COMMENTARY: 8 tips to run on all 8 cylinders at auto conventions

CARY, N.C. - 

In Hollywood, it is awards season (at the time I’m writing this in February) and on the basketball hardwood, it’s tournament time (by the time you’re reading this in March).

In the auto industry, it’s convention/conference season.

Not only have the auto shows been in full swing, but perhaps the largest auto industry event of the year is also upon us: NADA Show 2018 in Las Vegas.

And for those of you who are loyal readers of this magazine, your travels may soon take you north, as well.

Just after NADA’s annual convention is our AuSM Canada Conference (March 27-28) and Women & Automotive: Canadian Leadership Forum (March 29), both of which are being held at the Westin Harbour Castle in Toronto.

So for many of you, it might mean a lot of travel.

Well, I say bring it on — I’ve got a packing list for you.

1. Business cards
One of the most valuable pieces to NADA, AR Canada, Women & Automotive and conferences of all kinds is to put names to faces, make new s and friends and build relationships. While a handshake and happy hour are good places to start, having that business card to take home is a physical reminder to follow up and take the next step in building a business relationship. 

2. The apps
Speaking of business cards, my cohort Nick Zulovich introduced me to Cam Card, an app that digitally uploads those business cards you pick up at conference networking. Before leaving for a trip, it’s always handy to upload those kinds of apps, including the official conference ones. I’ve also discovered there are on-demand apps for dry cleaning.

Haven’t tried them yet, but it could be useful when sporting fancy clothes for an extended period of time.

Also, it’s worthwhile to download apps that serve as a local guide to the city in which the conference is being held — Foursquare, for example.

3. Handkerchief or stain wipes
As far as cleaning clothes, if you’re anything like me (I spilled coffee on my slacks in the NADA press room a few years ago), grab some of these.

When on-the-go with no time to change, a handy handkerchief or a stain removal wipe from a certain consumer products brand (“A little bit louder now”) is a must.

Just avoid being like me — and keep the poutine gravy off your attire when you make your way to Toronto.

4. Pack just enough; keep it light
If you can manage to keep hot beverages and tasty sauces off your clothes, one rule of thumb I learned from our publisher-emeritus is this: Travel with items you can mix-and-match.

The “Ron Smith School of Traveling” is based on packing efficiently.  

For a fella like me, that might mean a dark suit jacket I can wear with dark or light pants.

5. Comfy kicks, nice jeans
Another good rule on the versatility tip is to pack some nicer jeans and casual and comfortable shoes. That dinner with co-workers and business colleagues after the conference closes down for the day. 

My MO is to swap out the slacks for jeans and comfy loafers, along with a blue blazer and button-up, which are two other musts of mine.

6. An appetite
And not just for the local cuisine. Workshops and general sessions are prime opportunities to soak up information, but so are side conversations and, in the case of us media folk, interviews and press conferences.

These events can be information overload, so a digital recorder (or the app on the smartphone) and a pen and notebook are key. Then after the conference, go back and digest the info.

7. Neck pillow
Best $22 I have ever over-spent in an airport. If you’re not in first/business class, and you don’t get a window seat, these are mandatory in my book. Catch a few ZZZ’s on your connecting flight while keeping the neck from straining.

It may even prevent snoring if you don’t tilt your head all the way back. But you would have to ask my airline seatmates about that.

8. Vitamin C ya later sniffles
If you’re reading this with some leg time before you hop on a plane, take some vitamin C. Like now. 

Remember I mentioned handshakes earlier? Yeah, there are a lot of them at conferences. And all that crowded space and air on a plane. Build up that immune and cold-fighting army in your system. One easy method is to hit your local grocery store or Target and grab some juice with high vitamin C percentages.

Well, you best get to packing. Happy travels!

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