NECA 2016 Boston, Day One

If you read our magazine, you're probably an electrical contractor, and if you're an electrical contractor, you've probably heard about the annual NECA Trade Show and Convention. It's the electrical industry's biggest trade show and perhaps the only time of the year that the industry's contractors, manufacturers and media (like yours truly) assemble in one location to learn, grow, network and prosper.

At the heart of the NECA show is a community. It's a community of professionals in the electrical construction industry. That's the impression I get every time I go, see a familiar face, and discuss everything that has happened in the last year. There's much more than professional development here. The people at the NECA show take a personal interest as well.

In that vein, day one of NECA 2016 Boston was like years before. There's a spectacle in the big names that draw crowds but an intimacy in the previously unknowns that keep them. One of those big names was Doris Kearns Goodwin, the keynote speaker at the opening general session.

The opening general session featured some of NECA's most influential people from President David Hardt, who spoke about what NECA is doing today and how the association is preparing its members and the industry at large for the future, to Dennis Quebe, former NECA president and current chairman of the Academy of Electrical Contracting. As is tradition, Quebe introduced NECA's the academy's new members.

After the NECA-oriented ceremonies of the opening general session concluded, Doris Kearns Goodwin took the stage. Goodwin is one of the most prolific presidential historians and authors. As November 8th approaches, Goodwin offered fascinating analysis of the current presidential election, including contextual history as today parallels elections going as far back as Abraham Lincoln. Though, Goodwin admitted there has never been an election like this one.

While Goodwin had the attention of the attendees in a packed grand ballroom, ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR staff was busy on the show floor. The first day of the NECA Show is always when our judges examine the Showstopper entries and find the newest and most innovative new products. Of course, every attendee can visit the Showstoppers booth, but the judges get to work early. This year, there was a ton of entries, and some really notable new products. We'll have more about the winners tomorrow in our day two wrap-up.

The majority of the day for the magazine staff is spent speaking with readers in our booth and meeting with exhibitors in theirs. There's always a flurry of activity under the big ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR sign (our duffle bags are all the rage), but when we can step away, we snake through the aisles to meet with manufacturers we're intimately familiar with and introduce ourselves to companies we've never spoken to. Cultivating these relationships is the heart of the NECA Show experience. After all, we rely on many of these people for knowledge of what's going on with the industry, and they rely on us to help deliver their messages to our readers. In simpler terms, this is where much of our editorial and products coverage is born. Whether it's a new product that can help our readers achieve a return on their investment, or whether it's a discussion of a trend that leads to a feature article, these face-to-face meetings are vital.

Speaking of meetings, on the show floor, there's always a robust agenda full of informative technical workshops. These educational events are free to all attendees. Day one of this NECA Show featured some fascinating technical workshops that covered topics from leveraging the cloud to integrated buildings to blended learning and learning management.

There's really a lot going on here in Boston, and the experience is different for everyone. Some contractors are finding use in getting to meet with exhibitors and learn about products. Others are finding the educational opportunities worth the trip. Still others are just satisfied with having a good time. My personal favorite moment comes every NECA Show when I'm there for a particular product demonstration and I get to watch an electrical contractor's mind get blown.

I'm happy to report I got to see that within the first hour I was on the floor today. I won't report which company or product it was, but I'm willing to bet you're going to find out about it soon regardless.

ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR is having a blast here in Boston. Look out for our day two wrap-up tomorrow. If you're here, please come by our booth and say hello. If you're not, we hope these wrap-ups give you a sense of what the NECA Show is like. Rest assured that, in the next 12 issues, we're going to make use of everything we're learning here and bring it to you in the magazine.

We wouldn't want you to miss out.

About the Author

Timothy Johnson

Timothy Johnson is editor—digital for ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR magazine. Reach him at

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