by Steve Feldman
For the past number of years this magazine has promoted and touted the educational program at Surfaces. From the look of the schedule each year, I knew the program was comprehensive, beneficial and worth the price of admission, especially last year when it was sponsored by Floor Covering News and all fees were waived if the retailer signed up by a certain date.
But did you ever wonder what went into the educational program? Did you ever wonder how the topics and speakers were chosen? Was it random?
Well, earlier this month I was privileged to be asked to serve on the Surfaces Education Advisory Council. The group included people much more impressive than me: NFA member Jeff Macco, one of the sharper retailers you’ll ever meet; Christine Whittmore, the industry’s social networking guru; Paul Friederichsen, the marketing maven; Jon Namba, who knows more about installation than just about anyone, and many more. For the better part of two days, we read through what seemed like 500 proposals of submitted topics and discussed the merits of each and every one of them. Eventually, we had to whittle it down to about 60.
How do we know the program is the best of the best? First we discussed the hot but- tons in the industry today. Online marketing. Social networking. Environmental issues. Installation. Selling. Salespeople. Marketing. Business. Finance. I can’t remember the countless others.
Then, as we evaluated each proposal, we made sure that every topic was well represented. We chose the best. In many cases, there were multiple submissions on the same topic. In those cases we evaluated the speaker, looking at his or her performance evaluations in the past. The end result was the most comprehensive, useful program in the industry.
To be perfectly honest, many retailers would be well served to attend this type of conference even if it was not attached to the country’s largest and most important trade show. Other industries charge good money for this type of education. You get it for free if you register for Surfaces by the Hanley Wood-imposed deadline.
As the sponsor of the educational conference for the second straight year, Floor Covering News will be highlighting a number of the programs starting this summer. There will even be an unofficial Floor Covering News track with sessions led by our own columnists Warren Tyler, Lew Migliore and Bart Basi.
I don’t know if one of my ideas will reach fruition, but I recommended that instead of a general session, Surfaces should feature a panel of consumers who recently purchased flooring. Tell us about how they went about the shopping process, how much time they spent online, if at all, how many stores they visited before they bought, why they bought where they did and why they didn’t buy where they didn’t. It just seems like we constantly are inundated with statistics; why not hear it from the horses’ mouths?
Food for thought.