Tuesday, August 28, 2007

GATS Getting Better All The Time

The Great American Truck Show (GATS) took place in Dallas last week. Not much changes with truck shows from year to year. The basic template of vendor booths, show trucks, expensive food and second tier music acts stays pretty much the same. This year the tone at GATS seemed a bit more subdued perhaps owing to fewer exhibitors and smaller show attendance. And yet by all accounts this show gets better every year. What makes that so?

Start off with the promoters. I know the Randall Reilly Group (of Overdrive Magazine fame) has more money than all other trucking vendors combined, but at the core they remain very decent and smart business people. I ran into one of their top executives, Jeff Mason, prior to the show on Saturday morning. He didn’t try to gloss over Thursday and Friday’s weak attendance numbers, something I found refreshing. Instead he assured me that they had made some floor adjustments that would dispense traffic more evenly. Whatever they did certainly worked as floor traffic on Saturday stayed strong through closing time.

Then there’s Dallas: nice hotels, fun restaurants, reliable public transportation, and great people. Say what you will about the state of Texas and this city in particular, people here exude a confidence and sense of civility that blue stators would do well to emulate. These characteristics even weaved their way into the pre and post show atmosphere. The normally gnarly show staff organizers and union thugs proved themselves surprisingly pleasant and responsive.

Finally the venue. The Dallas Convention Center while not quite as truck parking friendly as the Kentucky Fairgrounds is otherwise a perfect setting for this event. It’s clean, well lit, and roomy. Sources tell me it also lent itself well to some great evening tailgating.

Of course you can’t have a truck show without truckers. And while I suspect fuel costs might have kept a few truckers away this year, enough still showed up to make this event a success. No other forum gives companies better access to owner operators and drivers. If you do business with truckers you simply have to be here.

That leads to my one disappointment; not with the show, but with the exhibiting philosophy of so many vendors. Yes, they’re all here – big truck manufacturers on down to flashlight distributors. And yet, you don’t see too many CEO’s. You would think the honchos could spare one day to meet a few customers. It seems a little disingenuous to avoid the very people who sponsor your living. For the record, I worked the 1st Guard booth all three days with other top executives from our company. We wouldn't have it any other way.

Congratulations to Randall Reilly Publishing and all who participated in GATS this year!

Thanks for Checking In...

Ed Campbell, III


Courtney said...

Great analysis Ed. Agreed Randall-Reilly puts on a good show. It amazes me that CEO's are pretty much ghosts when it comes to making appearances at the truck show. Kudos to your efforts.

Clinton said...

Ed, enjoyed your take on the show, even though I didn't have the opportunity to join the team. I agree with your comments, and Courtney's take, from all perspectives it would seem CEO's should and want to be involved one on one. Look forward to participating in these seemingly interesting events in the future!