The last time the International Roofing Expo was in Dallas in 2020, it marked a series of IRE firsts: the industry’s first focus on the booming Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, its first female keynote speaker and, arguably most impressive, a turnout exceeding more than 17,000 attendees.
After consecutive years of drawing record attendance in New Orleans and Nashville, show organizers were gratifyingly surprised by the industry’s response. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic inevitably stalled the industry’s momentum. Still, organizers planning this year’s return to The Big ‘D’ expect nothing less than another stellar affair at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.
“That was a record show,” said Rich Russo of Informa Markets, the company organizing IRE and this year’s show director, referencing the last Dallas event, adding, “This show is going to be bigger.”
Russo, relatively new to the roofing world, recalled hearing stories from the 2020 event about name badge shortages and other crowd-related issues from that year. Yet, all key indicators — from the record 600 exhibitors to capacity-level hotel reservations — suggest the 2020 attendance record appears in jeopardy of being eclipsed.
For starters, most health and safety concerns lingering since the first Dallas show — which took place mere weeks before COVID-19 tore through the U.S. — have largely dissipated. And, despite some well-documented supply chain challenges, it also helps that the roofing industry, as a whole, is booming. The roofing trade in North America seems largely stable in terms of demand and is expected to generate roughly $57 billion this year.
Also, with most supply chain disruptions finally receding, exhibitors are eager to return and showcase their full array of product lines in addition to displaying new ones; the industry is excited to reengage with contractors face-to-face.
“The best way that we have to connect with the industry is [with] face-to-face, in-person interactions,” Russo said, describing the various networking opportunities built into the show schedule. “There are so many different ways we can connect through happy hours, welcome receptions, and certainly the educational and conference sessions; there’s so much going on.”
Learning will be at a premium, both on and off the show floor this year, with more than 60 educational sessions across nine learning tracks planned throughout the expo. The workshops are spread across the full three days of the event inside the convention center. They will be led by roofing experts and industry leaders from around the country, covering specific topics like sales and metal roofing installation. Broader issues, including ways to incorporate more women into the workforce and business scalability to meet growing demand, will also be big draws.
Russo explained the overriding purpose of IRE is to offer information that helps roofing contractors operate and also “think bigger” about the role their companies can play within the industry. Several exhibitors on the show floor will offer live demonstrations of products and present problem-solving solutions to address on-the-job issues. In addition, show organizers added two new building clinics for home exteriors and on-roof buildings.
“The beauty of the new building clinics this year [is] that it’s curated content provided through live demonstrations where we have people promoting products in a live, real-world, hands-on training environment,” Russo explained.
“They’re not just sale pitches,” he added. “We curate the content and have experts explaining real-world situations and how to best use [one’s] time, energy, and resources.”
As the roofing industry continues to evolve, the IRE show floor easily reflects the changes roofing contractors deal with daily. With hundreds of exhibitor booths for attendees to visit, showing their products and services, the evolution extends beyond the industry’s traditional applications.
The popular Exteriors Pavilion, a specialized area dedicated to showcasing manufacturers and innovation in the exteriors market, will return with expanded space on the show floor. This year’s edition will demonstrate many new products and practices for contractors offering exterior replacement services.
Also returning are the Metal Marketplace and Business and Technology Pavilions. The metal pavilion hosts more than 80 exhibitors with some form of metal offering at the show, including leading manufacturers of materials and tools within this growing business sector. Roofing contractors interested in the latest tech tools, gadgets and software to help with efficiency can immerse themselves among the dozens of companies featured in the technology pavilion.
Russo said that the specialized sections add to a show floor designed to help industry professionals identify opportunities and build brand awareness while growing their sales and customer base.
New digital tools will also help attendees keep track of myriad offerings scheduled. A show planner function allows attendees to create accounts and log in, saving time with product recommendations and an ability to schedule appointments through a digital calendar for dog-earring must-see educational sessions. Other features, like electronic show updates and a dynamic, searchable exhibitor database, primes IRE 2023 to be the best event in years.