Northeast Propane Show Gets It Right

The Northeast Propane Show (northeastpropaneshow.com) in Worcester, Massachusetts, at the DCU Center, August 9-10, presented by the Propane Gas Association of New England (PGANE),  has typically been held on “even” years. In 2020, the show did not happen because of Covid, so, with in-person industry events coming back, it was nice to see people face-to-face. The show drew over 900 attendees, 107 booths, 92 vendors, 20 show sponsors, and over 600 people attended 24 seminars.

Fuel Oil News columnist Shane Sweet reports:

The Keynote Luncheon featured Tucker Perkins from the Propane Education Research Council, and the Luncheon was attended by nearly 300 industry members. Perkins’ address focused on Renewable Propane: the “Fuel of the Future,” and opened with the Back to the Future theme song and a clip at the end of the first movie where Doc is seen fueling the DeLorean with trash and waste products.  

Renewable propane, also made from waste products including oils and plants, is considered a, if not the, “Fuel of the Future” by many propane industry leaders. The Autogas Pavillion offered attendees the chance to take pictures of and with a vintage DeLorean provided by Stateline Propane of Connecticut. PGANE Chairman Jim Blake of Eastern Propane joked that the DeLorean had less than 3,500 miles on it because it has only been driven from “time to time.” 

Tom Krupa, Chair of the PGANE Supply and Logistics Committee, presented a concise look at supply in New England over the last decade, highlighting changes and a peek at future supply logistics. The luncheon concluded with Leslie Anderson, President and CEO of PGANE, toasting recent advocacy successes and sharing photos of the first delivery of renewable propane in Vermont this June.

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Leslie said, “It was fantastic to have our members support the association and send so many of their employees to this event. Not just managers and supervisors and owners, but also drivers and service technicians.”

She added: “This is how propane marketers keep good employees at your company, by allowing them to attend events and encouraging them to expand their knowledge. It is a win-win for our member companies and PGANE.  Members get employees who are loyal and stay with their company, and we get high numbers to the show to boost safety and training. Making our exhibitors happy with the turnout is also essential.”

One thing that really stuck with me about the show was that attendees who just wanted to “walk the floor” could do so without paying fees.  Adding “sauce to the goose,” the seminars were also free. Leslie said the only cost for attendees was for lunch and that was subsidized by the New England Foundation to keep the cost down and encourage attendance. Imagine that: Enter the hall, walk the floor, engage with everyone there, even attend seminars, and it doesn’t cost you. Who knew?

As a former executive for industry associations, I am aware of the critical role of events like this, and the need for “non-dues revenue.” Non-dues revenue typically includes tuition from training classes, sponsorships, paid advertising and promotion via association publications, and “affinity programs” (for endorsement of given services or products).  Trade shows can be a significant source of non-dues revenue, helping to keep dues as low as possible.

Most trade shows charge fees for various levels of attendance and participation. In our space, trade shows charge vendors for booth space, and for sponsorships (in exchange for extra exposure related to promotion before, during and after the event). Some assess a registration fee for the “privilege” of walking the show floor, which is to say you can’t get into the exhibit hall without paying.

As someone who has organized events (including the first NPS in 2010) I’m sensitive to the revenue side, and to the fact that floor vendors want to engage with as many potential and existing customers as they can find. A well-known trade show routinely received bus loads of service technicians and drivers because access was free. I remember one company sending 140 technicians, drivers, and office staff. Charging someone for the privilege of walking into an exhibition hall is contrary to the interests of paying exhibitors. NPS clearly understands this concept. Bravo, PGANE. Bravo.

True story:  at this show I met a family from Ohio that owns a propane retail company and they told me that they put the entire family into their RV and drove to Worcester. They contrast this event to other shows that charge registration fees to walk the floor. They said they came to Worcester because the family, most of whom work in the business, got to see vendors without paying to do it.

Well done, NPS.

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