The anticipation was real, and palpable. Shortly after Informa Markets concluded its virtual International Roofing Expo in March and announced the Aug. 10-12 dates for an in-person IRE, the roofing industry responded strongly. The site of the show, Mandalay Bay, sold out quickly, and the buzz about the industry's largest show in North America returning to Las Vegas for the first time since 2017 started to build a lot of momentum.

“We have heard from contractors, builders and manufacturers, and there is pent up demand for reconnecting in-person. They are looking forward to attending the International Roofing Expo, and so are we,” said Reid Ribble, CEO of the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA). 

It’s still the top event for exhibitors to provide the critical information and education for the roofing industry in one spot. This year, the mission is also expanding into the other exterior-construction industries that complement roofing, namely siding and windows. With proper safety measures in place, the roofing industry appears ready to converge on the Mandalay Bay Convention Center for a show unlike any other — even if a bit subdued.

“It feels like we’ve been on sabbatical. I definitely missed the interaction with exhibitors and my roofing colleagues,” explained Rudy Gutierrez, president of SHELL Roofing Solutions in Chino, Calif. “After a year of no roofing events, we’re more than ready for the IRE. Organizations got creative last year with virtual marketing, outdoor options, and tons of other ways to keep us focused on our industry, but it’s time for in-person interaction. I think it’s going to be great to see all of our roofing friends.”  

There will be plenty of space to maneuver safely, and this year, the event will showcase one of the largest collections of manufacturers of building products ranging from aluminum windows to roof decks to wood siding. Any dip in attendance means lighter traffic on the show floor, which provides more of an opportunity to get to know more about the products or services they’re curious about to help SHELL’s growing business, Gutierrez said.

Getting Personal

In addition to the products on display, seminar sessions and planned demonstrations, there will be several ways for attendees to interact safely and network. It’s a fundamental cornerstone of the IRE’s success, and what several exhibitors look forward to at the show — providing knowledge while creating memorable experiences for their customers.

“Being a part the International Roofing Expo each year is very important to our business and this year is no different. This show allows us to connect in-person with our customers and build new relationships,” said Dan Tinker, president and CEO of SRS Distribution. “We’re looking forward to seeing everyone at our booth and outside again in the parking lot for our Extreme Tailgate event.” 

Returning to some of the basic concepts of customer care, and hearing about their pain points — in order to find solutions — will be part of the mission of their show-floor efforts, said John Kenney, an IRE veteran and COO of Cotney Consulting. Keeping in line with the county-mandated mask mandate and other COVID-19 safety protocols, Kenney said his team will have tables and chairs set up to encourage more socially-distanced, face-to-face encounters.

Kenney will also be presenting a few times during the show, including a session on scaling a roofing business for all economic conditions.

“The goal is to have roofing business owners get the information they need to know to properly evaluate and implement administrative and operations efficiencies,” he said.

Teachable Moments

The educational sessions and speakers combine to help broaden contractors’ horizons by teaching new techniques and skills through live demonstrations. The value of trying out materials and exploring offers for new products and services that could give businesses an edge back home enhances the overall experience.

“Our platforms create commercial and connection opportunities that are unmatched,” said Nancy Walsh, president, North America at Informa Markets. “We help launch small businesses to new heights, educate our community on the latest innovations, create rich networking opportunities, and ensure that revenue opportunities are stimulated on and off the show floor.”

It’s not just manufacturers and suppliers that are looking to capitalize on having an engaged audience looking for strategies to improve. Consultants and service providers ranging from high-tech software systems to the latest legal updates are also eager to get back to business.

“I’m super excited to be back to present live at IRE. This is a relationship-based business, and I have been building these relationships for almost 30 years,” said Philip Siegel, partner, Hendrick, Phillips, Salzman & Siegel. “The IRE is the one time of the year when I’m sure to connect with old friends while making new ones. I missed that in 2020.” 

Industry associations are hard at work as well in preparation for IRE. For the first time, NRCA officials will have full ProCertification demonstrations live on the show floor. Roof mockups will be available right on the tradeshow floor and attendees will be able to see first-hand what's involved in the certification process. Friendly competitions may also be encouraged.

It’s the culmination of a lot of excitement brewing within the organization for the past few months as more planned in-person events and meetings became reality.

“To take that 'family reunion' on a national scale will be amazing,” said NRCA COO McKay Daniels. “The industry's ready to be ‘human’ again. To be with their friends, have a beer, and catch up.”