International Builders’ Show Offers the Industry Excitement and New Opportunities

Forget Disney World: The biggest event in Orlando ...

Forget Disney World: The biggest event in Orlando today is the International Builders’ Show, sponsored by the National Association of Homebuilders, which kicks off this morning.

The past year hasn’t been an easy one for residential builders or remodeling experts. But the annual IBS show–the housing industry’s largest annual light construction trade show and exhibition, held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando–is a chance for builders to meet, network, exchange ideas and grow their business.

"Builders view the International Builders’ Show as an indispensable business tool," said Ken Klein, chairman of the NAHB Convention & Meetings Committee and a builder and remodeler from Tulsa, Okla. "They come to the show to gain valuable knowledge on the industry; order the latest building products that will keep them competitive in their market; and educate themselves on timely sales and marketing practices."

In short: It’s an event business-minded builders don’t want to miss.

The show gave the industry some good news before it even started: NAHB announced in October that registration was up 15 percent from last year. (Registration is still open for those who want to attend.)

The number of dealer distributors–a huge source of prospective business–coming to the show had also risen by 37 percent. Considering more than 100,000 people from 100 countries attended last year’s show, that is an overwhelming vote of confidence from the industry. (According to the Orlando Sentinel, pre-registration as of Monday was down just 12 percent, a number which the NAHB was comfortable with; final numbers aren’t in because people are still registering.)

"Does this mean the downturn is over? No," Klein says. "But builders and suppliers are aggressively positioning themselves to ride out the downturn and come back strong when the market improves."

This year, the International Builders’ Show will feature more than 1,900 exhibitors representing more than 300 industry categories. Visitors will have the chance to see the latest in home and building products and services and meet other industry members and potential clients.

Trade shows that large can be overwhelming–so it’s good to have a game plan before you attend. The IBS Web site has a nifty online planner that allows you to personalize what personal and show events you want on your schedule; also has some great tips on how to tackle a trade show, which include:

  • Schedule some time each day for networking. Even if you’re tired–it’s important to walk around and make new contacts. Chat up people in lines and speak to as many people as you can.
  • If you’re there to meet with someone specific–a potential client, distributor or industry leader–ask that person to step outside with you into the hallway where it’s quieter so no one is distracted.
  • Bring three times as many business cards as you think you will need and consider leaving the heavy marketing materials at home. Collecting business cards and offering to mail prospects a kit can be a great way to prevent having to lug around a ton of items–and a way to build and follow up with new contacts.

Trade shows are the perfect place to market a product; they put the product in contact with hundreds of distributors, consumers and the media.

And you are a product: Whether you have 50 employees or just one (you), never forget that you are not only offering a highly skilled, valuable service, but also running a business, which requires thinking about the big picture.

Marketing yourself may not be your first inclination, but it can make or break a builder–so pound that convention center pavement, and let everyone you meet know how much you can do.

Stay tuned to and the MHN blog this week for more IBS coverage!