Representor Fall 2019 - Cover Story

Prepare for success at the 2020 ERA Conference

Neda Simeonova, Editor, The Representor

For a fifth consecutive year, close to 400 electronics industry professionals are expected to gather at the AT&T Conference Center in Austin, Texas, for the Electronics Representatives Association (ERA) 51st Conference.

Scheduled Feb. 23-25, 2020, ERA’s annual conference is the only opportunity for electronics industry reps, manufacturers, distributors and service providers to learn together from many experts and industry veterans in an environment dedicated to sharing practical, proven best practices in field sales and marketing.

The 2020 ERA Conference is designed around the theme “Takin’ it to the Streets: Succeeding in a Dynamic Market,” which according to Conference Committee Chair Mike Swenson, CPMR, Mel Foster Company, is “a metaphor for the core value of ERA and the field-level (street) activities that manufacturers’ representatives are engaged in with customers, distributors and manufacturers to win business, deliver value and produce results.”

This year’s event focus emphasizes the importance of staying up to date on the latest sales tools and tactics, as well as the critical role of collaboration between reps, manufacturers and distributors in order to better serve customers and each other, and ultimately succeed in today’s fast-changing market.

“ERA is excited to hold its 2020 ERA Conference at the AT&T Conference Center in Austin,” said ERA CEO Walter E. Tobin. “The theme, ‘Takin’ it to the Streets: Succeeding in a Dynamic Market,’ captures the uniqueness of our conference, which focuses on the dynamics of aligning the selling process and messaging from our manufacturers, through the reps and the distributors to the customer. It may sound simple, but to do this right requires a lot of partnership and alignment among all of us.”

2020 program highlights

This year’s ERA Conference Committee and Sub-Committees, consisting of more than 50 volunteers, have been hard at work to ensure that the 2020 ERA Conference delivers another outstanding program. From a highly energetic Keynote Speaker, to a unique and strong General Sessions lineup, to practical Breakout Sessions, to various networking events, this year’s conference is sure to strengthen attendees’ ability to rapidly adapt and respond to business disruptions while maintaining continuous and successful business operations.

Keynote speaker

The 2020 ERA Conference agenda will kick off on Monday, Feb. 24 with Keynote Speaker, Connie Podesta, award-winning author, former radio/TV personality, therapist, expert on the psychology of sales, leadership, change, accountability and engagement, and comedienne. Connie’s do-not-miss presentation, “Stand Out from the Crowd … Out-Think, Out-Lead and Out-Sell the Competition,” will bring out your edgy, creative, competitive side as she takes you inside the minds of today’s savvy, but super-demanding global market and delivers some powerhouse strategies that will help you increase sales, profits, good will and your customer base. Competition – watch out! Business as usual? No way! Status quo? Move over? Change? Keep it coming!

The theme, “ Takin’ it to the Streets: Succeeding in a Dynamic Market,” captures the uniqueness of our conference, which focuses on the dynamics of aligning the selling process and messaging from our manufacturers, through the reps and the distributors to the customer. It may sound simple, but to do this right requires a lot of partnership and alignment among all of us. — Walter Tobin, ERA CEO

“Connie’s expertise in the psychology of human behavior as it relates to sales, leadership, relationships and getting-out-of-your-own-way-to-get-things-done fits this year’s ERA conference theme like white-on-rice … and it cuts right down to the core of what it means to be a sales rep in this industry,” said Conference Keynote Sub-Committee Chair, Michael Knight, SVP Business Development, President, TTI Semiconductor Group. “The way she read the keynote committee and positioned herself during the interview process was amazing. I quickly moved from wondering whether or not she would be a fit, to wondering how far we would need to go to get her to agree to keynote the conference, to wondering what it would take to get her to give up her speaking and book writing career in order to join the leadership team of my company. This is going to be a treat!”

General sessions

The 2020 conference agenda will feature four general sessions, two on Monday, Feb. 24 and two on Tuesday, Feb. 25.

“We are thrilled to have put together a powerful line up of general sessions speakers for the upcoming ERA conference,” Swenson said. “We have two great technology sessions on Electrifying Vehicles and IoT/AI/Blockchain for Embedded systems. This combined with a strong economic session and a strong speaker on sales/business leadership approaches will make this an impactful conference.”

Economic outlook. Dr. Robert Genetski, one of the nation’s leading classical economists who is known for using humor and anecdotes to make complex economic issues easily understandable, will present the Monday morning general session, “How Tariffs, China & the 2020 Election Will Impact the Economy.” Genetski will assess the major threats to the economy leading up to the election and how these threats are likely to shape the business environment and financial markets. Takeaways from the session will include business strategies for dealing with China and tariffs as well as the consequences of the 2020 election.

Technology update. Industry leader and IoT Consultant Ali Sebt will present the Monday afternoon general session, “The Disruption of IoT: How the Forces of AI and Blockchain are Changing IoT and the New Opportunities that are Being Created.”

Sebt has more than 30 years of experience in the high-tech industry where he held various roles including President & CEO of Renesas Electronics America. His session will provide insight into how the struggle of semiconductor companies to achieve organic growth on a holistic basis has resulted in M&As, and why the emergence of IoT was greeted with great fanfare as the “killer App” everyone was waiting for. However, before IoT was able to reach mass scale and bail out the industry, two disruptive forces — AI and Blockchain — have emerged as disruptors to IoT itself.

Sales and marketing. Sam Richter, an internationally recognized expert and speaker on sales, marketing and technology whose award-winning experience includes building innovative technology, sales and marketing programs for start-ups and some of the world’s most famous brands, will present the Tuesday morning general session, “The Secrets to Sales Growth.”

In this dynamic presentation, attendees will discover: How to find information in ways that you never thought possible including existing lead lists, inside information on companies and industries, and personal information on prospects and clients; how to use social media as a powerful sales and competitive “intelligence agent,” and how to access the “Invisible Web” to find information that most think is not available online; and much more.

Closing general session. Michael Knight, president of the TTI Semiconductor Group and SVP of Business Development at TTI Inc., will once again deliver the conference closing general session, “The Electrifying Future of Transportation.”

Attendees can expect to get a glimpse into the not-so-distant future where the news, and increasingly streets, are full of electric cars which are poised to become one of the biggest drivers of the electronics component industry as their production levels eclipse that of internal combustion engines. Beyond cars, all manner of transportation is moving to electric motors. If it rolls, floats or flies, it is in the process of being electrified and this presentation will examine the state of the current industry, associated timelines and projections, the ramifications for the electronic component supply chain, and the needs and technology enablers that are driving the evolution from fossil fuel to electric powered vehicles.

General Session Sub-Committee Co-Chair, Mark Conley, president and CEO of O’Donnell Associates North Inc., commented on the 2020 ERA Conference general session topics and speakers: “As part of the general session conference planning team, it was truly enriching to evaluate speakers from all over and determine which of them had pertinent ideas and take-aways for our unique audience. I’m very pleased with the speaker panel that we have chosen as each has a different perspective on our business and I am sure our conference attendees will enjoy the speakers as much as we enjoyed carefully choosing them.”

Breakout sessions

“The breakout sessions committee has been collaborating to ensure session content addresses the most relevant topics for our industry, in a way that is interactive and solutions based,” said Breakout Sessions Sub-Committee Co-Chair, Amy Hain, director, Global Accounts, for RFMW Ltd. “We are thrilled to see it all coming together, and are looking forward to a conference that provides clear and tangible value to ERA members.”

Conference attendees can pick from 16 different breakout session topics including: M&A; swap shop; best practices for onboarding a new manufacturer, distributor and rep; succession planning, diversity and retention; website development; profile of the successful rep-manufacturer relationship; management styles; blockchain; and much more.

For more information about the upcoming 2020 ERA Conference or to register, visit