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Are you ready for the biggest roofing event of the year? - PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Are you ready for the biggest roofing event of the year? - PODCAST TRANSCRIPT
January 18, 2024 at 12:00 p.m.

Editor's note: The following is the transcript of a live interview with Danielle Griffin and Rich Russo from IRE. You can Read the interview below or Listen to the podcast.

Megan Ellsworth: Welcome to Roofing Road Trips, the podcast that takes you on a thrilling journey across the world of roofing. From fascinating interviews with roofing experts to on the road adventures, we'll uncover the stories, innovations and challenges that shape the rooftops over our heads. So fasten your seat belts and join us as we embark on this exciting roofing road trip.

Hello, everyone. My name is Megan Ellsworth here at rooferscoffeeshop.com, and I am back for a roofing road trip and I am about to travel all the way down to Las Vegas for the International Roofing Expo. But before that happens, we're going to be chatting with Danielle and Rich from IRE to give us all the ins and outs of IRE 2024 and what to look forward to. So hello, welcome to the show.

Danielle Griffin: Hi, Megan.

Rich Russo: Hi, Megan.

Danielle Griffin: Thanks for having us.

Rich Russo: Thanks for having us. Yeah, absolutely.

Megan Ellsworth: Yeah, so glad to have you. So let's dive right in. Danielle, why don't you introduce yourself and then Rich we'll get to you.

Danielle Griffin: Sure. So my name is Danielle Griffin. I'm the marketing manager for the International Roofing Expo, so I do focus on all things IRE, and this is my second show, so I'm really excited to be going to Las Vegas this year and lots of exciting new content that's going on, so I'm really looking forward to it.

Megan Ellsworth: That's awesome. Rich, how about you?

Rich Russo: Absolutely. My name is Rich Russo. I am the show director for International Roofing Expo. It is also my second International Roofing Expo, so I'm super excited to be in Las Vegas. I'm an industry veteran, so I've been in the trade show business for over 25 years. I'm newer to the roofing industry. Learning a lot in this past year, has been amazing, having a lot of the great support from people like you. Roofers Coffee Shop is just such a great resource for me, personally.

Megan Ellsworth: Oh, good.

Rich Russo: But we're so looking forward to an amazing show coming on in just a couple short weeks and we'll be in Las Vegas celebrating.

Megan Ellsworth: I'm so excited.

Danielle Griffin: You have the countdown going right, Rich?

Rich Russo: Absolutely.

Megan Ellsworth: Yeah. We have a countdown actually on the website. Top right of the website, you can see the exact hours, minutes till IRE, so get excited.

Rich Russo: That's right.

Megan Ellsworth: Well, IRE is the biggest show or trade show of the year for roofing. Do you think this year it is going to exceed size from previous years?

Rich Russo: So, the easy answer to that is absolutely. Last year in Dallas, we had our biggest show ever. We're actually like 10% bigger than we were even last year in Dallas. So Las Vegas is going to be unbelievable. We have over 600 exhibiting companies. We’re spanning over 200,000 square feet of exhibit and meeting space. Just to put that in perspective, if you were to walk every aisle, every open aisle, that's literally like seven miles worth of walking just to get through everything once.

So there is just a ton to see. There's so many different conference sessions and education and events that we are really looking forward to our biggest and best IRE ever this year, it's going to be amazing. Again, it's coming up February 6th to the eighth, Las Vegas Convention Center. Come early, wear some comfortable shoes and spend some time because there's a lot going on.

Megan Ellsworth: Wow. 10% bigger. I mean, last year IRE was definitely, it felt the biggest that I've ever experienced. And to imagine that being even bigger is incredible. So good on you guys. That's amazing. So what's new this year? What are new events? Who's the keynote? I know we had some updates on that, so let's dive into everything new that's happening in 2024.

Rich Russo: Absolutely. So how long is this show?

Danielle Griffin: Right? Yeah, good point, Rich. Good point.

Rich Russo: I mean, the one beautiful thing about our industry and our shows is we have to reinvent it every year, and I think we love that part of it. So doing the same things year after year don't really play very well. So having everything brand new is amazing, and this year, certainly no exception. As I mentioned, we have over 600 exhibitors. 150 of them are new. They're coming to the show for the first time. They haven't been before. So you're coming and you're going to see customers with new innovative products that you haven't seen before, and that's a real benefit for making sure that you come every year.

This year, we actually are launching the IPSA, which is our Innovative Product Showcase awards. It's brand new this year. It is an online interactive voting platform where attendees will be able to seep the brand new innovative products that will also be displayed prominently in the lobby right next to your booth in lobby 100, and it will have the ability to see those products onsite and also online. And then people will be able to cast their votes for what they feel are the most innovative products being showcased at IRE this year. So certainly we're really looking forward to our IPSA program. Again, initial year this year and we're looking forward to growing it year after year.

Megan Ellsworth: That is so-

Danielle Griffin: Mark your calendars because judging will open, I think it's what, January 29th, right, Rich?

Rich Russo: January 29th, correct.

Danielle Griffin: So that'll be exciting to see how you can... We're going to have a people's choice and then there will also be expert voting that will take place at the show. So we're really excited to see how that all unfolds. So stay tuned on who those winners will be as well, because we'll announce that in early March.

Megan Ellsworth: Exciting. I love awards. I think they're just so fun, right?

Danielle Griffin: They're fun.

Rich Russo: Well, honestly, and I've been in so many manufacturers or supplier headquarter offices, they take a lot of pride in winning these awards. They put them on display in their lobbies, and it really does mean a lot. So we have some expert panelists that are going to be judging these as well as there'll be a people's choice version of the award. So really looking forward to kind of kicking this off and doing it right, so we're excited about it.

Megan Ellsworth: That's awesome.

Danielle Griffin: Definitely.

Rich Russo: Just really quickly, something else brand new this year we have two more onsite demonstration clinics. So last year we had two that were focused on roofing, roof flashing and we also had our exteriors clinic hands-on demonstrations. This year we've got two brand new ones in addition to those two, one on metal roofing and one on single-ply roofing. So there's going to be the opportunity for people to get tips and tricks, best practices and product information, hands-on training when they're being able to see experts go through the process of putting together certain aspects of the roof. And there's a whole list of different programs that they're going to be speaking about, which is all listed on our website under our events and education. So certainly make sure you carve out some time to see what these guys have going on within their clinics because they're really, really impactful.

Megan Ellsworth: Yeah.

Danielle Griffin: Yes. Imagine having the live job site right there on the show floor. That's exactly what it is. So these were really well attended last year, so we look forward to having these two additional clinics this year.

Megan Ellsworth: Yeah, amazing. And before we started, you were talking about you have a new keynote speaker, so let's dive into that. Who is the keynote and what are they talking about?

Rich Russo: So, we did something a little differently this year. Not only do we have one keynote, but we have two. So again, one of the things that really kind of struck me with this industry is that how engaged people are in content and education. Roofing contractors are really, really in tune with what's going on. They want to learn, they want to educate themselves. So we have two keynotes.

Well, we originally had our day one keynote was going to be all about AI and artificial intelligence technology. Our speaker actually got called to the White House to speak in front of the AI committee on the actual morning of the show opening. So we had to pivot a little bit, but we are thrilled that our opening day, day one keynote is going to be delivered by Josey Parks. And Josey is, if you don't know him, he's the owner and wear of so many different hats within the roofing industry.

Not only does he have direct ties to the industry, he owns a number of different businesses. He's like a master user of AI technology, so nobody better to speak on how AI and technology is being utilized than Josey. He's going to deliver an A plus performance when it comes to AI and technology, and we're so thrilled to have them as our day one keynote.

We also, as I mentioned, have a second day keynote that'll be delivered by Liza Hausman. She is the VP of Industry Marketing for Houzz and they're an online platform for the residential communities showing trends and information about housing. She is going to be doing a speak on revolution or evolution. Is home improvement market growing or shrinking? So she's going to be very, very impactful as well. And we are thrilled to have these two keynotes kicking off each day of day one and two of the show. So it's going to be amazing.

Megan Ellsworth: Wow, that's really exciting. I love the topic for day two. AI is so exciting too, but I've never really heard about the home improvement market shrinking, so that's really... I'm intrigued. I hope I can sit in for that one.

Rich Russo: Absolutely.

Megan Ellsworth: Well, any other events that people should be aware of, new or not new?

Rich Russo: Well, our show kicks off pretty much for the last few years. We have partnered with the National Women in Roofing. They're going to be hosting their conference again. It'll take place on Sunday and Monday, which is an increase from previous years. So they have two days of content, which is fantastic. We love the organization and they're doing such great things. They actually set records for attendance last year at the event. So we're hoping that they can kind of keep that curve going and set some new records this year in Las Vegas.

So that'll be how we kick things off with the National Women in Roofing. Then on Monday, we are also going to continue, I believe it's our 15th year we're partnering with Rebuilding Together to host our community service day. Amazing program in which we get the opportunity to give back to the community by helping make critical repairs to some homes in need. And I believe we're doing two homes this year. So again, Brandi McElhaney who's been kind of spearheading this for, I believe it's been 15 years. She is putting this thing together. Again, a really amazing program.

Megan Ellsworth: Wow.

Rich Russo: Just to continue down the road there, the show also has our partner NRCA. And they're the rock in the industry. They have a host of events that they're going to be putting on. The Roofing Alliance will be doing the student competition. They have their roof pack fundraising reception, they have the NRCA award ceremony and cocktail reception. And then on Tuesday night, we can't forget, we've got our first-timers reception and our welcome party. And the first-timers attendee reception is also sponsored by Roofers Coffee Shop. So you guys are front and center there. Just we're reviewing all of the graphics and everything and it's going to look amazing as you guys sponsored on there. And we really look forward to that.

I mean, the feedback we get is really... It's a great opportunity to let off some steam after the first day of the show, connect and network with colleagues within the industry and just have a good time. So it's going to be great. It's going to be at Beer Park, which is located within the Paris Hotel, so it's pretty close to the convention center and we're going to have a lot of fun. So we're looking forward to it.

Megan Ellsworth: We love the first-timers event. It's so fun. The whole team is there. We're handing out swag. And everybody listening, you have to come. And then right after the first-timers is the welcome reception. Right?

Rich Russo: Yup, absolutely. It's back to back

Megan Ellsworth: If you're not a first-timer, you can go there.

Danielle Griffin: Yeah.

Megan Ellsworth: Awesome.

Danielle Griffin: That's correct. Sorry, if you heard my dog barking, she was going a little crazy there for a second.

Megan Ellsworth: That's okay. We can take that out.

Rich Russo: The show continues on Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday evening has been kind of a tradition at the show. SRS does their benefit concert. It'll be held at the House of Blues. This year they're going to feature Lynyrd Skynyrd, Dierks Bentley and Tinelle Townes. The concert will also focus on raising support for veterans disaster relief and families in crisis. So a great event. Some great talent that'll be out there. So if you get a chance, certainly see if you can get some tickets to go to that concert. It'd be a lot of fun.

Megan Ellsworth: Yeah, definitely. And just to add a note, they also have their tailgate. SRS has their tailgate outside the convention center during the whole show and they have music. Actually my band is playing out from 3:00 to 4:30 on Wednesday. And my bands name is Ellsworth.

Danielle Griffin: How exciting.

Rich Russo: So, you broke some news for me too because I had no idea. I can't wait. I'm looking forward to it. I'm going to have to make my way out there to see you play, for sure.

Megan Ellsworth: You'll have to.

Danielle Griffin: Amazing.

Megan Ellsworth: Well, okay, so we talked about all the big events that are happening personally. What is something you're most excited about for the show this year?

Rich Russo: Absolutely. So it's an easy one for me. Again, I've only been to one other roofing expo and one of the things that jumped out from me was in talking to a lot of our exhibitors, was connecting with the Hispanic marketplace. We had number of conversations, really. There was a tie-in needed from the manufacturers to the Hispanic contractor, and they really wanted to get more involved in this industry.

So we went out to a lot of our partners and associations and friends in the Hispanic market and they didn't feel like IRE was the place for them. So we needed to make changes. And one of the things I'm really most proud about and excited about is the initiatives that we have for the Hispanic contractors. We've made partnerships with a number of different organizations like Labor Central, and NAHICA, and Latinos and Roofing, and LIRA, and the Southeast Contracting Services.

These are all highly regarded industry partners and associations that are passionate about the Hispanic contractor and making sure that IRE is a place where they can not only come and feel welcome, but get education and content networking, all the things that they need to do their businesses better. We've got a whole slew of programs that we put in place, like we're going to have Spanish-speaking staff on site. We're going to have dedicated registration lines. We're going to have bilingual signage on... Signage throughout the show.

Danielle Griffin: I think for the booth.

Rich Russo: We're going to have exhibitors identify ones that have Spanish-speaking staff within their booth. So we have a lot of these different programs that we're putting. We actually have our first session will be all in Spanish this year. One of our conference sessions will be exclusive in Spanish. So we're really excited about it. This is kind of a... I look at it as like a rollercoaster where it's going to keep going up when we're just at the bottom of that. We need to keep building momentum and continue to build our program in the future, but we're off to a good start and we look forward to continuing that for next year and beyond.

Megan Ellsworth: That's amazing. That is amazing. Danielle, what's your

Danielle Griffin: Definitely. That's-

Megan Ellsworth: Sorry, go ahead.

Danielle Griffin: I was going to say, that's actually one of my favorite ones as well, because I mean, we've really started from the ground up kind of thinking about what this means to folks attending our show, how our experience can be more inclusive and who are the contexts that we need to work with in the industry to really see, get their perspective and get their insights to make sure that we are bringing any and all ideas to the table and building upon that for each year.

So there's a lot of marketing areas that we're looking at on how we can track in ways that we haven't tracked before for questions we ask people in surveys to how can we do focus groups and creating content that's tailored to this audience specifically. So it's definitely been something that has been exciting to have my hands involved with as well as knowing that this impacts the future and the growth and also being a Hispanic myself.

So it's just something that is nice to really be involved with all the way around. So it'll be nice to see. My favorite part of the show is once we get there on site and really seeing it all come together and everything that we've put into the show for nine months. So it's just like wow. It's so surreal sometimes and seeing all the branding and the marketing, and obviously, I have to geek out about marketing a little bit.

Megan Ellsworth: Absolutely.

Danielle Griffin: But that's the thing. And being in these forums with you all and everything, we thank you as far as your support too with this Hispanic Initiatives this year we did have a podcast with some of those folks that we were working with. So it's been great.

Megan Ellsworth: That's awesome. Yay. I mean, we've been working really heavily with SRS and their para Latinos sector. And we actually are doing lunch and learns with them. So anyone out there listening and you know someone that speaks Spanish and would enjoy all that great content, send it to them and send them on over to IRE. It's very accessible for everyone. So that's just really exciting. I'm also excited about it. So we already talked about what's new this year, but is there anything that has changed drastically from previous years that maybe you all are proud of for this year? Maybe, Danielle, you can start.

Danielle Griffin: So, I would say one thing that's probably changed drastically is just that as an overall business, I think we're trying to make sure that we're being sustainable and what types of efforts are we doing to reduce our carbon footprint. So it's also one of those things that we see internally throughout our business. So one of the things that we're looking at is continuing to, where can we reduce... We're using recycled badges. We're trying to make sure that sustainable things are used and that the products that they're using for the building clinics, we do donations and we're helping in those efforts.

So I think that that's one thing that has definitely evolved and we actually... Our events are looked at overall at how we do that and how we can continue to make them better each year.

Megan Ellsworth: That's great. Wow. And you've been using less carpet too, right?

Danielle Griffin: Well, I think Rich knows a little bit more about the carpet.

Rich Russo: So, we do use sustainable practices there.

Danielle Griffin: Awesome.

Rich Russo: We had eliminated carpeting one year and it was not really well received. So from the standpoint, we do make sure there's sustainable practices that we utilize. So we do have carpeting, but we make sure that it is recycled carpeting. We also make sure that it gets recycled, so it's a double whammy. We make sure it's used recycled carpeting on the front end, and then we do recycle it again on the backend. And as Danielle said, we have a number of programs that we're going to be even have holding contests on site for the most sustainable booth displays that we have and really making a concerted effort to reduce our carbon footprint when it comes to the overall show floor and the waste that we're using.

We're working with the convention center and our food service deliveries to donate food that's not being utilized to either some farms in the area so that there is no waste. And things like that are really important because we all have a charge to take care of this planet that we live on. And these shows that do create an immense amount of waste, the best we can do is to work with all of our customers and partners to make sure that we're reducing and eliminating as much of that as possible.

Megan Ellsworth: Yeah, absolutely. That's exciting. So for anyone that is going to IRE for their first time, what advice would you give them?

Danielle Griffin: I would say that the biggest thing is there's a lot of information. And so take a little bit of time to download the mobile app, sign up for the show planner in there and make sure that you make note of what you want to go to. Start checking out the exhibitors. And one piece of advice too is that this is a show that you may want to divide and conquer. Bring your crew, bring your team. That way you can send some folks to one session and everybody can cover the areas that you need to learn for your business or there's just so many things that are happening every day. It's action packed.

So that way you can ensure that you're really kind of making best use of your time. And definitely like Rich said, bring the comfortable walking shoes because you're really going to need them.

Megan Ellsworth: Yeah, absolutely. I feel like I relearn that every year. Rich, any advice for first timers

Rich Russo: So, we always say trade shows and events like this, they're getting dropped off in the middle of Disney World if you've never been there before. So if you've never been to Disney World, it's not a good place to be if you don't know anything about or where you live. So pretty much it's exactly what Danielle said is have a plan, spend some time to really make sure that you understand where you want to go. If you go there, there are so many sessions and content and education and networking and events and you'll want to do them all.

But if you don't have a plan, utilize the mobile app and set your calendar and make sure that you're connecting with exhibitors and partners ahead of time so you could set up appointments. Because once you get there and you're in the middle of Disney World, everything goes sideways in different directions. And then you just get thrust into the chaos of everything that's going on site and you'll not accomplish as nearly as much as if you're organized, have a plan, understand what's going on because as Danielle said, there is so many things that are happening and a lot of it's simultaneously.

So if you've got the ability to bring more people, then you can divide and conquer and that really makes a big difference. But also having that plan in place will keep you focused and attending the things that you really find valuable and important to you.

Megan Ellsworth: That's great advice. And this has been just a really informational podcast. Do you guys have any other advice or things to look forward to for IRE 2024?

Rich Russo: So, the only thing I will say is, again, we have lots going on. Don't forget to stop by your booth, which is going to be front and center. You guys are right in the main lobby. I'm so excited to see your display. I get to see it all the time because our sales booth will be right next to it.

Megan Ellsworth: Oh, cool.

Rich Russo: But we'll get to see you guys in lobby 100 and you'll be right next to the IPSA booth, which is our innovative product showcase.

Megan Ellsworth: Awesome.

Rich Russo: So, from that standpoint, again, make sure that you come early, spend the entire time and we look forward to seeing everybody there in Las Vegas because it's going to be an amazing show this year.

Danielle Griffin: It truly will. One thing I would suggest too is we have the Visit Las Vegas website on the IRE website, which is really great. We will have a link with discounted tickets for the monorail for folks to get around.

Megan Ellsworth: Oh, great.

Danielle Griffin: As well as there'll be access to the Vegas Loop so they continue to expand on that project. There's plenty of ways to get around Las Vegas. There's plenty to do and we're really looking forward to being there. If you find me on the show floor, maybe I'll have a gift card for a cup of coffee because remember last year that was our incentive, right, Rich?

Rich Russo: Absolutely. Find Danielle and get your stuff. Free cup of coffee.

Megan Ellsworth: Love it.

Rich Russo: Where in the world is Danielle?

Danielle Griffin: Right. Central Hall, Central Hall too, right?

Rich Russo: Yeah.

Megan Ellsworth: Amazing. And everyone download the IRE app and absolutely come say hi to the RCS crew in the lobby and the IRE crew there as well. So Rich, Danielle, thank you so much. Everything listed information-wise will be in the show notes. So everyone go check that out and go to the IRE directory on rooferscoffeeshop.com. To find out more information, you can also go to their website. I'm definitely going to visit the Las Vegas page and get those discounted monorail tickets. That's good to know. So thank you both so much. This has been a fabulous conversation.

Danielle Griffin: Thanks, Megan.

Rich Russo: Thank you, Megan.

Megan Ellsworth: Thank you. We'll be seeing everyone next time on Roofing Road Trips. If you've enjoyed the ride, don't forget to hit that subscribe button and join us on every roofing adventure. Make sure to visit rooferscoffeeshop.com to learn more. Thanks for tuning in and we'll catch you on the next roofing road trip.

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