After two date changes, a well-attended virtual event and a lot of uncertainty caused by a prolonged global pandemic, the roofing industry is ready to get back to the essential business of in-person trade shows.
Roofing contractors, the manufacturers and suppliers that serve them, and even the facility mangers and property owners that need them will get their chance to meet in person Aug. 10-12 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. The perception that visiting the desert in the summer — let alone during the heart of peak roofing season — is not desirable may be valid for some roofing contractors, but is hardly the reality.
The Mandalay Bay was sold out within weeks of formal registration kick-off for the International Roofing Expo (IRE), and excitement is building.
“Momentum is key,” said Shelby Snelson, IRE show manager with Informa Markets. “What we’re hearing across the industry is that there’s a pent-up demand to get out in front of each other in-person.”
Las Vegas city officials said they intend to be completely open by June 1 after being hampered by COVID-19 for the better part of a year. Recognizing that not everyone will have COVID-19 vaccinations and will still have heightened sensitivity to germs, show organizers worked closely with local health officials and the Mandalay Bay Convention Center to develop a thorough health and safety plan largely based on the framework of Informa AllSecure. The system rolled out earlier this year, and includes a set of rigorous health and safety measures to prioritize guest safety at trade events. Specific health and safety protocols and communication strategies surrounding the event were a big part of increasing everyone’s comfort level.
That part of the experience begins right away with a new, digital registration process. Gaining entry to the show floor and education session will be just as simple as scanning your digital badge with your cellphone — much like flying with a digital boarding pass. Winding lines and crushes at the doorways are over.
"We know those opening-morning crowds and lines as everyone's trying to get into the show are a big thing, and we're proud to announce we're going virtual this year,” Snelson said.
The digital process also eliminated the need for paper badges. If you have a company nametag, bring it, Snelson added.
“We're going a little old school this year and people will have to talk to each other and introduce themselves,” she said. “It's going to facilitate more communication and foster more connections on site."
The show floor itself will be busy, and relatively close in size to Dallas. One change will be the education centers that were typically held in closed-door environments and filled up fast in recent shows. While attendees can expect free educational sessions and some demos, proper spacing and safety protocols will be enforced to reduce congregating crowds. Organizers are also asking exhibitors to limit transferable swag and show-floor takeaways, or eliminate them entirely this year.
There are two other noticeably different changes this year than in past IREs: First, there will be no aisle carpeting between exhibitors, in an effort to reduce waste. Second, attendees looking to diversify their roofing business can also experience the new Windows & Siding Pavilion, which was added this year to traditional featured spots like Metal Marketplace and Business & Technology Pavilion.
The careful planning and consideration for health and safety concerns on the show floor continued into the social planning for IRE 2021. This year’s welcome party will be outdoors at the daylight beach at Mandalay Bay. It is poolside, so swimsuits will be allowed.
“We think it’s going to be a ton of fun to be outdoors in a whole new environment,” Snelson said. “We’ll just make the most of being together in the heat.”
Attendees will also be spared from working in the desert heat on Community Service Day. Each year, Informa partners with Sika Sarnafil and a handful of sponsors to support roofing and other home-improvement projects in the IRE’s host city. That tradition continues this year, but there will be no physical build onsite. Instead, Informa is working with Las Vegas area Rebuilding Together to identify projects that will be supported by the roofing industry and completed at other times, said Brandi McElhaney, senior conference manager.
“This is my favorite day of the year, so it’s really exciting to still be able to participate this way and help,” she said. “It’s truly life-changing for these people, and they’re always so grateful.”
Show attendees can also help support good causes at the annual IRE concert event presented by the SRS Raise the Roof Foundation featuring Darius Rucker and Little Big Town on Aug. 11 at the Mandalay Bay House of Blues.
“I’m just looking forward to being back in front of roofing people in a safe environment,” said David Tedder of Baker Roofing in Raleigh, N.C. “And you always come away learning something about a new product or company. I want to get back to that.”
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