The International Roofing Expo is set to be full of opportunities this year. As the economy is in full swing, industry signs point upward and consumer confidence is high. Now’s the time to make the most out of your IRE visit to Las Vegas, and here’s how:

1. Don’t get distracted by the “shiny stuff.”

Las Vegas has a draw all its own. But remember, that’s not why you’re here. In just a few short days you and your company could learn the next big thing to win the world of roofing. Besides, all that shiny stuff will only cost you money, not help you make it. Not every product, offering or service is right for you. Rather than bringing home things you’ll just throw out later, just do it now. And it’s not all about being the right thing.  It may not be right, now. There are only three to seven major changes to your business each year that can be implemented well. Don’t let garbage get in your way, cloud your judgement or distract you from your priorities. Ignore things that are not relevant over the next 12 months, those you can get at next year’s show. 

2. Have a plan.

What issues and opportunities are you faced with? Write them down and recognize that this is the best place to meet with the industry’s brightest minds and others who have likely been in the exact same spot. They can help you solve your biggest challenges. Do you have an idea that will break your company wide open? Well, nows the time to research logistics, feasibility, costs and benefits. If your idea is one-of-a kind, bring a stack of non-disclosure agreements along, too.   

3. Visit the show floor.

With almost 500 exhibitors, this is your chance learn about new products, installation techniques, business development tools and so much more. Wear comfortable shoes and bring a backpack for all the goodies that are handed out. My game plan is always the same.  I start at one side of the show and weave up and down every isle, getting an overview of what, who and where I want to spend more time. I then follow that up the next day with those vendors that can truly make a difference. There’s no harm in asking for a little “offline” time. Many will have multiple people available to meet with those interested in an in-depth discussion outside the floor, or even a meal. 

4. Attend a class in every category.

The educational offerings available at the IRE are some of the best in our industry and will make you a well-rounded leader versed in the latest industry trends, discoveries, products and techniques. Scan the schedule and plan to hit at least one class in each of the main subject categories: general business, technical, safety, leadership/management, green building, finances, sales and legal/human resources.

5. Pick the uncomfortable road.

There will inevitably be multiple times where you consider going somewhere, speaking to someone or asking a question that takes you outside your comfort zone.  Pick the path of least comfort — that’s when growth happens. Smile often, acknowledge people with a friendly greeting and raise your hand in class. These gestures will bring about the best networking opportunities. The relationships you form will give you a plethora of contacts to reach out to for a lifetime. Some of my best friends and people I owe the most to were met this way.  Roofing is full of like-minded people all wanting the same thing: To improve our industry. Most people will go out of their way to help.  Besides, you never know when they may be calling on you for advice. At least a half-dozen times each year other roofers make the trek to my office or I to theirs with the purpose of learning from each other. These relationships all started at places like IRE.