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The place no one wanted to leave

By Connie Lannan and Brock Huffstutler

December 12, 2023

Sara Ross addresses attendees of the Women in Rental Conference.

Sara Ross addresses attendees of the Women in Rental Conference.

The American Rental Association (ARA) recently held its annual Women in Rental and Young Professional Network (YPN) conferences in Clearwater Beach, Fla. The Women in Rental event took place from Oct. 23-24 and the YPN Conference followed from Oct. 25-26. Both conferences were sold out, and attendees spent two days focused on networking and professional development with their rental peers.

See what some of the attendees who traveled from ARA’s Region Four had to say about the events.

Rachel Combs, Allen Engineering Corp., Paragould, Ark., didn’t want it to be over

Combs, marketing team lead at Allen Engineering Corp., who serves as ARA of Arkansas associate member director, is so grateful she had the opportunity to attend her first YPN Conference, thanks to ARA of Arkansas board members voting to pay for her to go.

“I am super-thankful that the board gave me this opportunity. It was amazing. The resort was gorgeous. At the Welcome Reception on Wednesday, I was able to meet new people on the party and equipment rental side, which gave me a lot more insight into the rental side of the industry from a manufacturer’s perspective. The big takeaway was industry knowledge and the friendships I gained. I was able to listen to different stories of where people came from, where they are now, how involved they are, etc. I have already made plans to meet up with these people at The ARA Show™ and see if our business can benefit them in the future,” she says.

Attendees of the Young Professional Network Conference gather for a Welcome Reception.

Attendees of the Young Professional Network Conference gather for a Welcome Reception.

Combs was particularly impressed with the keynote speaker, James Taylor, who presented “Supercreativity™: Augmenting Human Creativity in the Age of Artificial Intelligence.”

“It was amazing how each of us, no matter our role, department or business we are in, doesn’t have a choice but to start looking at AI and how that will be incorporated into our everyday lives at our businesses. It was so interesting. I took lots of notes. He gave us a lot of good resources, different applications and programs that can be used for different roles and departments,” she says, noting that her department has been using AI to help with copywriting and social media.

She also liked how Taylor spoke about collaboration and creativity. “He gave some good tips and tricks on brainstorming. The coming up with creative, negative and curious questions was neat. I feel I can use that with my team and other departments to let everyone be heard,” she says.

Combs says all aspects of the conference — the networking, education, location, weather and dinner cruise on the bay — “were so amazing that I didn’t want it to be over and I kind of didn’t want to come back,” she says.

Amanda Jones, CERP, Tyler Tents and Events, Tyler, Texas, came back rejuvenated and motivated

Jones, owner of Tyler Tents and Events, who also serves on the Texas Rental Association board, has attended every ARA Women in Rental Conference with her mother, Susan Jones, CERP, with Red Hat Rentals, Palestine, Texas. This conference is a must-attend event for the mother-daughter duo as it offers them time to reconnect and replenish.

Just a few of those who attended the Women in Rental Conference.

Just a few of those who attended the Women in Rental Conference.

“If you are feeling down or depleted after a busy rental season and could take a single pill to help you change, this [conference] is your pill. You think that no one else has the problems you have and that you are shouldering them yourself. You get there and realize that everyone has those problems. It helps you feel so much better. It is so easy. It doesn’t feel stressful. You automatically fit in — 100 percent. It is awesome. It is worth it. I am so busy in October, I thought I cannot go this year as I had a 1,600-person event on Saturday before the conference, tore down on Sunday and flew out on Monday. I had four big events when I came back. Yet I still came because of the relationships and what I get out of it. We have to do things that will help us. This helps me,” she says.

Sarah Ross, the keynote speaker, who presented “Activate Your Aliveness Factor,” had “such great energy,” Jones adds. “She got to how women react to things, how we put others above us and how we as women deplete ourselves to our detriment. She had some great takeaways for us to go back to and see how we react and how we can regroup, including small exercises to check in with ourselves to see how we are doing and/or how we can change.”

Jones and her mother implemented Ross’s advice while at the conference. “We had some free time, which allowed us to be together. We did a spa session together where we both got massages. It was funny. Part of the speaker’s info was to take time outside of work for ourselves — for self-care. My mom took her words straight to heart and did a little self-care with the massages,” Jones says with a laugh.

For the mother-daughter team, the conference is a wonderful tonic. “I love connecting with others in the industry. I love seeing more and more women get enthusiastic and more confident and proud of their roles in the industry,” Jones says. “I like seeing the younger and older ladies there. This conference helps recharge me. Being around these ladies helps me regain my enthusiasm, gets me more focused, creative, relaxed and energized. Plus, these conferences are always in a great location. Who doesn’t like sun, sand and drinks?”

Danielle Behar, SitePro Rentals, Dallas, enjoyed learning and connecting in a casual setting

Behar, senior director, business development at SitePro Rentals, was also a first-time attendee at the YPN Conference. Since she is relatively new to the rental industry, having worked most of her career in management consulting and finance in the oil and gas industry, she wanted to go “to build relationships with others in the industry, hear their perspectives and get to know others who are doing similar things,” she says.

Besides the education and networking, beautiful sunsets on the beach were another reason those who attended both conferences didn't want to leave. (Photo courtesy of Rachel Combs)

Besides the education and networking, beautiful sunsets on the beach were another reason those who attended both conferences didn’t want to leave. (Photo courtesy of Rachel Combs)

She wasn’t disappointed. “I really enjoyed the conference — was impressed by the caliber of the event and the thoughtfulness put into it. It was a great opportunity to meet a group of your peers in a much more intimate format. I will be going to the show for the first time. I imagine that it will be a larger format. Here you can meet most of the people there and talk with them multiple times in a more casual format. I really liked that,” Behar says.

Taylor’s sessions were “really insightful,” she adds. “I really liked the concept and approach of posing positive, negative and curious questions. It gets you to think about how we could be doing things differently,” she says.

Her company has already started using artificial intelligence for back-office applications. “One of our key values and tenets [at SitePro] is how to use technology to better service our customers. We use AI in some ways. I feel there are other ways we will be able to use it. It was interesting to see this as the topic and that people are thinking about this. That was great to see,” Behar adds.

Behar also took advantage of the service activity. “We cleaned up trash near the hotel. It was really fun. You get to know people in a different way when you are doing a different activity and giving back, which was great,” she says.