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Written by Heather Burton

Stacked amps on either side of the bright stage vibrate with rock and roll as Mat Koenig stalks back and forth across the stage, his microphone resting comfortably in hand. Dressed in a stylish black rockabilly style shirt with rockstar hair to match, he brings the mic to his face and pumps up the crowd, “Get on your feet and welcome our next guest!” as the seats in front of me erupt in applause. Behind me, the press interviews frenzied attendees and performers. Colorful vendor booths line the venue walls. An enthusiastic group squeezes by me to rush to their seats, drinks in hand. The entire historic Granada Theater in Dallas, TX is abuzz with the electricity of excited souls. It is very easy to forget that this is an automotive convention, not a rock concert, and that is just how Mat and his partner, Chris Speer, like it.

This is the Rockstar Auto Conference, or rather Un-Conference, experience. Chris expresses Rockstar’s ultimate goal, “Our conference movement was formed with the belief that we can make the auto industry a better place for both the consumer and the dealer, which is why we decided to lead the change through education and personal growth.” This initiative was created by Mat and Chris to evolve the way the automotive industry trains their personnel and their leaders. With an abysmal yearly turnover rate across the board for automotive, there is a definite necessity. Mat and Chris are not waiting for anyone else to fix it.

In my tenure as an automotive employee, I’ve attended several conferences and training sessions, so I was curious what led Mat and Chris to think the world needed another one. “We attended so many conferences throughout the year. Everything was becoming generic. We were seeing the same speakers present the same exact content at each conference…our clients would pay a lot of money to hear a speaker who turned out to be a vendor, or sponsored by a vendor, do a thirty minute sales pitch and not really give any useable information,” explained Chris. “No one wants to pay to be fed a sales pitch,” added Mat, “We knew if we were going to lead the change that is necessary for the industry, there needed to be something completely different.”

It comes as no surprise that the Rockstar Auto Conference has been named the 2018 Vendor of the Year by Dealership News for the Automotive Conference Category. The category is filled with worthy opponents, but this conference stands out above the rest. “The reason Rockstar resonates with people is that we are focused on helping people create a new quality of life. When we help them do that, it makes them better leaders, better marketers and better sales people because they’re excited about going to work again with their new skills,” Mat explains.

Resonate is an excellent word choice for this event. Rockstar does just that, immersing attendees in music, knowledge and enthusiasm for an intense experience and sends them home with it still ringing in their ears. The uniqueness is not only in the presentation.

Affordability and time commitment are forefront in the minds of its founders. Mat is adamant, “We are not here to waste anyone’s time and money.” He holds true to his word. Price comparisons to other conferences prove to be no contest, with tickets costing a fraction of other conventions. Sponsorship opportunities are available. There is also a 100% money-back guarantee. If a person does not see value in the event by lunch break on the first day, they will receive a full refund and can go home with peace of mind. “I have yet to do that, [issue a refund],” Mat interjects. This fact is evident when scrolling through the pages of glowing Google and Facebook reviews.

Time is worth more than any money commitment, so the Rockstar approach to saving it for attendees is simple and brilliant. “You will never miss a session. You will never have to race across a venue and miss a speaker you really wanted to see or regret not getting the information you really needed. You never have to choose between sessions,” Mat explained. He can say that with certainty because attendees set up comfortably at their seat and absorb the experience; it is the speakers that have to make their session time. Each presenter enters the same stage in rapid succession to maximize the experience and benefit to the audience for the time they have committed. The technicians, sound engineers, and other support staff have the transitions down to a science, so the show forges on like clockwork.

Boredom and dozing is not an issue, so do not attend thinking this will be a great opportunity to catch up on sleep. The Rockstar Auto Un-Conference Event does so much more than give flashy pep-talks or allow a proverbial rooster an opportunity to crow about achievements or a product. The Rockstar speakers are excited to give organic knowledge of processes that work and can be readily implemented in a dealership. It’s fast-paced, from-the-hip, and such a refreshing escape from what we have become accustomed. Add in the exciting ambience and music, and sleep is the last thing on anyone’s mind.

The exposure does not end as attendees walk out the venue doors. The Rockstar Automotive Wolfpack Facebook group offers continued access connecting attendees and presenters after the event is long over. Online course opportunities and mini-events scattered across the map further the educational access. The message, enthusiasm, and accountability reverberate with the newly minted rockstars as long as they choose.

All of this excitement and thoughtful precision aside, is there any proof to the benefit of the Rockstar events? “We have people who attended as ten-car-a-month sales staff who returned to the dealership and became consistent twenty-car-a-month salespeople. Those same people returned to Rockstar and became thirty-car-a-month salespeople. We’ve had dealer principals who contacted us to say that one day [at our event] made an unbelievable impact on their dealerships,” Mat responds. The evidence he presents is tangible, and if the number of those willing to become lifetime members to the Rockstar Auto Conference is an indicator, the gains afforded are substantial.

How did this movement begin? Though the Rockstar Auto Conference is a relatively new contender in the automotive conference realm, I cannot regale you with a story of humble beginnings. The event’s very first installment saw the likes of Grant Cardone and Gary Vaynerchuk on their presenting roster, and Mat and Chris have not slowed down. Every successive Rockstar event has brought even more award-winning talent in front of their crowds. The Fall 2018 event included several presenters who were recognized individually. Automotive Coach Sean Kelley was awarded 2018 Consultant of the Year from Dealership News. Guest Speaker Katie Mares was also honored with the 2018 Automotive Speaker of the Year from Dealership News.

The upcoming event in May 2019 promises to keep the standard and momentum high with “The Women Who Rock,” featuring the return of C.O.R.E. guru Katie Mares; and speakers such as Olympic Champion Coach Sherry Winn; TrueCar®’s Kerry Wise; Lisa Copeland of Fierce365®; CEO and Creator of Authentic Selling®, Kendrick Shope; Michelle Denogean, CMO of Roadster; and so much more! These women will help you navigate seemingly impossible obstacles and help you build a profitable and positive culture in your business. With the new “Rockstar Speed Dating” and “Trainer Showdown” on the agenda, the event promises even more exciting new ways to learn.

I asked Chris what is in store for the future of the Rockstar Auto Conference. “We have plans to expand the number of event offerings as early as this year.” Venues in cities such as Nashville, Austin, and Las Vegas have all bid to host the event. “We are excited at the prospect of bringing the Rockstar Auto Un-Conference Event closer to home for more people.” Perusing the Rockstar Automotive Wolfpack group, one will find an ever-expanding library of content, conversations, and resources. Mat assured me there is more in store for members online and in those forums, as well.

To those still skeptical, I suggest you check out a Rockstar Auto Un-Conference Event for yourself. Rockstar has not only led the change in how we conference, but how we operate as an industry. To Mat and Chris, I say, “Rock on!” Lead the change for the automotive industry!