Whether you are a school bus transportation private contractor, or a public school bus transportation operator, there are many advantages to attending an industry-wide school bus supplier trade show.
While cost is of course an issue, since you typically will have to travel to attend these shows and pay for registration fees, there are many reasons to participate in the trade show. These include sharing and gaining valuable experience, knowledge, product exposure and much more.
The ten points below are reasons I have always considered when explaining to folks who make their career in public or private school transportation why I have, and they should, make an effort in attending a school bus transportation trade show.
1. Gain knowledge and exposure to new trends, products and resources that are available for your transportation program. This is a great way to learn about what’s hot, what’s fading and what you need to have, plan for, or do right now.
2. Stimulate new ideas and creative ways to support safety, maintenance, and operations enhancements of your transportation plan despite the economy, your past experience and more. Where you will gain this knowledge is endless – from your peers at the show, your general experience attending the show, and even the impact of your attendance – your school district or company representation at the show will make an impression.
3. Meet manufacturing representatives and vendors who you can lean on, learn from and possibly gain better deals from that you would not have had the chance to meet had you not attended the trade show.
4. Learn what the industry is up to without having to go to great lengths since information relative to trends and technology changes will be easily accessible. Ask yourself how does your operation compare and evaluate your strengths and weaknesses to best support your approach to any needed change.
5. Expose yourself to all vendors attending the trade show so they know about your transportation operation – make sure your interest stands out so that they will remember you, leave and take contact information for follow-up.
6. Generate leads for strategic alliances and most importantly, potential benefits. Collect business cards, refer to the directory and use all other outlets provided to you during the show to create a list of contacts for your files – and your outreach.
7. Participate in educational seminars, networking events and surveys that only take place at trade shows. This will expose you to new people, and new ways of thinking on how to improve your transportation program.
8. Get answers right away, whether from a vendor, a manufacturer, or a peer, since trade shows allow for immediate communication and easy, accessible outlets of exposure for you to both vendors and manufacturers.
9. Become educated on the A to Z of the transportation industry so that you can better support your district or company by familiarizing yourself with all the school bus industry resources the trade show offers.
10. Have fun. Yes – have fun. Pick up those “Freebies.” Nothing gives a transportation operator more energy than a good time.
So, I will see you on the trade show floor November 7th. If you recognize me, please say "hello."
Robert Pudlewski is STN’s technical editor with more than 40 years of experience in the school bus industry. He is the retired vice president of fleet operations, procurement and maintenance for Laidlaw and is a member of the National School Transportation Association Hall of Fame.