pressured to “choose sides” and are being told that if they like X person, then they cannot be “friends” with them. This is unacceptable behavior from an industry full of professional experts who claim to have a goal of educating dealers. It is also detrimental to revenue and attendance at not only their events but all educational events.
Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. Just realize that the opinions expressed in public forums are being noticed and absorbed by dealers and some of them are choosing not to get an education because of unprofessional behavior that they are being exposed to
To anyone holding educational events: Please don’t deprive dealers of an education. If you truly care about helping dealers improve and succeed, please let this be a wake up call.
In the end, the ones who are really losing are the dealers.
[P.S. I am NOT directing this towards anyone specifically. The dealership employee that expressed these sentiments inspired this blog. I don’t harbor any ill will towards any people or their educational events. Sure, I have my personal opinions and I’m not perfect and in no way am I trying to judge anyone. The purpose of this blog was to share this story. I sincerely hope that nobody takes this personally. I can only hope that the people that need to hear this message do so and take a moment to reflect on behavior that may be unbecoming of them as professionals and reflect poorly on them as educators.]
[P.S.S. Not only is it turning dealers off, it’s also causing vendors to second guess whether they want to be associated with an event.]