Photo courtesy of GIE+EXPO

As GIE+EXPO continues to grow, the show format is changing, allowing contractors an extra day to see new products.

Previously, Wednesday was only open to dealers, but now, landscape contractors are welcome from 3 to 7 p.m., including an opening night reception starting at 5 p.m. With the added hours on Wednesday, the show will close Friday at 2 p.m.

Antonio Zeppa CEO of Zeppa’s Landscaping Service is in Louisville, so he brings his employees down to the show, but it’s hard for him and his team to see everything because they participate in educational sessions.

“Having an extra day is good,” he says. “I feel like I don’t have enough time to do the show even though there is new technology or new equipment and new things that can make our operation more efficient. I don’t feel like I have enough time to look through it all. It’s a big arena, a big show. I think being there on Wednesday will definitely be good for both the contractors and the vendors.”

But don’t fret dealers. You still get first crack at the show floor from noon to 3 p.m. on Wednesday before landscapers join at 3 p.m.

“We love seeing the new products that are out and re-connecting with our dealer representatives,” says Tanya Kistner of Eau Claire Lawn Equipment in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. “We love Dealer Day and always appreciate the hospitality from manufacturers.”

The change also provides more opportunities for exhibitors to have face time with show attendees.

“Any time an exhibitor can have more time with existing and potential customers is good,” says Ken Taylor, sales manager for John Deere. “Also, since many of the attendees are involved with trade association activities during GIE+EXPO, the associations have intentionally not scheduled activities during the show hours on Wednesday so their members can spend time on the show floor, which as exhibitors, we appreciate.”

Bjoern Fischer, CEO of STIHL, is also excited to interact with landscapers and hear how their businesses are doing and to get feedback on products they use.

“That interaction with our customers is very rewarding and gives us a lot of information going forward,” he says.

Zeppa says he’s been able to network with contractors who provide a variety of services and come from all over the country. He still talks with them from time to time during the year.

“Most of the people there, they are in the same boat or have been in the same boat, and I would consider it a brotherhood in a way,” he says. “If there is something I can do to help somebody out that is in a spot that I was in at one time, I would be willing to help them out. I feel like most individuals are the same way, especially (at GIE+EXPO). They came there to better themselves.”

While Zeppa says he doesn’t mind talking business with competition in his area, for contractors who do, the GIE+EXPO allows you to meet contractors with similar problems as you, but who aren’t direct competition.

Before the show opens, both dealers and contractors will have the opportunity to hear stories of exploration, environmental discovery and leadership from noted undersea explorer Dr. Robert Ballard. The keynote for dealers at 10:30 a.m. is sponsored by STIHL and BOB-CAT Mowers. The 1:30 keynote for contractors is sponsored by John Deere.

Opening night.

The access to the show floor on Wednesday also gives landscapers the chance to attend the opening night reception. At the opening reception, exhibitors will offer music, food and drinks to attendees. This relaxed atmosphere allows dealers and landscapers alike to get to know each other and reconnect with familiar faces.

“Opening evening is the ability to reconnect with people,” Fischer says. “(Attendees) will be able to meet with our staff at a more personal level.”

As an exhibitor, Fischer likes using the opening night to interact more closely with STIHL’s customers. It’s a chance for him to showcase the company’s latest products and garner interest before GIE+EXPO even starts.

He says the opportunity to network peer to peer is critically important, and it's one of the main reasons contractors attend GIE+EXPO.

“Networking at the opening night reception is great,” he says. “We don’t want to leave. Having such an event on the exhibit floor should benefit exhibitors and truly extend the show.”

With so much to see in only a couple days, seeing the show floor ahead of the official start can be beneficial to attendees. Fischer says that coming to GIE+EXPO’s opening night reception allows attendees to see what the show floor has to offer before the start of GIE+EXPO on Thursday.

“It allows them to get a kind of overview of everything that’s happening at the show so the next two days, they can focus on the areas they want to,” Fischer says.