Datesand has attended the US National meeting, Aalas every year now for a good many years – it’s been a great source of ideas and information as well as helping us to network with colleagues across the pond and from all over the world. For the last few years, we’ve also taken a trade stand and been very pleasantly surprised by the extremely positive reaction amongst the thousands of visitors. This year, the added bonus for us was that Aalas has readily agreed to support the newly instituted Janet Wood Innovation Award and, of course, the exhibition provided the perfect opportunity to spread the word about this important initiative. Representing Datesand at this year’s event were Jonathon, Nicky and Ryan. Here, Nicky takes up the story.
After a 10 hour flight, the Datesand three plus colleagues from Agenda, Cambridge University, Manchester University, Pirbright Institute, MRC and DSTL arrived in an amazingly warm Austin, Texas. After a bite to eat and a couple of beers, it was an early night for all.
Sunday started early with Ryan and Jonathon to be found in the gym at 6am!! Jet lag has a lot to answer for!! Two breakfasts later, Ryan and I were ready to hit the convention centre and Jonathon was ready for the golf course for some informal meetings.
Disappointingly, only one of our exhibition boxes had arrived at the exhibition hall but luckily it was the one with the stand in and we were able to get set up. We were very pleased with the stand and by lunchtime we were done.
Our first business commitment was a dinner meeting with Andrea from the Andersons – our supplier of corncob bedding. A lovely evening was had by all. After the meal, a number of the other Brit contingent showed up in the bar (shocker!) and some folks headed out to continue the merriment. Ryan will be able to tell more on that…!
The main event started on Monday morning at 8.30am with the ribbon cutting ceremony and a busy week got underway. The three of us had a packed schedule ahead of supplier and distributor meetings, training sessions and of course, manning the trade stand for the 4000+ delegates registered.
Monday in Austin started bright and early with another trip to the gym and a hearty American breakfast. The main trade show opened with the National Anthem and ribbon cutting ceremony and off we went…
Our stand position was great – right next to the coffee and food stations and by luck we also managed to bag an island booth. Unfortunately our catalogues and a box we were transporting for the IAT didn’t make it to Austin and, as I write, are still lost in transit. Nevertheless, the stand looked great and we wer
e ready and raring to go
Monday passed at a blur with nearly 100 enquiries. The JWI winning products garnered most interest and the global audience at AALAS were super impressed by the Mouse Swing, Mouse Mezzanine and Tunnel Clip. We’ve plenty to follow up and there is great promise for some big sales. The day also included a good face to face meeting with our new Japanese distribution partners and a training session for Ryan with our colleagues at ClearH2O (he’ll report back on this separately and will be holding a training session in the near future for the team). After a full on day we went out for a quiet dinner and headed home early to get set for day 2.
Tuesday started bright and early with a breakfast meeting for Jonathon and I with the team from ClearH2O to review our sales and how we can grow the business with them. They told us about some exciting new products that they are adding to their range and we briefly touched on politics. That gave us a clear signal that it was time to head to the booth for the day! While Ryan skilfully managed the booth, it was then onto a meeting with a potential exciting new partner company looking to launch their products into the UK – watch this space! After a good couple of hours on the booth it was time for Jonathan and I to abandon Ryan again to head off to meet with another of our long standing partners, Bio-Serv. Over lunch we discussed the potential for them to take on some of the JWIA products for the US market and also to get directly involved with future years’ JWIA. It was then back to the booth via the pharmacy to pick Ryan up some more drugs (man flu?!) before we found ourselves closing up for the day and doing a swift turnaround to get out to the Innovive Party. The free bar at the Innovive Party was well received and resulted in Ryan impressing (??) the local ladies with his dancing before heading off with them to continue “networking”. The older ones among us (J, Pete and myself) headed off to find some food and then back to rest our weary heads.
Wednesday was the last day of trade and the morning had a steady flow of delegates to the booth. Ryan and the Mouse Swing continued t
o be the stars of the show and we were completely out of samples mid way through the morning. After the closing of trade at lunchtime it was straight over the the AAALAC International Lunch.
Datesand are a co-sponsor of the AAALAC Fellowship Award. Every year one US and one UK & Ireland technician is picked to be awarded the Fellowship. The UK winner gets to spend a week in US animal facilities followed by attending the national AALAS meeting. The US winner gets to visit UK facilities and attend Congress. This year’s winners were Katherine M Marshall from the US and Alan Palmer from the Crick Institute.
Immediately after the awards lunch we bid farewell to Jonathon who was heading home and ryan and I went to pack up the stand. There was then time for a well earned bit of R&R – I headed to Walmart which clearly wasn’t that relaxing! – before the (now traditional) Brits Night. I had booked an evening of American Bar Sports for us and with around 40 attendees it was a massive hit. The sponsors this year were Datesand, Agenda, Allentown, Tecniplast, Sychem, Rees Scientific, Fuel3D and the IAT. I can safely say that I am rubbish at pool (but did manage to beat Ryan!) but am pretty good at building a taco and organising an event!!
Thursday was our last day in Austin and a trip to the mall was on the cards for myself, Lou, Pete and Graham before we headed to the airport laden down with all sorts of stuff! After a long flight home we were all glad to touch down in Manchester and get home to our families.
Always a fabulous meeting, this year’s AALAS did not disappoint. Austin was a lovely, warm and friendly city with a vibrant downtown area. Great business and great company all round!
We took 73 leads on the first day (a record I think!) with the new Mouse Swing, first winning product from the first ever JWI Award, clearly the star of the show. There’d been a lot of interest and it seems that the advert in the show guide had really helped bringing people over to our booth! Nicky did a great job making the arrangements for our business meetings and setting up a social evening with our British customers on Wednesday – we were expecting more than 30 of our friends and colleagues to be there. As you’d expect Ryan, our relatively new National Sales Executive was a natural with the Americans and thoroughly enjoyed the experience …they loved his accent (and especially his singing!).
The pace was pretty hectic over the next day or two but the level of interest at the stand and particularly in respect of the JWI Award was very exciting. In addition to meeting up with our new distributor for Japan, we had important meetings with and finalised the appointment of new distributors for Israel, India, Korea and Canada – very exciting.
We also attended the AALAC International Luncheon and as joint sponsor for the AALAC Fellowship award I presented the prize to the UK Winner, Alan Palmer from the Francis Crick Institute. He’d spent the week travelling the USA, visiting facilities whilst the U.S. Recipient, Katherine M Marshall was in UK visiting facilities and attending IAT Congress.
We finally packed up the stand on Wednesday and headed home on Thursday after a busy but thoroughly enjoyable meeting with lots of new friends gained, new international colleagues in place, new ideas and information on board and a great deal of interest in our products and services clearly established. Looks like Austin was a great success in general and it definitely was from our point of view.