The HARDI Conference Booth Program is an excellent example of the HARDI association at work. Supplier members (manufacturers and service vendors) pay a registration fee to attend the conference and an additional fee to reserve a booth in order to meet and greet HARDI wholesalers. The issue of booth size demonstrates the sense of fairness among the supplier members. All the booth areas are the same size regardless of the company size. A mom-and-pop could be adjacent to a manufacturing giant. “This is an instance where a large manufacturer might be next to a very small service vendor, and yet they both have an equal opportunity to share their story,” says Sue Calvin, coordinator of HARDI's Conference Booth Program.

It's a very simple but effective approach, says Calvin. “HARDI supplier members want to create an atmosphere and an opportunity so they can meet with wholesaler members,” she says. “And they demonstrate that desire by paying for the opportunity of meeting the wholesalers.”

However, in recent years, some supplier members and staff have noticed a small unpleasantness. Members (and even some nonmembers) who have not reserved a booth for the Conference Booth Program have attempted to enter the reserved area even though they haven't paid for it.

The rule on this issue is clear: Only manufacturers and service vendor members who have reserved a booth are entitled to enter the conference booth area.

Sometimes members don't meet a deadline and can't register a booth later because space is unavailable. Other times, a member chooses not to reserve for whatever reason, but once at the conference decides he would like to mingle in the booth area.

Members without a reserved booth try to enter the area by wearing a name badge that belongs to someone else, or walk through accompanying a member who has a booth, or just walk in on their own, according to Calvin.

At the conference, staff and hired assistants monitor the entrance in order to supervise the flow of attendees.

Some members still try to slip through. Calvin recalls a man wearing a badge with the name of “Dolly” trying to enter the area. While Calvin or the supplier members committee have not kept a record of attempts by unregistered people to enter the booth area, Calvin says there are about a dozen attempts a year. “Of course, I don't know how many people have successfully gotten past those monitoring the entrance,” she says.

At our Annual Conference, we would much rather assist our members to help make the conference program a productive and pleasant experience, Calvin says. “No one wants to play sheriff,” she says.

However, at last year's conference in Phoenix, HARDI placed a sign at the entrance advising everyone — members and nonmembers alike — that entry was restricted only to members who had paid for the privilege.

This year, members of the Supplier Member Committee were interested in adding a stronger tone to the message and adding some consequences to those who continue to ignore the rules.

First, all of HARDI's communications leading up to this year's conference (including this magazine) will reiterate and clearly state the policy regarding rules. This will range from mailings and e-blasts to members acknowledging the rule when they sign up for the conference. In fairness to the members, we want them to be completely aware of the new policy regarding manufacturers, reps and service vendor attendees trying to enter the booth area, Calvin says.

A new ruling by the Supplier Members Committee will institute this new policy. The rule states:

Conference Booth Policy: Badges shall only be worn by the individual to whom it was issued. Individuals who allow others to use his/her badge will be fined a full conference booth fee, and the firm/firms involved will be prohibited from participating in next year's Conference Booth Program.

“The underlying principle of the Conference Booth Program is fairness for everyone,” says Hal Kivlan, Supplier Members Committee chair. “We believe that publicizing and enforcing this new policy will implement the sense of fair play that we wish to emphasize.”


Tom Peric' is the editor of HVACR Distribution Business magazine. Contact him at 856/874-0049 or tsperic@penton.com.