Special contribution by Todd Carruth, Interactive Marketing Manager
As I was walking the show floor at “The Best Show In Public Works,” American Public Works Association Annual Congress and Expo, I scanned for signs that APWA has been rethinking their show. On a floor filled with garbage trucks, snow plows and the latest in municipal mechanisms, how was this client adapting to the digital age and the new generations now calling the shots by having the purchasing power to buy those giant vehicles every city needs?
The answer was PWX.
David Dancy, APWA’s Director of Marketing, spoke with me briefly about how APWA has been rethinking the show, and a big part of it is a complete rebranding. David said that because of the length of the name, the show often gets referred to just “APWA Congress,” an old-fashioned term. The new PWX, Public Works Expo, employs a naming scheme embraced by a younger generation with X Games, Xbox and even Gen X. It was released as a surprise to the APWA community on the final day of the Congress, with a splash of color, physical rebranding of show management signage and a story told within the general session.
“With PWX, you can expect real change that will take the show into the future,” shared APWA Director of Meetings Dana Priddy in the most recent issue of APWA Reporter. “Our vision is to have a show that engages all generations, that incorporates new learning methods, that encourages more collaboration, and uses technology to allow more people to access the show.
“At this point, we’re changing the game—reviewing all of the latest meeting and event strategies, technologies and formats and incorporating new ideas for learning into the show,” Dana continues. “We’re very excited to roll out a new brand, fresh ideas, and a fantastic show.”
Indeed, APWA is focusing on improvement in all areas of their annual conference. Engaging a new attendee who expects a better show app, shorter sessions and more platforms to speak their mind and share their opinions are all challenges faced by the association team to address, David shared. Even greener solutions, including going paperless, are on the horizon.
Green is actually a commitment APWA has made for years as the public works community embraces environmentally progressive programs to better serve their residents and communities. A designated area of the show floor for exhibitors with environmental-focused products and services, called The Sustainability Pavilion, is carpeted in green to alert attendees they have entered a new area. The different carpet colors is a mechanism APWA uses to help attendees think differently when walking the floor, and bring attention to these offerings. Another area of the show focusing on Technology has red carpet, and within it is more proof APWA has been rethinking: a theater area called “There’s An App For That” that focuses solely on using mobile technology within public works. If you’ve ever reported a pothole through your city’s mobile app, chances are the public works director learned about the advantages of that type of citizen engagement at APWA Congress.
Three separate theater spaces are on the floor and are filled at the top of each hour for short presentations curated by APWA on key ideas in the industry. Another of these is in the APWA Expo Experience, a town hall area of the show floor where attendees can easily find APWA staff and board, and engage with some of the top conference speakers as well. APWA gets community. They are diligently reaching out to all five generations within their membership for input on the future vision, so all can be a part of PWX.
If the happy smiles and full aisles during the show are any indication, PWX is going to be an extreme success.