It’s that time of year again when educators, installers, dealers, workrooms and manufacturers gather under the same roof for a few days.

The International Window Coverings Expo (IWCE) is taking place in Charlotte, North Carolina from April 19th through April 21st this year at the Charlotte Convention Center.

You should know this by now, but I love learning and events like this make me feel like a kid in a candy store.

If you are new-ish to the industry, attending those conferences should be more than a goal. They should be a top priority in your development. But even for veterans like myself, I always return home with new and refreshed knowledge and ideas.

Let me share some of the ways that helped me to become so highly recognized in this industry and “stand out in the crowd” as some would say:

LEARN – I took (and still do) every training available offered by suppliers, trade organizations such as WCAA, and manufacturers themselves. Some were free and some had a fee. Keep in mind that the free ones, your competitors will be in attendance there too.

I highly suggest losing the word “spending” in your vocabulary and instead using the term “investing”. In fact, that is exactly what you are doing: you are making an investment in your business and in yourself. Go the extra mile and differentiate your business from the competition. There will be dozens of classes offered at IWCE in all areas. From marketing to installations and even fabrications. Figure out what your weakest link is and make it a point to improve upon it. Your bottom line will thank you later.

NETWORK – no matter how fast internet speed becomes, nothing replaces face-to-face interaction.

Yes, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube can give you instant gratification with new comments or new followers. However, when a great opportunity arises, you are not going to see it on social media. You will either receive an email, a text message or a phone call about it.

My best installation contract was from someone I met in one of those conferences that made the connection. In a separate event, the opportunity to start writing for Vision Magazine occurred because I attended a presentation by an icon in our industry. I made a point to introduce myself at the end of the seminar (hint hint, this is KEY for growing any business). Shaking hands and looking someone in the eyes will never go out of style.

Plan to meet some of your FB peers for coffee or drinks during the show. Introduce yourself to some of the people you follow on social media. Visit the booths of your suppliers if they are present at the show. I am certain that you won’t just be “a voice” or a “profile name” anymore.

PRODUCTS & SERVICES – I understand that some people hate getting out of their comfort zone … I’m certain some look at it from the perspective of that old saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

However, I also understand that you will never experience new heights if you don’t jump first.

At IWCE, you will have the opportunity to see hundreds of products and services developed for our industry. Perhaps there is a new line of products to replace your current problematic vendor. Perhaps you want a solution to quote your jobs faster and more efficiently. How about a coaching service to help you hit your first million in sales? Or your 10th? Keep your mind open to new possibilities and unlock opportunities only reserved for the brave.

I will certainly be there learning, sharing, and networking.

I hope to meet you there and always remember: Never Stop Learning!