AHRExpo3.jpg AHR Expo.

My Time at the Big Show

The first couple days of the big show you barely get a free minute.

In case you missed it, January saw the 2019 AHR Expo hit the great city of Atlanta like a tsunami. If you’re reading this in our February print edition then you’ve already seen a cover story, a Forum piece, the feature, a column, and assorted session coverage, all from our time at AHR.

That’s one of the big reasons we attend, to reap all we can in the way of quality editorial content. And by “we” I mean not just CONTRACTOR but also our sister publications Contracting Business and HPAC Engineering. We all pack up, take along the sales guys, a few marketing people, a group VP or two, and make an entire caravan to the show.

And why, you might ask, do we commit so many people and resources? Couldn’t we just send a couple guys and get nearly as much content at a fraction of the cost? Because of the other big reason we attend: the eyeballs we get to put ourselves in front of, including the contractors who read our magazines and the advertisers who pay for them.

The absolute highlight of the show for me was getting to present our Contractor of the Year Award to Jim Blanchard who accepted on behalf of E.M. Duggan.

Those two reasons make AHR probably the busiest show of the year for us editors. If we aren’t hopping from one booth to another—one session to the other—then the sales guys are grabbing us by the sleeve asking us to come along with them to a meet. Why can’t they go by themselves? Because, as one sales guy told me, “Steve, no one is ever happy to see me; everyone is always happy to see you.”

Which is true. I’m eager and willing to put the latest new products and services in front of my readers for free. The sales guys are always trying to, well, sell.

The upshot of which is that the first couple days of the big show you barely get a free minute. Lunch is a powerbar while you’re on the move, or, if you’re lucky, a boxed lunch you wolf down in the pressroom. (And let me just take a second to give my heartfelt thanks to the people who organize the AHR pressroom, not just for the food and coffee, not just for the Wi-Fi, the space and supplies, but for genuinely giving a damn about us harried members of the trade press, in particular the two ladies who kept the pressroom open after-hours on the first day so I could retrieve my bag and coat!)

And it doesn’t end when the floor closes. There are the after-parties put on by the big manufacturers where you need to go and grab a few pictures; there are the dinners with important friends of the magazine; and then you have go back to the hotel room and somehow crank out 500-800 words for the next day’s eNewsletter.

But for all the stress, all the drama, it’s hard not to like the excitement, the immediacy of working like that. And of course, it’s great to meet our readers. The absolute highlight of the show for me was getting to present our Contractor of the Year Award to Jim Blanchard who accepted on behalf of E.M. Duggan.

So no, I couldn’t work like that every week. But for one week out of the year, going to the big show is pretty fantastic.

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