In many ways, the 2018 NECA Convention in Philadelphia will be unlike any of the others that have been held in past years. In fact, there are so many new and unique events and attractions at this year's convention that it can genuinely be considered a "paradigm shift."
Of course, the convention and trade show will feature all of the events that have proven valuable and popular in past years, including the second NECA Project Excellence Awards, the Ninth Annual Green Energy Challenge by ELECTRI International, the NECA Business Development Seminar, the Student/Contractor Meet-and-Greet, and the Women in NECA and Future Leaders Roundtable.
And, on the show floor, for three days, contractors can talk to exhibitors about the specifics of custom projects they are working on and discuss "not-out-of-the-box" solutions.
So, what's new this year? The majority of new programs are taking place on the trade show floor, according to Sue McCart, who handles marketing for the NECA Convention—Exposition.
"This year, we have an evolution taking place on the show floor," she said. "This has been building over the years, but this year, it has hit its stride."
In other words, the trade show will no longer just involve companies coming in, setting up booths, and displaying products and services. Indeed, according to McCart, these are important to contractors, but there will be a lot more.
"We will have a massive focus on education," she said. "In fact, we have over 70 short educational sessions taking place in small theatres in and around the show floor, and we have an emcee in each theatre for the whole day."
Each session will be 18 minutes long, similar to TED Talks. To make sure that the sessions remain on track, so visitors can move from one event to another without time overlap, each session will feature an 18-minute clock that starts at the appointed time and goes off when time is up.
One new event is called the Product Presentation Theater. This year, 18 exhibitors have signed up to give presentations on their newest products that can help contractors save time, save money, improve service, and the quality of work that they do for their customers. In sum, a total of 18 different presentations lasting 18 minutes each.
"Based on our research, we have found that approximately 90 percent of our members are involved in lighting and controls, so we have created a Lighting & Controls Theater," she said. A number of exhibitors have signed up to give presentations on their products, again with 18-minute sessions.
Another area on the show floor is called TECHTOPIA, which McCart said is "the place for all things digital and disruptive."
"There is so much going on in the industry that it is changing how contractors do their work," she said.
Examples that will be featured at TECHTOPIA include ergonomic exoskeletons that help workers support their arms when they are working on ceilings, Microsoft holograms, drone demonstrations, power-over-ethernet lighting, and augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR).
"We will also have a BIM cave on the show floor, where people wearing special glasses can see live demonstrations in a dark room of electrical, plumbing, HVAC, etc., all in real time," she said. TECHTOPIA will feature 18 Tech talks, each of them 18 minutes.
The show will also showcase a Lineman Pavilion area with bucket trucks, simulation trailers that will show work on transmission lines, etc. The majority of the sessions will focus on the newest products and strategies related to how to keep workers safe when working on lines.
ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR magazine is also sponsoring the Showstopper Showcase, which features 120 new products on display. To qualify, each new product must have been developed and be available on the market somewhere between Oct. 1, 2017, and Oct. 1, 2018. A panel of three judges will award up to 25 trophies for winners.
"Being a contractor can be stressful, both on job sites and in the office," she said. "In response, we are having a health pavilion this year, called the NECA Health Zone. We will have a chiropractor available to help people with posture, large exercise balls for people to sit on, and we will also have healthy cooking demonstrations."
In addition, professionals in the Health Zone will demonstrate exercises that people can do on the job and in hotel rooms if they are traveling.
"We will also have 18 of our typical 50-minute Technical Workshop sessions." McCart said. "These are juried. Earlier in the year, we invited exhibitors to submit topics for presentation. Then a committee composed of NECA and the Electrical Training Alliance selected the 18 different sessions."
In sum, according to McCart, the NECA Convention is for NECA members, but the NECA Show is for the entire industry.
"This year, we believe that there will be as much education happening on the show floor as will happen in the classroom," she said.
For more on the NECA Show, visit www.necaconvention.org.