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September Issue Feature: KnowledgeFest - Into High Gear

In its 20th year, KnowledgeFest reaches new heights by offering retailers the tools to shift their businesses to coincide with current OEM technology trends. The event also saw a new batch of industry award winners crowned to help usher in the next era of 12-volt.

9-6-2016 -- Milestones happen every day. People make goals and achieve them. But those milestones are almost never achieved without sacrifice.

After 20 years, KnowledgeFest has reached a rare milestone in the 12-volt industry, having created a place for anyone who loves car audio to come and learn new skills to enhance their craft. This year's event took place at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Texas August 20 to 22 and included over 40 exhibitors, 23 classes, nearly 50 product trainings and the culmination of a new round of winners at the 2016 Mobile Electronics Industry Awards. The city has hosted the event since 2010.

To house the event, the Hilton Anatole provided 10 classrooms, a trade show hall, a ballroom for the town hall and industry awards, and access to several restaurants, bars, shops and a brand new water park for hotel guests. The city itself also played host to visiting attendees thanks to its wide selection of quality restaurants, including many BBQ joints close to the hotel.

Guests were able to pre-register for classes using the website, which also served as the digital schedule of events for guests to check during the three-day conference. The event marked the first time the website was used as a primary resource for the event schedule. 

All of this was presented in cooperation with several manufacturers who operated as sponsors for the event, in addition to the registration fees paid by attendees. However, the largest contributor to the event could not be measured in money or time, but passion. To last 20 years, an event like this would not be possible without a continuous drive from its attendees and educators to help improve the industry and overcome all obstacles over the years. Thankfully, it has all of the above.


Day 1 - Bad Weather, New Faces

Being that Dallas is located in a central location to the rest of the country, one might think it's accessible enough to limit travel issues to a minimum. But mother nature doesn't always play by the rules. Due to inclement weather, many attendees coming from the east coast were delayed up to a day. Some of those attendees were also educators, like Matt Schaeffer, whose class, "The Perfect Pic: Better Photography to Promote Your Business," was postponed until the final day, while taking the place of a cancelled class, "Public Relations: Let the Media Market For You."

Thankfully, those were the only courses impacted by the weather problem. Meanwhile, in Dallas, the rain poured on and off like a faucet throughout the event, while hotel guests, including some KnowledgeFest attendees, kept a close eye on the rain to give themselves enough time at JadeWaters, the new water park on the hotel grounds. The park features a lazy river, swim-up bar and water slides. Despite the lack of pool time available, attendees found plenty of ways to socialize outside of classes, including between classes in the hallways, at the bars, outside with a cigarette, or on the show floor, which started with a bang on day one, with every booth seeing some action from the get-go.

Several companies made their debuts at the show in 2016, all offering a different category of product. Omega Research & Technology came to showcase a wide array of products, but geared its presentation toward the most relevant technologically advanced products, including its new Linker smartphone control app. The platform allows GPS tracking and is designed to incorporate linking between home alarm and vehicle security monitoring. The company, which has been around since 1971, chose to make this year its first at KnowledgeFest due mainly to the evaporating presence of 12-volt companies at shows like SEMA and CES, where it primarily showcased in the past, according to Mike Thompson, product development manager at Omega.

"With technology shifts being so rapid these past few years, dealers are struggling to keep up. The industry needs a regrouping internally so we can figure out where to go," Thompson said. "We're really excited to come to a show with a 100 percent focus on the aftermarket. There's a solid state of unrest throughout the country, so dealers are struggling and are more reluctant to go to shows like SEMA and CES. Although we do a lot of International business, I really feel like KnowledgeFest helps us turn our attention more to our domestic guys."

On the 12-volt accessory front was F.A.S.T. Rings, the foam acoustic sealers that have become a popular commodity thanks partially to their being sold and promoted by Mobile Solutions. The rings represent an expanding market for 12-volt accessory products that saw several other vendors present on the floor as well, including Kingpin University, Mobile Solutions and SoundSkins.

As a trend, the majority of the companies featuring new products either were enhancing already popular products or adding to an emerging market, such as safety. One such product was the Bury Hands Free Car Kit, presented by John Haynes of Al & Ed's Autosound. The German manufacturer has decided to branch out into the North American market in preparation for a continuing trend of OEM add-on products in upcoming vehicles. 

Read the rest of the story HERE.

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