AED in the Windy City

This year’s AED Summit gave attendees a chance to learn, grow, lead and communicate. 

The new decade started off with a bang, as the AED Summit hit Chicago for one of the first shows of an already big 2020. 

Designed for equipment distributors, dealers and manufacturers, the Summit was held Jan. 14-17 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. The show provides unique opportunities to hear from leading subject matter experts, meet with manufacturers, get an inside scoop on new products and technologies, and network with industry peers. All in all, it helps encourage attendees to focus on what they need in order to grow their business. 

Having an Impact

This year’s Summit saw more than 1,500 industry professionals converge on Chicago. With backgrounds in dealership operations, manufacturing, equipment leasing, insurance, software, and business service solutions, the attendees were a diverse group. 

Starting on Tuesday, Jan. 14, with the AED board meeting and annual meeting of the membership, the Summit also included a first-time attendee reception and a small-dealer networking reception. Held later that night was The AED Foundation Fundraising Gala, where 40 items were auctioned off by The AED Foundation and Ritchie Bros. to support investments in creating pathways to career opportunities for the future of the industry. 

I was attending Summit for the first time, and it seemed that an overarching theme for this year’s event was leadership. Now is the time for companies to lead their employees toward a path of success. Now is the time for industry members to engage with and lead the younger generations to find their place in the trades. And now is the time for leaders to emerge, ready to take 2020 by storm.

This was conveyed, partly, with keynote speakers like Kris Paronto, a former Army Ranger and CIA security contractor, who spoke about leadership in battle, and Dr. Arthur C. Brooks, who spoke about happiness, success and business in America. Paronto’s message resonated with me as he shared tips that he learned in Benghazi that also apply to everyday life in business – tips like “always keep moving forward,” “never quit,” “keep pushing,” and “you can’t control others’ actions, just your reaction and attitude.”

The following two days offered more networking opportunities and in-depth educational sessions than one could believe. With over 30 interesting sessions to choose from, these educational meetings covered a number of topics on the themes of management, sales, leadership, rental, product support, technology, and more. 

Some favorites included Leadership Lessons from Hollywood; Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: Firing a Customer; Managing your Rental Assets; and The Four Enemies of Innovation and How to Overcome Them. I highly recommend looking into the various sessions and workshops if they’re available online, as they mirror pressing and important issues throughout today’s industry and business climate. 

A special feature of the AED Summit are the hospitality suites, where attendees can interact face to face with dealer ownership and management, who will spend quality time discussing and executing buying decisions. This year, there were over 70 specialty suites where these unique connections took place. Attending a few of these, I found them to be incredibly personal and a rather powerful tool that most conferences don’t offer. The quieter atmosphere and dedicated one-on-one time provide insight and foster relationships that might not be found on a typical bustling show floor. 

Speaking of which, the Summit included a trade show called CONDEX to aid attendees with learning about hot industry trends and making informed purchasing decisions. Opened with a bagpipe kickoff, this year’s show included over 100 exhibitors sprawled across one of the hotel’s floors. With a steady flow of traffic, conversations on business matters were easily had by all. 

Closing Time

New this year were two pre-conference workshops that focused on leadership (a theme!) and sales. A Women in Equipment Distribution reception took place Wednesday and was an opportunity I’m sad to have missed. And two special guest activities gave attendees the chance to explore Chicago and its roots in both art, at the Art Institute of Chicago, and food – namely, pizza – with a Lou Malnati pizza cooking class.  

To end the valuable and diverse three days of education and connection, AED held a special dinner and conversation with Chris Christie, which was hosted by DLL. And a crowd favorite, the closing dessert reception, once again provided a sugar-coated, cherry-on-top ending to the show. 

All in all, the AED Summit is a premiere event that focuses on equipment distributors and brings together leading organizations, people and manufacturers to talk business and plan for the future. The relationships built there and the knowledge gained far outweigh the cost of registration. And that’s something to celebrate. 

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