By Tod Trousdell
Ever hear the one about what happens when you take 50 fleet managers and 50 fleet services providers and sequester them in a luxury surroundings for three days?
Well, if last week’s Work Truck Forum is any indication, several days of information-sharing, camaraderie and just plain fun!
First held in 2011, the Work Fleet Forum is the brainchild of Scott Goldman, an event specialist who got his start in the conference industry as a printing executive who dropped by a trade show to see where all the literature he was churning out ended up. Enamored, he went on to work in the conference world for years before realizing there might be a better way of conducting trade shows.
The result was what he calls a “hosted buyer” format, a conference where attendees are highly curated to ensure the right mix of buyers and sellers, in this case fleet managers and the services providers they rely on for everything from upfitting to telematics to remarketing and more. And if interactions across the three days were any indication, it would seem as though attendees and the companies that employ them are active, ready, and anxious to move on to the business of fleet.
And while there were sporadic discussions about the pandemic, it was obvious there are several key themes that dominated discussions as fleets crackle back to life as restrictions slowly lift.
As with AFLA, NAFA and the Global Fleet Conference, conversations were dominated by concerns about new and used vehicle availability; chip, labor, and supply chain shortages; and the how best to deal with electric vehicles and issues around range, infrastructure, and ROI. But despite perhaps the most daunting pressures in industry history, it was obvious fleet managers were ready to do business, and fleet providers had a wide range of meaningful – and in some cases entirely new – products, services, and solutions to tell them about.
Held against the backdrop of the National Historic Registered Biltmore Hotel in Coral Cables, the event kicked off with an evening meet and greet, followed by dinner and mingling into the night. Featuring three days of scheduled face to face meetings, the first full day saw each services provider afforded two, 20-minute presentations with eight different fleet managers.
Evening events allowed for even more face time. The second full day featured what can only be described as a “speed dating” format, with each service provider getting up to 12, 15-minute face to face meetings with fleet managers who sign up for whichever vendors and services they are most anxious to learn about.
In between the scheduled meetings, there are several relevant one-offs like day two’s keynote lunch featuring a safety study presented by Abe Stephenson, Fleet Manager of Dish Networks. In it he overviewed his fleet’s use of one of the attendees – MobileEye – an aftermarket accident avoidance solution. The presentation was just one of the many ways the event fostered continued interaction between attendees.
During a conversation right after the presentation, Tom Leach, Regional Sales Director at Mobileye, said the keynote was a unique and effective way for his company to showcase its relationship and successes with a respected fleet manager.
Bill Bishop, SVP of Sales and Marketing for FLD Remarketing, said his firm had been coming to the Work Fleet Forum since its second or third year, and that it had always been a productive format that resulted in viable new contacts “year after year.”
“It’s just a better way to convey our message,” said Bishop, who pointed out the company had garnered several new customers while attending WFF over the years. “At regular trade shows, everyone’s so busy and focused on their own agenda. Things just slow down at WFF, and the result has always been more productive – and genuine – interactions.”
For fleet managers, the Forum offers the opportunity to not only interact with vendors and service providers they otherwise probably wouldn’t meet, but even more importantly exchange ideas and best practices with other fleet managers. Several said it was an especially welcomed opportunity given pandemic restrictions that made business travel and face-to-face vendor meetings all but impossible.
Next year’s Work Fleet Forum is slated for October, 2022 at the Sawgrass Marriott in Ponte Vedra, Fl.
About the Author
Tod Trousdell is a brand and marketing consultant who has worked for over a decade with a number of fleet entities and allied service providers. His firm – RobertsTrousdell – specializes in everything from branding, research, and strategy to creative and campaign development, digital, social and more. He can be reached at email@example.com.