How and Why Some Dealers Always Get More for Their Conference Dollars

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When it comes to driving a dealership’s continuous improvement in operating performance, efficiencies, and net profits, there is little argument that ongoing learning and employee training plays a critical role. For many dealers, attending key conferences, workshops, seminars, and auto industry related events is a key part of staying abreast of what is new, what is working well and what no longer works as well as it did in the past. There are several keys to getting maximum return on investment (ROI) when it comes to a dealership participating in automotive conference and other events.

At the risk of writing the painfully obvious, cost and time are the components that drive the net dollar amount of the “investment” portion…but as obvious as this may seem, why is it that so many dealers and general managers work so diligently at maximizing their costs to attend a dealer conference? No, I am not being facetious; I am simply describing the situation when a dealer or GM knows they want to attend a dealer conference along with two or three of their key managers, then waits until the last minute to register, book travel and hotel rooms.

The result of this effort to procrastinate until the last minute is that these dealers who do so end up paying two to three times as much money for each plane ticket, they don’t get the negotiated conference discount rate on the hotel and they pay more for registration, because they fail to take advantage of offers such as “Early Bird” registration fees at a discounted price. So let’s compare attending a conference such as “AutoCon 2013”, the AutoConnections Conference and Exposition being held in Las Vegas from September 6th through the 9th at the Aria Resort and Casino Conference Center.

I have created a matrix showing cost differentials between two different dealerships sending their dealer principal and two managers to attend the same event, the only difference is when they registered for the conference and booked their travel and hotel:






Dealer A

$394 x 3 = $1,182

$695 x 2 = $1,390

$159 x 9 = $1,431


Dealer B

$748 x 3 = $2,244

$895 x 2 = $1,790

$249 x 9 = $2,241


Book Early Savings:





For those of you who have seen my #TravelLikeRalph hash tagged posts on Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook, you know I travel extensively for many work related projects, dealer consulting and training, as well as speaking engagements at various conferences and dealer meetings; if there is one simple rule I have learned about travel and attending conferences it is that you must book early and do not be afraid of changing your reservations if your plans change. With the Fall automotive conference season kicking off the first week of September, it is time for you to register for the conferences you plan to attend, book your hotel rooms, and secure your conference registration now!

This also provides you with more time to plan how best to benefit from the conferences you and your team plan to attend, as well as ensure that you are bringing the right people with you. The second most important lesson about these types of events is to never go alone. One person coming back with great ideas and plans to improve the business becomes the person with the crazy ideas. A team of managers who attends and comes back full of ways to improve the dealership’s business performance is a continuous improvement initiative that creates action. There is a big difference!

Ralph Paglia is vice president of digital for Tier 10 Marketing in addition to being the founder and editor-in-chief of the Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community (

Michael Bowen


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