Editor Greg Ettling finds trade shows a valuable way for contractors to connect with vendors and each other.

Remember (too many years ago) when the stores brought out all the Christmas decorations and displays right after Thanksgiving? Now that stuff seems to appear shortly after Labor Day. What used to be a sign that winter is around the corner now comes before the first leaf hits the ground, and that's a bit of a shame. Fortunately for all of us, the drilling industry provides a more accurate signal that winter is fast upon us: convention and trade show season has begun.

And the season opens with a bang as the National Ground Water Association's 54th annual Ground Water Expo takes place Dec. 8-11 in Las Vegas. Then over the next few months, many regional, state and local shows will be held all across the country, providing an excellent opportunity for contractors to hone their professionalism by staying on top of the latest developments in the industry. A good many contractors will make the time and effort to attend these valuable events. A good many won't.


A recent National Driller Web site poll shows an almost even split between contractors who participate in their state association's activities and those who don't. Fifty-one percent of respondents report that they often or occasionally participate; 49 percent say that they seldom or never get involved in the drilling industry association in their state.

If you're among the camp of contractors who feel strongly about the benefits of participation and the important role these groups play in advancing the drilling industry, there isn't much in this column for you; check out the advertisements on this spread and then go ahead and turn the page.

If you normally don't get involved or are wavering on whether to do so, let me try and convince you to make the commitment to participate.

Start with the educational opportunities. Conventions usually provide the most convenient way to attain any required continuing education units (CEUs). The seminars, workshops and roundtable discussions keep you up-to-date on the latest industry issues affecting your business. It's tough to stay on top of every single development; let the experts sort them out and then listen to what they say. Your competitors have access to this information, shouldn't you? Good presentations leave plenty of time for a question-and-answer period. This is when issues and ideas really get kicked around and you can get some valuable insight from others and gain new perspectives that otherwise might not have occurred to you.

Exhibit Hall

Too often, convention attendees see the exhibit hall as a crowded, noisy place where suppliers are practicing their sales pitches. Just turn that around. Instead of thinking of it as a place where things happen to you, look at the exhibit hall as a place where you go to get things done. You've got all those vendors in one place at one time. You can discuss and compare products, systems and equipment in a hands-on manner with the people who can answer your questions immediately.

Every year there is a 20 percent change in how suppliers do business, beyond simple changes in product lines. These changes include new technologies, new materials and new representatives. Learn about these changes first-hand and network with other drillers about the different vendors and their offerings.

That networking can be extremely important. Whether it's another contractor, a manufacturer, a distributor, a government official or anyone else in the industry, valuable relationships can be formed with people you'll meet. You can't form advantageous alliances with people you've never met.

Most of us could use some fresh approaches and creative thinking in our business. Attending a convention/trade show can stimulate that creativity and provide the momentum that will help you make smart decisions to help move your organization forward.

Final reason: I've never not had a good time at a drilling show.

Hope to see you there.