Jay Turner shares his experience of attending his first PestWorld conference in the USA. 

Americans are known for all things big – big utes, big meals and big personalities – and as I experienced, their pest management conferences are no different! With over 4000 pest management professionals, 200 plus exhibitors and 70 keynote speakers, PestWorld 2018 – which took place in Orlando, Florida – lived up to all my expectations.

As most would know, our annual Australian pest management conference is one of the highlights of my calendar year. It’s an opportunity to be amongst a room full of people all with the same interest as me, people who are now good friends, and who broaden my knowledge of our industry.

Attending PestWorld in the US has always been a bucket list item ever since I started my own pest management business. As happens, lack of time and money always got in the way of me attending. When it was announced that this year’s conference was going to be held in Orlando, there were no more excuses, this one had my name all over it. The opportunity to see the Everglades and then attend PestWorld was too good an opportunity to miss. And my wife didn’t need much convincing for a tax-deductible overseas holiday!

The conference, held in October, was better than I had even hoped. It wasn’t just the scale of the conference that impressed me, it was also the quality. The keynote speakers were world class and the educational sessions catered for everybody, while some of the exhibits were just next level. Our US counterparts certainly know how to add that wow factor, with live animal exhibits, magicians, trick pool players, dancers and some amazing drawcard giveaways, one of which was the chance to win a Harley Davidson.

Our day began with a keynote speaker, then a break for a three-hour lunch and opportunity to work our way through the exhibit hall. The afternoon was packed full of educational sessions with up to eight sessions to choose from at any given time. It was hard to choose just one and miss out on some potentially very interesting talks. Every evening involved at least one manufacturer putting on drinks and nibbles somewhere and if we still had the energy, Orlando Disney World Resort, where the conference was being held, certainly provided plenty of options for further food, beverages and entertainment. The duelling piano bar was definitely one of our favourites to end the night’s entertainment.

Our first keynote speaker, Yossi Ghinsberg, whose real-life tale of survival was recently portrayed in the movie Jungle, recounted his epic account of being lost in the Amazon. He explained how we can all implement our own inherent survival skills in our everyday lives and businesses. And if our first keynote speaker wasn’t inspiring enough our second, Dennis Snow, was also amazing to hear as he shared with us his experience working with the Walt Disney World Company over the past 20 years.

It was easy to see why the Disney brand is so successful and how Dennis has been able to make a career out of speaking, training and consulting about customer service. Not only was he inspirational but his humour made him one of my all-time favourite speakers. And I still can’t get his take home message out of my head: “It’s all the little wows that add up to a truly great customer experience.” Just like this conference!

My wife even found herself a whole new network of friends, after tagging along to a Professional Women in Pest Management breakfast get together. With a standing room only turnout, it certainly opened her eyes to a void here in Australia.

It’s no secret that pest management in the US is dominated by bed bug and wildlife control, but what did surprise me was the lack of termite management products on display in the exhibit hall. We might be a bit slower in getting termiticides registered, but we appear to have the monopoly when it comes to other termite management products.

Many exhibits had great displays to demonstrate their products

The integrated pest management concept is very strong in the American market. With a myriad of non-chemical management products on display, from proofing products, traps, heating products, and monitoring systems to products designed to repel every pest there is. But the products causing the most interest by far were software programs and electronic monitoring systems. There seemed to be a multitude of companies all wanting their slice of this new era in pest management, and all offering their version of the latest technology to help minimise the use of pesticides.

This was a pest management conference on steroids and there was no way I was ever going to see everything in the short three days it ran for. If anything, it only gave me a taste for more, so bring on PestWorld 2019 in San Diego!

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