The 2008 edition of Coverings returns to Orlando, FL, and the Orange County Convention Center from April 29 to May 2. With more than 1,300 exhibitors, and registered attendance last year hitting a record of nearly 37,000, Coverings occupies more than 500,000 net square feet of exposition space both in Orlando and Chicago, IL. The event currently alternates between the two cities each year.

The 2008 edition of Coverings returns to familiar turf this year, as it will take place in Orlando, FL, at the Orange County Convention Center from April 29 to May 2. The move back to Orlando will mark the 10th appearance of Coverings in that city.

The show will continue to alternate between Orlando and Chicago, IL, as Coverings 2009 will be held at Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center. “The alternating schedule between Orlando and Chicago takes Coverings and the tile and stone industry to the best of all possible worlds,” stated National Trade Productions (NTP), which manages the annual event. “Each venue has its own distinct advantage, both for exhibitors and attendees. And, keep in mind, there are only five cities in the U.S. that have the capacity to house the vast size of Coverings.”

With more than 1,300 exhibitors, and registered attendance last year hitting a record of nearly 37,000, Coverings occupies more than 500,000 net square feet of exposition space both in Orlando and Chicago.

The challenge this year and following, according to the event organizer, is to build on the increases. “We know we have committed partners in the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission and in the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau, respectively, and are confident they will help us in our continued ascent,” the organizer stated.

For the stone industry, Coverings offers a complete lineup of product offerings. Included are stone tiles and slabs, including exotic material from around the world. National pavilions of stone-producing companies have also typically been a staple of Coverings, including groupings of companies from Italy, Brazil, Spain, Turkey, China and other nations.

Many stone suppliers at Coverings use the event as a platform to introduce their “newest” materials to the marketplace, including varieties of stone not ever seen before. Stone can be found in slab and tile format as well as intricate mosaics, waterjet-cut designs and complex, cut-to-size pieces.

On the machinery side, stone fabricators can find the full spectrum of equipment at Coverings 2008, including bridge saws, polishing machines, CNC stoneworking centers, laser-etching equipment, waterjets, air and water treatment systems, material handling equipment, digital/electronic templating systems, software and more. Again, many manufacturers and representatives of these machines rely on Coverings for new equipment introductions. This is also true in the tooling and accessories sector, as virtually all of the major suppliers of blades, bits, cupwheels and other tooling will be present at Coverings 2008.

Also related to the stone industry, major manufacturers and suppliers of stone installation, cleaning and maintenance products will be present at Coverings, with many companies offering hands-on demonstrations on the show floor.

Coverings is sponsored by ASCER (Ceramic Tile Manufacturers Association of Spain), Confindustria Ceramica (Italian Association of Ceramics), Tile Council of North America (TCNA), Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA) and National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA).

National pavilions of stone-producing companies have also typically been a staple of Coverings. In past years, the Italian Trade Commission has carried a major presence at Coverings, with a vast exhibit of stone materials, products and finishes from Italy.

Keynote speakers for 2008

In addition to the exhibition, Coverings has been known for producing an in-depth program of seminars, including high-profile keynote speakers. For the 2008 edition of Coverings, a series of daily keynote speakers will be on hand. While past editions of Coverings have kicked off with a single headliner, six industry leaders have been scheduled for the upcoming event, each addressing the varied professional interests of show-goers.

First up on April 29 is Mark Matteson. An internationally known best-selling author (Freedom from Fear) and consultant, Matteson will be presenting “The Art of Change,” a session aimed at installers and contractors, but like all seminars, it is open to all registered attendees. Matteson inspires audiences to “stretch their comfort zones” beyond their trade or profession, and equips them with improved management and sales skills.

Later that day, architects and interior designers will have the chance to hear Gisue Hariri, who together with her sister Mojgan, heads the award-winning New York City firm Hariri & Hariri Architecture. For more than two decades, the Iranian-born, Cornell-educated Hariris have been exploring the use of dynamic forms and materials as they create futuristic and visionary projects that are both conceptually provocative, yet visually elegant.

Retailers and distributors can expect to learn new and empowering negotiating techniques from April 30 keynoter, James Dion, one of North America’s leading experts on retail technology, selling and service, merchandising and operations and consumer trends. A regular speaker for the National Retail Federation, Dion has authored the definitive selling manual, Retail Selling Ain’t Brain Surgery, It’s Twice As Hard, and is acclaimed for providing his audiences with “Swiss Army Knife” negotiation skills.

For the builders and remodelers, as well as for architects and designers, TV personality Doug Wilson is a featured speaker, appearing Wednesday afternoon. Wilson - who hosted the hit TLC show “Trading Spaces” and is now at the helm of its latest incarnation, “Moving Up” - is a leading design talent who pens a regular design column for In Touch Weekly and whose book, Doug’s Rooms, offers practical decorating advice, encouraging readers to focus on a specific “touchstone” for each room. With a comprehensive portfolio of work that includes many celebrity clients, his signature is melding organic elements with a fresh, sophisticated and inherently American sense of style.

Set to deliver one of his top-rated motivational presentations is Jim Bearden, a former decorated Vietnam Marine officer, corporate executive, published author and owner of his own successful speaking and training business. Bearden, whose “Stone Track” session is slated for May 1, brings a large measure of humor to his approach and will offer valuable insights and advice on the changing circumstances we encounter, the choices we make about those circumstances and the consequences those choices produce. A powerful agent of change, he is passionate about sharing that gift with his audiences.

In the afternoon on May 1, renowned architect Chad Oppenheim has top billing. An “alchemist of atmosphere,” Oppenheim transforms “the prosaic into the poetic, eliciting a site’s inherent power through minimal gesture and sincere means.” Oppenheim lives and practices in Miami, FL, and he is considered to be an important and influential voice for green architecture, helping to gain global acceptance for sustainability.

Those scheduled for morning keynotes appear from 8:30 to 10 a.m.; afternoon speakers are on from 12:30 to 2 p.m.

“The keynote speakers are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the top names booked to appear at Coverings 2008,” said Glenn Feder, president of client events for National Trade Productions, which manages and produces Coverings. According to Feder, more than 80 seminar sessions are being planned for the four-day show, all themed to the special interests of attendees. “The seminar tracks are very targeted,” he explained. “They include programs for: Distributors & Retailers; Architects & Designers; Contractors & Installers; Fabricators; and one that is developed exclusively for stone,” he said. “What adds to the attraction and value of these programs is that they are all absolutely free of charge and all accord CEU credits from either AIA, ASID or NKBA.”

Many stone producers from Brazil have traditionally organized in a national pavilion at Coverings, offering attendees a look at a broad cross-section of materials from this nation.

Stone-specific seminars

Coverings 2008 reports that it is offering its most ambitious schedule ever for the stone industry, including 21 sessions developed exclusively for those in this sector.

Among the sessions in the “Stone Track,” individuals can attend: “Preparing for MIA Accreditation - What You Need to Know;” “Women in the Stone Business;” “Stone Trends 2008;” “Branding: It’s Not Just for Cattle & Major Corporations;” “Natural Stone - Sell Like A Luxury Brand;” “Is YOUR Fabrication Shop Ready for an OSHA Inspection;” and “Stone Showroom of the Future.”

In addition to a national pavilion of Brazilian stone producers, exhibits at Coverings have included a gathering of companies from the Espirito Santo State of Brazil.

Contractor and installer seminars

A steady menu of educational sessions has also been planned for tile and stone contractors and installers. Led by some of the industry’s most respected authorities, there will be 23 seminars presented especially for this segment of attendees. Developed in collaboration with the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), a Coverings sponsor, the 2008 curricula for contractors and installers is diverse but keenly concentrated on providing timely and practical advice and insight on the issues affecting this segment of the ceramic tile and natural stone industry. The schedule also includes actual instructional demonstrations and hands-on technology workshops staged throughout the four-day period and conducted on the show floor.

Noteworthy sessions to be found on the Contractors & Installers track include: “Managing the Rapids of Change,” the opening day keynote address presented by Mark Matteson; “Sealers 101: What to Use, What to Know and Why;” “Managing and Motivating Today’s Diverse Workforce;” “NTCA Contractors Profit Survey: How To Improve A Tile Contractor’s Financial Performance;” plus two sessions on “Large-Format Tile Installations” - one focusing on glass, the other on porcelain tile. Additionally, NTCA’s executive director, Bart Bettiga, will moderate a “Contractors Forum on Technical Issues,” and Scott Carothers, executive director of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF), will introduce a long-awaited initiative to nationally certify tile installers and their work. With the need to know about sustainability increasing, installers and contractors also should add to their agenda, “The Aesthetic & Sustainable Benefits of the Ventilated Wall Systems” and “Green Construction: Learning To Love The Mega Trend.”

The Spanish national pavilion at Coverings has traditionally included suppliers of natural stone as well as ceramic tile.

Distributors and retailers

Tile and stone distributors and retailers will have their choice of 18 educational seminars during Coverings 2008. The track developed especially for Distributors & Retailers will include a variety of options, such as “Negotiating Skills for Buyers, Sellers and Everyone,” the keynote presented by James Dion. He also headlines a session, “30 Things to Do When Business Is Tough to Get.” Other presentations of interest include: “How To Work With A Designer & Increase Profits;” “The Secrets of Closing The Sale;” “Show Me the $$$$$ Through Branding;” and “Remodeling Update: Where Customers Are Investing Their Money.” Additionally, industry consultant Donato Grosser returns to Coverings with “Forecasting the U.S. Ceramic Tile Market,” a look at consumption, manufacturing, imports and distribution that has always yielded vital information on the state of the industry. The curriculum is designed to help sharpen marketing and business operations skills, with a clear focus on bottom-line business.

Typically representing a broad range of marble and travertine producers, the Turkish pavilion has become a mainstay at Coverings.

Architects and designers

Among the leading architects and interior designers who will be headlining presentations for their fellow professionals are Gisue Hariri, Chad Oppenheim, Jamie Gibbs, Doug Wilson, a team from VOA Associates/Chicago and Ellen Cheever. Also on board are color guru Leatrice Eiseman and trend forecaster Maxine Lauer, both returning to Coverings by popular demand. From the world of journalism, speakers will include Jennifer Busch, editor in chief of Contract, Barbara Dixon, editor in chief of Cottages & Gardens magazine, and Alexia Brue, a contributor to Luxury Spa Finder.

Overall, Coverings is offering nearly 15% more seminar programming in 2008 than in past years. For a full look at the seminar program, organized by track and subject to change, please visit