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Attend these automotive industry conferences and learn new tricks of the trade to keep your dealership competitive

If you’ve been in the auto industry for a long time, you may have a “been there, done that” attitude. You feel like you’re in the trenches every day running your dealership and you’ve got a good grasp on the way things work.

That type of attitude, however, is what could be responsible for declining profits at your dealership and a host of other problems. The auto industry is always evolving, and if you aren’t keeping up with trends, prioritizing professional development, and networking, you’re going to find your business suffering as a result.

One way dealer owners like to stay sharp and in-the-know is by attending automotive industry conferences around the country. They find conferences are just what they need to gain that competitive advantage when they bring their new knowledge and contacts back home.

Too many automotive industry conferences to choose from? Here are seven of the best.

01-7-automative-industry-conferences-for-dealers1. NADA Convention

The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) holds a few different events annually, but the NADA Convention is their largest and most popular. It’s the world’s largest international gathering place for franchised new-vehicle dealers. You’ll meet executives of major auto manufacturers, and get a first look at the latest equipment, services, and technologies.

The dates are different each year, but they are always in the January-March timeframe. The NADA Convention is held in Las Vegas every other year (even-numbered years), and the locations vary during the odd-numbered years (New Orleans and San Francisco are popular choices).

Notable recent keynote speakers have included Mark Fields, President and CEO of Ford Motor Company, Retired NFL quarterback Peyton Manning, and comedians like Jeff Foxworthy and Jim Gaffigan.

2. NIADA Convention

Since 1946, the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association (NIADA) has held the NIADA Convention for used car professionals. It’s the biggest convention for used car dealers, and since NIADA acquired Leedom & Associates, the former BHPH World Conference has been merged with NIADA’s. There are over 100 exhibitors, educational sessions, and opportunities to learn from industry thought leaders.

The NIADA Convention is usually held in June in Las Vegas.

Keynote speakers have included Barry Switzer, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, Bobby Bowden, the famous coach of the Florida State Seminoles football team, and Robert O’Neill, one of the most highly-decorated combat veterans of our time.

3. Digital Dealer

Still trying to figure out how to use the Internet and technology to sell and service more vehicles? 88 of the top 100 dealership groups in the U.S. have attended the Digital Dealer conference to take advantage of the progressive educational content.

Dates and locations change, but the conference usually happens twice a year, with the first conference in Florida and the second in Las Vegas.

Keynote speakers have included major players from the automotive and digital worlds.

02-7-automative-industry-conferences-for-dealers4. DrivingSales Executive Summit

The DrivingSales Executive Summit (DSES) is designed to provide dealer principals, general managers, and dealership directors with insights and innovations that will help guide strategic planning for the coming year.

Though dates and locations seem to change when it comes to automotive industry conferences, you can count on the DSES to occur every October at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.

You’ll hear from dozens of respected professionals, but keynote speakers have included Jim Parker, former CEO of Southwest Airlines, Ken Schmidt, former Director of Communications Strategy for Harley-Davidson Motor Company, and Dan Zarrella, and award-winning “Social Media Scientist.”

5. Women in Automotive Conference

It’s no secret that the auto industry has always been male-dominated, but the Women in Automotive Conference aims to empower and develop females in the industry. The agenda features informational breakout sessions, educational opportunities, and plenty of chances for networking.

Conference dates vary and sometimes happen twice a year, but you can usually count on them being in the summer in Orlando, Florida.

Past keynote speakers have included Linda Bartman, Chief Marketing Officer of CDK Global, Anne-Marie Baumann, COO & Partner at Automark, and Tracy Shields Jones, President of Century Automotive Group, Inc.

6. CBT Automotive Conference

The CBT Automotive Conference is designed to give auto dealers a fresh perspective on the evolving retail automotive industry, as well as tools and strategies for success.

This conference is usually held in the winter months (February or March) in Atlanta, Georgia.

CBT likes to bring in speakers that have a variety of experience in different industries to provide auto industry professionals with unique perspectives. They will help you look at your challenges and goals through a new set of eyes. Keynote speakers have included Jon Acuff, a New York Times best-selling author of five books, Dr. Nicole Lipkin, an organization psychologist and author, and Peter Leto, Head of Retail Sales at Google Automotive.

03-7-automative-industry-conferences-for-dealers7. Digital Marketing Strategies Conference

This conference offers executive-level workshops for auto dealers and will help you create a dominating digital marketing strategy for the year ahead. It’s much smaller than other automotive industry conferences (attendance is capped at 100 people), but that’s on purpose to provide you with an immersive, meaningful experience.

The date and location have changed over the years, but it seems like the conference has found a home in Napa Valley, California in the spring — usually in May.

Noteworthy speakers have included Trace Przybylowicz, Auto Lead: Industry Relations at Facebook, Cliff Banks, award-winning journalist and creator of The Banks Report, and Brian Pasch, founder of PCG Companies.

If you have the budget, it’s also a great idea to encourage professional development at automotive industry conferences for your dealership employees. Investing in top employees will show them that you care about their career, and will arm them with a new perspective on the industry that can result in increased sales and profits.

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