HVAC Comfortech 2007 is almost here. If you have not made plans to attend, you should. It is, hand down, the best educational and business building opportunity in the industry.

Getting your money’s worth from HVAC Comfortech is easy, but it’s not automatic. Comfortech can be the best boost for your business this year, or it can be nothing more than a trip to St. Louis and a stay in a nice hotel. It’s up to you.

Here’s how you can leverage Comfortech for maximum gain.

1. Bring More Than One Person
HVAC Comfortech can be a little overwhelming. If there’s a legitimate complaint about Comfortech, it’s that there’s so much information, it’s impossible for any one person to soak it all in. For this reason, you should consider bringing two or more people. With two people, you can divide and conquer, covering more territory, attending more seminar sessions than just one person could.

2. Set a Plan in Advance
As soon as you get your seminar schedule, determine which seminars you most want to attend. If you are bringing more than one person, make sure each of you covers different sessions. Because the seminars are held in flights, you’ve got more than one opportunities to attend most sessions. Sometimes you will need to juggle the schedule to ensure you attend everything.

3. Attend Everything
Many contractors fail to arrive in time for the first sessions. Others stay out too late on Friday night and miss, or are only semi-conscious on Saturday morning. Don’t be one of either. Attend every seminar session available, including the Business Opportunity Sessions hosted by vendors. The idea you miss may be the one that transforms your business. It’s okay to have fun at Comfortech, but make sure you put business first.

4. Stay Flexible
Experienced attendees at Comfortech engage other contractors between each session. They ask what they attended and what they think of it. It could be that the best seminar of the conference was not on your list. Don’t be afraid to change your plans. If you do change your plans because you want to attend a different session, readjust your plan for every session. Otherwise, you might miss one of the sessions you really want to attend.

5. Choose Seminars Based on Content, Not Entertainment
The best speakers are both educational and entertaining. Some, however, tend toward one or the other. If you need to choose, pick education over entertainment. Watch Seinfeld reruns for entertainment. Attend Comfortech for education.

6. Follow Up With the Speakers
The speakers at Comfortech are people just like you. They have had a measure of success in the industry that brought them to the attention of Contracting Business magazine and led to a speaking opportunity. Do not be afraid to engage them in further conversation. Approach the speakers after the sessions to get business cards and to introduce yourself.

Immediately following a session may not be the best time to talk. There might be a queue of people waiting. Also, public speaking can be draining and the speaker may be a little brain dead. Don’t be afraid to follow up by phone or email after Comfortech.

If you run into the speaker at the show, lunch, or in the evening, do not be afraid to pick their brains then. That’s why they’re there. People reluctant to share ideas and experiences do not speak at conferences.

7. Use Index Cards For Ideas
Take notes during the seminars in your workbook, but also bring a deck of index cards. When you hear a particularly good idea, write it down on an index card. Write down one idea per card.

The reason for using the cards is that you can easily tuck them in a pocket. At Comfortech, there are so many ideas coming from so many directions that it’s easy to lose track of them. The seminars are just one source and maybe not even the most important. You will pick up information in the show, at lunch, in the hallways, and at the hospitality rooms. You may not have your seminar book with you during some of those times, but you do not want to lose the great ideas. Write them down.

8. Spend Time in the Show
It’s hard to avoid the trade show. That’s where lunch is served. Yet, don’t eat and run. Spend time at the show. Check out the vendors. Engage them in conversation. Ask them how their products can help you make money. The vendors talk with and visit lots of contractors. Ask them for a business tip or two separate from their product.

9. Introduce Yourself
At lunch, don’t sit by yourself. Find a table full of people you don’t know and sit down. Ask people about their companies. Ask what they’ve found most beneficial from the show. Ask them to share their best marketing or operational idea.

Do the same thing in the hallways between sessions and at the hospitality rooms. Exchange business cards with everyone you meet. Send them an email after the show, thanking them for their idea. Stay in touch. Build a network of people you can share information with. If you continue the dialogue started at the show with the people you meet, you can continue the energy and the free flow of ideas year round.

10. Seek Out And Meet A Contracting Legend
The best contractors in the country will be at Comfortech. Look for one of the names you recognize from Contracting Business and introduce yourself. One of the great things about the HVAC industry is that even the legends are approachable. Frankly, the more successful contractors are usually the ones most willing to share and exchange ideas. As 2007 CB Hall of Fame inductee Mitch Cropp says, whenever he shares information, he picks up as much as he shares.

11. Debrief Every Night
Because Comfortech can be so overwhelming, it is important to spend a few minutes each evening debriefing others in your company. Write down the best ideas each of you picked up. If you travel to the show by yourself, hold your own personal debrief.

12. Putting It Into Practice
While you are traveling home, sort your index cards. Flip through the stack and sort them in order of priority. When you return to the office, give the stack to your office manager, your spouse, or someone else you can count on to pester you. Take the first two cards and put them into practice. Have your "pester person" ask weekly if you are ready for the next cards. Do not look at the next cards until you’ve implemented the first two.

This is a very simple procedure. It’s easy to do, but it’s also easy not to do. Follow it and you will be astounded how much gets accomplished over time.

Comfortech Breeds Success
When I worked for Decision Analyst, I did an analysis of the contractors who attended HVAC Comfortech. That year, Comfortech represented 2% of the industry’s residential and light commercial contractors. Yet, that 2% accounted for 15% of industry sales. Furthermore, their profit margins far exceeded industry norms. If you were to conclude from that statistic that Comfortech is for big, profitable contractors, you would be wrong. Contractors become big and profitable because they attend events like Comfortech, work to maximize the information they pick up, and return home to put it in practice.

Would you like to be more successful? If so, HVAC Comfortech is the best place I know for you to start.

Matt Michel is president of the Service Roundtable (www.ServiceRoundtable.com), an organization dedicated to helping contractors prosper. Matt is also the publisher of Comanche Marketing, a free marketing e-zine. Subscriptions are available at www.ComancheMarketing.com. You can contact him directly at matt.michel@serviceroundtable.com. Or send your comments to Contracting Business at letters@contractingbusiness.com.