Attendees Say NCOF Speakers Rehashed Old Sessions

DALLAS — The National Conference on Operations & Fulfillment , which ended yesterday, suffered from complaints about the show's format and speaker roster.

While exhibitors seemed satisfied with the prospects they were gathering at the end of the first day, some felt traffic dropped considerably the second day because attendees had found the convention's speakers to be lacking.

“People around here are padding the situation by blaming the economy,” said Richard Paddack, national sales consultant at Tom Zosel Associates, a consulting firm exhibiting at the event. “But I think the slowed traffic has to do with the fact that the same speakers from the same companies saying the same things are here every year. That's why you don't see as many vice presidents this year — because they look at the program and see that they probably have nothing new to learn. … We are probably going to think longer and harder next year about whether or not we want to come back.”

Similar rumblings about speakers repeating ideas occurred last year when the convention was held in Orlando, FL. And Paddack's assessment was backed by Don Laden, president of Pet Warehouse, who stopped going to the NCOF three years ago and began sending his fulfillment directors instead.

“I was disappointed in the speakers because there was a lot of rehashing of ideas,” Laden said. “I have helped put on events myself, so I know it's difficult. But it didn't seem like [show organizers] did enough digging around for good speakers.”

Bob Nolen, fulfillment director at Pet Warehouse who attended this year's event, said attendees would get more out of sessions if they were presented in a college style, such as Fulfillment 101 and Fulfillment 102.

“If it was done in a way that people were encouraged to attend freshman-like classes before moving on,” he said, “you'd have less people in upper-level sessions who don't know what slotting is and who don't know anything about ordering equipment.”

NCOF officials had not received complaints about the speakers or its sessions as of late last week, said Amy Blankenship, spokeswoman for the Direct Marketing Association, which organized the event with Intertec Exhibitions.

“We try to create rich and diverse sessions, and we consistently hear good things about our speakers from attendees,” she said. “But we encourage feedback. That is the only way for us to improve the show. People should get in touch with us if they feel otherwise.”

Meanwhile, there were 323 exhibitors, 23 more than last year. Non-exhibitor attendees totaled 1,029. The total was down from last year's total of 1,900, though NCOF organizers did not differentiate last year between exhibitor and non-exhibitor attendees.

This year's sessions moved away from e-commerce and toward an emphasis on traditional direct marketing. Speakers often drew on examples of fallen dot-coms to make their points about creating sound infrastructures to support sales.

The demise of Internet companies likely hurt the show's attendance, but there were few carrying torches for departed dot-coms.

“I found the 'e-people' to be so annoying last year,” said Bill Spaide, principal consultant at Spaide, Kuipers & Co., an exhibitor at the conference. “There was so much arrogance. They had too much money and were being falsely rewarded. It was just annoying.”

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