Auto Service World
Feature   August 1, 2003   by Bob Blans

AIA Update: Events Task Force Chairman Promises More Bang for Your Buck

The old trend of large Automotive Industries Association of Canada conventions/conferences and shows that were both costly for the association and its membership is going to be replaced by shorter and more affordable events, while maintaining high value for participants.

That is the opinion of AIA chairman Ken Coulter, who also chairs the new Events Task Force. The job of this new task force is to establish a comprehensive strategy for future AIA events.

“The convention in Penticton, B.C. provided one of the best programs we ever had, but we couldn’t get the local people to come out because the registration alone was $699. Add to that $150 a night hotel room, and while it was a great venue, it was expensive to get to. About 250 people attended. One previous convention held in Banff, Alta., attracted 380 people. While the P.E.I. convention held this year was also a great venue, only 215 people attended and the mix of people was 80% manufacturers and 20% wholesalers/WDs. That is definitely not the greatest mix in the world. Here we are trying to bring more to the grassroots of the country and we are getting that kind of mix.

“Then we tried the function in Red Deer, Alta., where the participants’ fee was $99, in a hotel that cost $89 with an optional golf tournament that cost $99. It too was a great venue and it had a solid program, including a fun night. This regional event, modelled somewhat after the Executive Forum in Toronto, attracted 160 people and the mix was 60% suppliers and 40% wholesalers/WDs. It definitely seems that regional type style of event is where it at.”

Coulter also applauded the initiative of the Southwestern Ontario Division, headed by Terry Jarvis, Auto Sense, that has worked well. The division organized five division meetings under the “AIA is Coming to You” banner. Some of the meetings have already been held. They were scheduled for Windsor, Chatham, the Owen Sound area, Kitchener and London. At the first three meetings the average attendance was 35 people, and of that 25 were local jobbers. Main speakers included a representative of the Ontario provincial government on the Transportation of Dangerous Goods, and Coulter himself, who gave everybody an update on AIA nationwide and how membership in Ontario is affected. The meetings have also been a forum for discussion of local issues. He urges other divisions to devise similar programs.

The Event Task Force is composed of the AIA Executive and chairs of the Jobber WD Councils, the Suppliers Council and Information Resource Committee.

“The Task Force is examining a variety of issues. It includes identifying and evaluating the sponsorship programs for manufacturers,” he explains.

In the meantime AIA has been conducting a member survey on their event preferences and that will certainly have an impact on the Task Force recommendations.

In the final analysis, look for more regional events and meetings at the divisional level that will be more affordable and less time-consuming. But, Ken stresses, “We will make sure that the value is there.” Ken says members can expect to see two or three regional events similar to Red Deer next year. We’ll all know by the end of September of this year.

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