By Mitra Sorrells Posted January 24, 2013, 12:43 PM EST
ORLANDO More than 40,000 golf professionals from around the world are in Orlando for the P.G.A. Merchandise Show, which runs through Saturday at the Orange County Convention Center. The show, produced by Reed Exhibitions, is celebrating its 60th year and has grown to include a trade show with more than 1,100 exhibitors, dozens of educational sessions, meetings sponsored by various golf organizations, equipment demonstrations, an employment center, and awards programs—making it the largest worldwide gathering for the retail golf industry. With so much going on at the show—not to mention the added distraction of dozens of golf courses nearby—organizers have redesigned the education program to attract more participation.
“Our core focus is to create the most personalized, meaningful education conference possible, and to do that we have to stay in tune with our audience—our professionals. In doing that, we realized there was a number of them that had skipped a year or two from attending the education conference,” said Dawes Marlatt, P.G.A. director of education. “So this is an opportunity to get them back engaged.”
A new three-hour “Fast Track” program Friday morning will offer three one-hour panel discussions focused on hot topics for attendees: industry trends, employers’ needs, and career advancement. “Adult learners at times get so distracted because of all the things that they are responsible for in their personal and professional lives. The purpose of the Fast Track was to provide clarity to what matters most. This allows them to get in and get out to capture the most critical information to support them and their needs,” Marlatt said. Participants will receive a flash drive with material presented during the program and three newsletters in the coming year with updated industry data.
Organizers have also made changes to the traditional two-day education conference. Sessions are now grouped into one of three tracks—instruction, leadership, and player development—so attendees can easily identify which ones will meet their needs. The overall number of sessions has been reduced from about 50 to 40, but their length has been extended to a full 60 minutes. “The feedback is that time is precious, and so they wanted a little more time with the topics to collaborate with the presenters and network with their colleagues,” Marlatt said. “And we’ve brought some of the speakers together in panel sessions to broaden the opportunity for the audience to ask questions, be exposed to different methodology and different business types. The key is that they leave the conference being able to go back to their jobs and apply the information they learned to create impact and improve their performance.”
Also new this year, organizers added instructional opportunities to the popular preshow Demo Day, which took place Wednesday at Orange County National Golf Center. In past years this event was solely an opportunity to try new equipment from dozens of manufacturers; this year attendees could also participate in educational sessions from P.G.A. instructors.