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May Issue Feature: What's Happening - KnowledgeFest Spring Training 2017

5-2-2017, Mobile Electronics -- It may be true what they say—third time's the charm. In its third year, KnowledgeFest Spring Training has set a new record for attendance with more than 800 attendees and 32 exhibitors. The event, held at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Ind., took place April 9 through 11 and featured over 29 hours of educational sessions, 39 hours of manufacturer trainings and over 14 hours of exhibit time on the show floor.

The original intent of the show was to highlight manufacturers' newest products to prepare retailers for the selling season. Categories highlighted at the show included car audio/video (amplifiers, speakers, subwoofers, DSP, sound deadener, monitors), remote starts, alarms, OEM integration and the growing safety category. Companies on the floor ranged from long-time attendees like VOXX and Kenwood, to returning brands like Savv Mobile Multimedia, makers of headrest monitors.

The popularity of the event has centered around its diverse offering and ability to reach retailers who may not have the resources to attend other shows like KnowledgeFest in Dallas.

“There were two drivers behind our creation of this event: First, to offer our retailer members the opportunity for training and networking; and, second, to offer our manufacturer exhibitors the opportunity to meet with their retail accounts east of the Mississippi, the mobile specialists they’re not seeing in January in Vegas," said Chris Cook, president of the Mobile Electronics Association. "Exhibitors we spoke with on-site at space selection for our 2018 events were pleased with the traffic they received, both in their booths and their training workshops. We received strong commitments from exhibitors to come back to Indy next year and to participate in our new Spring Training Long Beach.” During the town hall presentation, Cook announced that MEA was adding a third KnowledgeFest event for 2018 at the Long Beach Convention Center in southern California, February 23 through 25.

Also at the town hall, Cook provided a ballroom full of retailers, installers and manufacturers a glimpse into the overall popularity of 12-volt products for the past three years with the industry conducting around 4,500 transactions a year, with the average amount between $104 and $113 per transaction.

Cook stressed the importance of keeping up with new technology in each category in order to better educate customers and make sales. According to automotive data from the SAE Group, the connected car will play a key role in the near future with 380 million vehicles set to be connected in the next four years. Even with these advancements, the aftermarket has an opportunity to surge ahead through innovations in established and emerging categories, according to Cook. "What are you doing to get ready?" he added.

Tech Fest

One highly talked about portion of the show was the manufacturer trainings, which included product tips and tricks from top companies like Alpine, Escort, K40, AAMP Global, VOXX and Metra, among others. To keep things fresh for retailers, who may already know a fair amount about most products, some companies went the extra mile and created focused classes offering something that could only be learned at this particular show.

Metra, for example, took its attendees to school with its "Metra/Axxess 101: Back to the Basics" course. The class went over basic installation techniques on the company's most popular products. During the JL Audio training, "OEM Integration Made Easy With FIX and the All-new Functionality With TUN Software," individual simulation consoles were set up to help retailers learn the process for producing a clean, flat audio signal with the company's latest software products.

Even for those companies that focused on general information for product lines, retailers were still able to gain a great deal from the experience due to the sheer amount of information retailers must retain to remain experts in their field.

"I'm a Sony dealer and I have most of the product in store already. But the way Kris Bulla breaks it down is really helpful. And he's new with them," said John Schumacher of Audio Solutions StL. "They went through the whole lineup, features and product line with general information. There're things in there you forget, certain features on certain SKUs. It's always good to refresh yourself."

The DD Audio training discussed the company's recent work building 30 enclosures as an experiment to understand different applications of the enclosures in different vehicles.

"It took well over a month. We found that listening to different genres of music affected the customer's enclosure and power amount allotted," said Kevin Doyle, a representative of the company. "The training is more general, focused on all models of our subwoofers."

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