Can attending IBEX help marine dealers?

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If you’re like me, you’ve assumed that IBEX, the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibit & Conference, is just for boatbuilders. Maybe that’s been the case in the past. But another serious look at this year’s IBEX is in order because dealers can benefit from the many changes slated for the Sept. 30-Oct. 2 event being held in Tampa, Fla.

Specifically, a dealership’s owner can benefit from a day walking through the more than 500 exhibits in three ways: (1) Reviewing myriad new accessories and products that they could soon see on new boats; (2) Influencing their manufacturer(s) on which new products to incorporate in their boats; and (3) Always on the lookout for potential new profit centers.

But even more than a dealership’s owner, since this is our industry’s largest technical trade event, by far the biggest payoff for a dealership will come by having the lead service person(s) attend this event. After all, we live in a time when technology moves forward faster than ever and having a service department that’s been exposed to the latest equipment, materials and techniques can only lead to better customer service and, potentially, more profit from the service operation.

For example, for the first time in history, IBEX features in-water exhibits and demonstrations. Made possible by the move to the waterfront Tampa Convention Center, more than 25 hands-on demonstrations from exhibitors like Elco, Torqueedo, JL Marine Systems, Yamaha, Simrad-Navico, Nauticus and more than a dozen more are scheduled. In addition, adjacent to the docks is a 3,300 square-foot outdoor demo area.

Another exciting addition to IBEX is “The Connected Boat.” It’s the first interactive display that will demonstrate how various boat sub-systems can be interconnected using existing network technologies. It’s now possible for many marine systems to be monitored from the palm of one’s hand. “The Connected Boat” display will showcase the latest technologies that link on-board gateways to Internet-driven consumer devices for global remote access and monitoring, according to Joe Burke of Chetco Digital Instruments that created “The Connected Boat.” These integrated systems will not only keep the boat owner informed, but will also allow the manufacturer and dealer to stay connected to the customer. This unique display and demonstration will anchor a large new Electronics Pavilion added this year.

If you’ve never looked into attending IBEX before, here’s a breakdown. IBEX really has two components. First, there is the big exposition featuring more than 500 exhibits along with a variety of daily clinics and demonstrations both outdoors and inside on the show floor. Attending the exposition is free. Because it’s a trade-only show, you only need to register free.

Second, there is a series of Super Sessions. These are mostly technical education workshops, aimed at manufacturers, albeit some topics could be good for dealer service personnel. However, there is a charge for attending any of these seminars, so it’s best to study the list and determine applicability. Again, these are separate from the big exposition and demonstrations on the show floor, which are all free.

Finally, moving IBEX to Tampa and rotating years with Louisville is a great decision, making it particularly easy for dealers in the Southeast to attend. Tampa has an outstanding airport, low airfares, attractive downtown hotel rates and more than 70 restaurants surrounding the modern waterfront convention center.

For full IBEX information and free registration, go to IBEX is produced by Professional BoatBuilder magazine and the National Marine Manufacturers Association.