Keeping It OG: Texas Auto Body Trade Show’s 2024 Educational Lineup

by Chasidy Rae Sisk

What does it mean to be “original?” The word actually has a couple definitions; it can describe something that came first, something that sets the standard and serves as a model of what should be, or “original” may suggest that something is innovative, novel and new…in either case, ABAT’s Texas Auto Body Trade Show certainly fits the bill when it comes to originality!

Year after year – since 2016! – your local association has hosted world-class vendors, top-tier educators and hundreds of auto body shops from the Lone Star State and beyond as ABAT delivers updates on industry trends, showcases the latest and greatest tools and equipment and provides exciting experiences you can’t find anywhere else. And the 2024 iteration of this original event, taking place July 12-13 at the Irving Convention Center, promises to continue in the same tradition while bringing just a little something extra.

“This year, we are bringing in speakers that we have never had at any ABAT meetings!” shares ABAT Executive Director Jill Tuggle. “We are really excited to bring these fresh yet nationally recognized faces to y’all! Of course, we are bringing back the speakers you cannot get enough of, and we are even getting what I would call a ‘Collision Advice three-course meal’ as we welcome not just Mike Anderson but also several members of his team to teach on a variety of topics. His very vocal support of ABAT and what we are doing is immeasurable!”

Collision Advice’s Sheryl Driggers kicks things off on Thursday morning with Game Changer Customer Experience. “Customer experience is paramount in the collision repair industry because we are often the first point of contact for individuals who have just experienced a traumatic event – a car accident,” she explains. “These customers are understandably stressed, anxious and sometimes unsure of what to do next. How we handle their experience can greatly influence their choice of a collision repair facility that is right for them. By focusing on customer experience, repair shops can build trust and loyalty among their guests. This session aims to highlight the importance of empathetic and relational approaches over merely transactional ones, ultimately leading to customers who are raving fans and establishing the shop as the premier choice in the market due to unparalleled customer experience.”

Driggers promises, “Attendees of this session can expect to gain valuable insights and practical strategies for enhancing their approach to customer interactions. Through practical examples and interactive exercises, attendees will learn to identify a customer’s DISC communication style, enabling them to adapt their communication effectively for each personality type. Participants will walk away with sample scripts and other customer service resources that they can immediately implement in their repair shops. Repairers will learn how to effectively communicate with customers during a highly emotional and stressful time, manage expectations and prioritize customer experience within their organization. By attending this session, repairers can equip themselves with the tools and techniques necessary to provide a positive and supportive experience for their customers.”

During the same time slot, attendees will have the option of attending Damage Appraisal Documentation with BASF’s John Shoemaker or From Dent to Delivery: AI Tools and Strategies to Reduce Cycle Time, taught by Tom Zobelein (Capture the Keys), as he explores ways shops can strategically introduce artificial intelligence (AI) into their daily operations. “The advancement in AI technology has introduced a variety of tools beyond just chatbots, providing numerous simple solutions to automate or remove repetitive tasks in body shops. Increasingly, we’re noticing that bottlenecks are not only in the shop but also in the front office operations. I plan to explore a selection of these straightforward tools that could significantly streamline or automate various stages of our repair process,” he says. “I’ll cover a selection of AI tools that shops can adopt immediately and provide guidance on how to integrate these tools into existing workflows and present various scenarios where they could be beneficial. My aim is to demystify AI, illustrating its ease of use and highlighting applications that may be new to you. I’ll even introduce a unique AI tool that’s designed to help you discover other AI solutions!”

At 10:15am, attendees can choose between three sessions: ABAT President Burl Richards’ (Burl’s Collision Center; Henderson) Navigating Collision Repair Regulations and Insurance Terminology, Do You Have Leaky Profit? Find Out Where Profit Leaks from Your Collision Center and How to Fill the Holes! presented by Taylor Moss (OEConnection) or Estimating for Seat Belt Inspections with Danny Gredinberg of the Database Enhancement Gateway (DEG).

“For years, I wondered ‘why do insurers pay for some repairs but not others? Why do they agree to and refuse certain rates?’ I’ve learned a lot and want to pass that knowledge along to help others understand how it all works,” Richards explains the motivation for his course. “I hope to provide attendees with a better understanding of what the State of Texas says about vehicle repairs and a better sense of why they are paid what they get paid, which in return will help them make day-to-day business decisions.”

Moss wants to help shops increase profitability by uncovering areas that may be costing more than they realize. “There is an ever-increasing downward pressure from insurance companies to control costs and have predictability in their outcomes,” he says. “The advancement of safety features in vehicles has driven the cost of repairs skyward and premiums haven’t caught up yet. Thus, understanding where you have profit leaks in your business is becoming more and more critical in order to pay competitive wages that keep you off the hiring hamster wheel, keep your shop running efficiently and profitably and help you find peace of mind in running your business.

“Repairers can expect to find real actionable areas to look at in their business where they may be losing profit today,” Moss adds. “We will delve into several areas where it is common for collision shops to be either losing money or not making much (or any!) money and discuss steps to take to reverse those outcomes to benefit the business and enhance profitability. This is meant to have real-world takeaways so you can look at your business with a critical eye and take something home that you can implement to become more profitable within days.”

Meanwhile, Gredinberg wants to help auto body professionals deliver the safest possible repairs to their customers. “Vehicle owners deserve the best of us, including a full understanding of the vehicle’s safety systems. We need to recognize that the liability of not performing ‘safety inspections’ could lead to a catastrophic situation,” he observes, promising to provide attendees with an “understanding of what resources are available to locate safety inspection information and the ability to build an evidence package around the necessary steps.”

Friday morning’s educational delights will conclude with Success Today, Success Tomorrow, presented by industry icon Mike Anderson of Collision Advice at 11:30am. Brand new in 2024, this class covers a variety of topics that today’s top shops need to know to stay ahead of the curve; attendees will acquire valuable information on industry trends related to employee retention, OEM certification, DRP and non-DRP models, AI and building customer relationships. 

After spending an afternoon on the trade show floor (open 1pm until 8pm), attendees will want to rest their feet and exercise their laugh box by tuning into Repairidy!, a Jeopardy-inspired, interactive game show, hosted by Gredinberg and Erin Solis (Certified Collision Group) at 4pm. During this electrifying event, participants from all corners of the collision repair industry will compete in a series of thrilling rounds designed to test their expertise and problem-solving abilities as contestants face off to tackle questions and scenarios related to collision repair techniques, industry standards, safety protocols and cutting-edge technologies. 

“Repairidy will test contestants’ knowledge directly in the spotlight,” Gredinberg notes. “It keeps contestants and attendees on their toes with questions about the past, present and future of our industry!”

On Saturday morning at 9am, Anderson returns with 100 Percent Disassembly Best Practices. “One of the most common things I see while traveling over 300 days a year and visiting so many shops is that most people believe they’re doing 100 percent disassembly, but they’re actually doing more like 80 or 90 percent disassembly,” Anderson points out. “Repairers need to realize 100 percent disassembly is the foundation for so much. It’s necessary and required to write an accurate repair plan; it’s critical for capturing all the items that can be removed and installed, improving the quality of your repair plan and minimizing supplements. It’s also critical to the parts mirror-matching process. If we don’t remove everything, it’s much more difficult for the parts person to mirror-match the parts.”

Disassembly is actually vital for all stakeholders, according to Anderson. “The customer service person can set more accurate delivery expectations for the customer, and it’s critical when we order parts from our vendor. Really, it’s critical to everything we do and to all stakeholders. One of the most important things I want to impart to everyone who attends this class: When I had my shops, a big mistake I made would be to tell people what to remove instead of telling them WHY it needs to be removed. If we can help our team understand WHY something needs to be removed during 100 percent disassembly, it’s more sustainable, so I’m very excited to share some insights on this subject with Texas repairers.”

Alternately, auto body professionals might elect to check out AkzoNobel’s Tony Adams as he dives into Understanding Contemporary Workforce Dynamics: What Does the Data Say and How Does History and Human Biology Play a Role? “This is an important topic for shops to learn about as the workforce is changing,” Adams stresses. “We spend a lot of time working on better production techniques or estimatics, but we forget to work on our people skills. Creating cultures where people want to come to work takes strong leadership. My hope for participants coming out of this session is to reframe their thoughts on what employees want from their employer and for the people in lead positions to elevate their leadership skills.”

At 10:15am, attendees might want to attend Unveiling Trends and Reimbursement Strategies for Body Shop Materials, presented by Yanni Koutmos (Eagle MMS), who will share reimbursement strategies and resources available to shops today.

Or they may want to engage in Honest Conversations: How to be YOUR Best with Clay Hoberecht of Best Body Shop (Wichita, KS). “Right now, the industry is upside down and inside out, and logic isn’t always so logical,” he says. “But I know that, personally, I had to have a consultant, Auto Damage Experts, come into my life and make some very REAL observations to shock me out of my stupor! As an industry, we have gotten so used to some really ridiculous ways of doing business that we don’t even realize how absurd it is until someone comes along and challenges the status quo. Facing this can be very emotional for some folks – I’ve seen people go from angry to sad to surprised to excited in a very short time – and attendees typically either love or hate what I have to share.”

So why should anyone subject themselves to such an emotional roller coaster? According to Hoberecht, “There’s not a single repair facility owner or employee who doesn’t know the industry is broken, but almost no one is doing anything about it. We have done something at our shop. We don’t struggle or deal with the majority of what the industry is dealing with. But if they want to stay on the hamster wheel, they shouldn’t come to my class.”

The 2024 educational slate will wrap up at 1pm with The Culture Club, an engaging panel discussion that will explore the intricacies of company culture, featuring Anderson, Adams and Richards. Expect to gain valuable insights into various aspects of company culture, ranging from shortened work weeks to employee engagement strategies as panelists draw from their own experiences to illustrate how a positive culture can drive innovation, enhance productivity and contribute to long-term sustainability.

“Shops know that for some of their employees, a working environment that promotes a great culture is worth more than a few extra dollars on their paycheck,” Richards points out. “They want a balance, and this panel will help give ideas to shop managers and owners on how to create a better culture inside the shop.”

And of course, the educational agenda (as impressive as it may be!) is only part of what makes the show such a draw year after year. The original auto body trade show in Texas, created FOR auto body shops BY auto body shops, also features a load of fun! In addition to the activities everyone has come to expect each year – the ABAT After Party, a car show and the BIG SHOTS Competition – some new additions in 2024 will include a claw machine where association members can win cool swag and a NASCAR simulator which will give each attendee a chance to compete for the fastest lap with one lucky winner walking away with tickets to any NASCAR race in the country!

Stay tuned for more updates on the 2024 Texas Auto Body Trade Show in next month’s Texas Automotive. To learn more about the show and to register, visit

Want more? Check out the April 2024 issue of Texas Automotive!