Coverings 2011, the largest stone and tile exhibition in the U.S., will be held at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas, NV, from March 14 to 17, 2011. The exhibition will host more than 1,000 exhibitors and visitors from over 50 countries. (This picture and the next)  

Scheduled for March 14 to 17, 2011 at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas, NV, Coverings 2011 will draw thousands of visitors from around the world to view the latest lines of stone and tile offerings, along with a full range of machinery, tools, accessories and installation and maintenance products.

In addition to an extensive exhibition space, the event will offer 70 educational sessions, with half of them specifically targeting fabricators and others specializing in the stone category. Coverings 2011 is completely free to attend, including the conference program, reports National Trade Productions (NTP), the show’s organizer.

“Stone is an integral part of Coverings, and we are committed to being a valued resource for stone education as well as a showcase for new products and machinery,” said Jennifer Hoff, President of NTP and Show Director of Coverings. “Our fabricator conference track is developed to discuss the latest trends and highlight issues and topics most relevant to our attendees. We want everyone to leave Coverings with solutions to their challenges and new ideas to grow their businesses.”

The Featured Speaker of this year’s event will be Marty Gould of Focalize Now, who will send attendees away with practical knowledge and advice on how to leverage the marketing opportunities of the Internet. His presentation, “Internet Marketing Way Beyond Your Web Site,” is scheduled for Wednesday morning, March 16

The show floor will provide a platform for exhibitors of machinery as well as stone and tile collections to interact with attendees and illustrate to them the latest developments in their products. 

Among some of the other programs of interest to this attendee segment are “Providing CEUs to Architects & Interior Designers about Natural Stone,” which will give those in the stone business all the details on how to cultivate specifier business by hosting CEU programs. A two-hour “Fabricators Forum” is set for the morning of Tuesday, March 15, and on the morning of Wednesday, March 16, “Digital Integration - A Fabricator’s Perspective” is likely to fill seats, as is Thursday’s presentation of “Stone and Tile Restoration - An Extension of Your Business.”

Since sustainability remains a “hot-button” topic, there will be eight core sessions open to all attendees. Among the sessions is “Genuine Stone - A Natural Choice for Sustainable Design,” which will be held on the morning of Thursday, March 17. Those who complete at least four classes will earn a Coverings Green Certificate of Completion - the first time this distinction has ever been offered, according to NTP.

The following is a sampling of the stone-related seminars taking place at Coverings 2011. For a complete list, please visit

Coverings conference program will include 70 educational sessions, with half of them specifically targeting fabricators and others specializing in the stone category.

Monday, March 14 - 9:00 am to 10:00 am

Survive and Thrive in a Highly Competitive Market

Speaker: Aaron J. Crowley, Crowley’s Granite Concepts

Learn the four core principles of not only surviving, but even thriving in a highly competitive marketplace, no matter the competition. This session covers understanding market dynamics and specializing in meeting specific market needs; forecasting and developing revenue targets and cost controls; process development - using documented procedures to ensure critical work is done right and on time; and finding and relying on successful advisors and mentors.

Monday, March 14 - 9:00 am to 10:00 am

Providing CEUs to Architects & Interior Designers About Natural Stone

Speaker: James Hieb, Marble Institute of America

Want to expand your outreach to architects and interior designers? Have you ever had difficulty getting an appointment at a large firm in your area? Consider providing CEUs (Continuing Education Units) to the design community. This session will showcase how the CEU program works and how to position your company as the leading expert on natural stone in your marketplace, how the various CEU programs work (AIA, ASID, IDC, IDEC, IIDA, NKBA and others), and how to get started giving presentations. This “how-to” explanation will help you get started down the CEU provider path.

Monday, March 14 - 2:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.

Fabricator Economic Headaches - Lessons and Techniques Learned from Young, Innovative Fabricators/Installers

Moderator: Duane Naquin, Stone Interiors

Speakers: Adam Bauer, Planet Granite; Tony Malisani, Malisani Inc.; Buddy Ontra, Ontra Stone Concepts

The last two years have seen many fabricators and installers go by the wayside. Others have had to “right-size,” re-tool and re-examine how they do business. Through all the economic headaches of the past two years, there are lessons to be learned. Join three fabricators as they share their list of lessons learned. No PowerPoints - just great conversation. Be prepared to share what you have learned about being successful and bring your questions and challenges to find out how others are dealing with them.

Monday, March 14 - 2:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.

Confused About Impregnators & Penetrating Sealers? Some Straight Talk

Speaker: Joe Salvo and Albert Salvo, Miracle Sealants

A look back through the history of impregnators/penetrating sealers and their importance in the marketplace. Due to the increased popularity and the appearance of overnight experts, large and small, better information needs to be passed on. Water versus solvent? VOCs? Silicone? Fluro-Polymers? We will try and answer questions pertinent to the industry.

Monday, March 14 - 2:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.

Sustainability: What It Is and How to Put It in to Practice Economic Strategies to Boost Ceramic Tile and Stone Sales and Profits

Speakers: Donato Pompo, Ceramic Tile and StoneConsultants; James C. Gould, Floor Covering Institute, LLC; Stuart Hirschhorn, Catalina Research; Mitch Dancik, Dancik International

In these tough economic times, which have affected the whole floor covering industry, now is the critical time for businesses to fully understand their position within their markets and to develop a marketing strategy to take advantage of the current recovery in the residential remodeling market and the future rebound in new residential and non-residential construction markets. It’s vital for all of us to know what’s going on in the market and to understand how the current state of the economy will affect our business and our future opportunities. The panelists will discuss how the ceramic tile and stone industries fit within the overall floor covering industry and how fully utilizing computer technology will help businesses manage and control their profits through these current economic times. The panel will open up the discussion with the audience for a Q&A period.

Monday, March 14 - 2:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.

Sustainability: What It Is and How to Put It in to Practice

Speaker: Dr. Ephraim Senbetta, Mapei Corporation; Shamil Baldeosingh, Florida International University

Although it is a much talked about subject at this time, the word “sustainability” means different things to different people. The presentation will begin with the accurate meaning of the term and explanation of why the topic of sustainability is critically important to the future of our industry. It will then go into a step-by-step description of how to develop and implement a sustainability program consistent with the three-legged stool model of sustainability that takes into account environmental, social and economic aspects. A measurement system that can be used to monitor and evaluate progress will also be presented. The overall goal of the presentation is to enable attendees to understand the scope of a sustainability program, appreciate its value and develop an understanding of how to go about implementing such a program.

Tuesday, March 15 - 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

Stone Trends 2011

Speaker: Vince Marazita, Marazita & Associates

From countertops to skyscrapers, the use of natural stone is booming in the U.S. Get an overall view of the market and market trends by attending this 12th annual “State of the Industry” presentation on the dimensional stone market in the U.S. This session will cover information, sourcing, marketing and application trends in the stone industry over the last year, including examples of award-winning projects that have been recognized for their use of natural stone.

Tuesday, March 15 - 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

Fabricators Forum

Moderator: GK Naquin, Stone Interiors

Panelists: Tony Malisani, Malisani Inc.; Michael Twiss, Columbia Stone, Inc.; Rugo Stone LLC, Natural Stone & Mosaic Contractors

This open forum is designed for fabricators to get answers to questions or problems they may have with being successful in today’s business economy. In today’s business climate, diversification is a critical step many fabricators are taking. This panel is well versed in both residential and commercial topics and what it takes to be successful in both arenas. Costs, stone supplier relationships, collections, employee development and meeting customer expectations are just a few of the business related topics that will be part of the panel discussion.

Tuesday, March 15 - 9:15 a.m. to 10:15 a.m.

Wholesale/Slab Distributors Forum

Moderator: Jonathan Zanger, Walker Zanger

Panelists: Rupish Shah, MS International; Others TBD

Back by popular demand - Join us for the 4th annual discussion of strategic issues critical to running successful wholesale/slab distribution companies.This open discussion will cover a host of operational issues, including building strong fabricator relationships, networking with the design community, freight issues and much more.

Tuesday, March 15 - 2:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.

Stone Attachments - When to Adhere and When to Anchor

Speaker: Chuck Muehlbauer, Marble Institute of America

A discussion addressing the gray area between adhering and mechanically anchoring stone veneers. Learn what the key factors are driving this sometimes difficult decision. The session will also address the types of anchors appropriate for the thinner varieties of stone.

Tuesday, March 15 - 2:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.

Urban Myths in Green Building Use of Stone and Tile

Speakers: Fred L. Jackson and Tracy West, Estudio Group LLC

Today’s complex green market takes a clear understanding of all types of green standards. Most believe LEED is the only standard for rating green; this myth is not true. There is a need to examine the NHBA Green Standard, Living Building Challenge, Collaborative for Healthy Schools, New ICC green standards in development, along with others to access the projected growth in this segment. This session will also clarify other common misconceptions regarding stone, tile and other building materials and green standards. Also, it will cover the consumers’ view of green and why this is important to the survival of businesses today.

Wednesday, March 16 - 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.

Stone Featured Session: Internet Marketing Way Beyond Your Web Site

Speaker: Marty Gould, Focalize Now

Internet marketing is changing - rapidly. Five years ago, Facebook and YouTube were just being born. Now, technology and techniques that were state-of-the-art just a few years ago are totally obsolete. The days of putting up a Web site and expecting traffic and leads are long gone. Today’s online marketing is all about creating meaningful, worthwhile content relevant to your target customers and getting it distributed through multiple channels: social media, online PR, video, e-mail and, yes, even your Web site. If you’re dissatisfied, confused or frustrated with your current online marketing efforts, this is the one seminar at Coverings that you absolutely must attend. It will change the way you think about, and utilize, the Internet forever. How are consumers finding you? During this fast-paced session, you’ll pick up tips to help you maximize your marketing presence.

This course will include demonstrations of proper keyword and tag usage, provide critical insight on how to target your audience to increase Web site traffic and obtain customers via search engine rankings. Gain new insight into the tricks of online search capabilities and what you should be discussing with your Webmaster. You’ll be better prepared to make sure you are in the right place when customers are looking for a stone contractor in your market.

Wednesday, March 16 - 8:30 to 9:00 a.m.

From Chaos to Calm: Transforming Tile Stores in to Serene Showrooms

Speaker: Kim Bernard, Walker Zanger

Have you thought about how potential clients feel when they enter your store? Have you thought about the fact that you can influence how your clients feel to drive more sales? Join us and learn some simple things you can do to improve your store (and your bottom line). In this session, you will learn the importance of practical issues such as product organization and the value of a good space plan. We’ll explore the importance of creating a lasting good impression. You will learn how to appeal to the five senses to establish an emotional connection with your clients. We will also review many of the practical issues of store planning, including lighting, education and interaction. Throughout, we will review some simple actions you can take to change your store environment, which will make buying and selling easier and more enjoyable for everyone.

Wednesday, March 16 - 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

Digital Integration - A Fabricator’s Perspective

Speakers: Duane Burke, Eco Breeze Inc.; Miles Crowe, Crowe Custom Countertops, Inc.

Fabricators need to take notice - the digital age is here to stay. This seminar will define what digital technology is in the countertop industry and the benefits and challenges of taking your shop digital. Learn about questions you should be asking your equipment suppliers to make sure you are prepared. Discover the impact on your staffing levels and training needs. Find out how two fabricators have profited from digital integrations. 

Wednesday, March 16 - 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

New Opportunities in Glass and Jadestone Surfacing Materials

Speakers: Evan Kruger, Nisa Surfaces, LLC; Nao Takahashi, Alpha Professional Tools; Jonathan Mitnick, CCS Stone, Inc.

Crystallized glass, recycled glass panels, Jadestone (winner of Coverings Select 2010 Engineered Stone) and other high-density slab materials are new to the market. These materials have unique properties that specifiers, designers and fabricators must be aware of to successfully offer these products. Learn how handling and fabricating these products are different, yet can complement natural stone. Join this panel discussion and explore the unique characteristics, techniques and benefits of this category long in need of something new to offer the consumer.

Wednesday, March 16 - 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

Maintenance & Problem Solving 101 - What to Use, What to Know & Why

Speaker: Rod Sigman, Custom Building Products

Understand what products to use for maintenance of tile and stone installations and why. Learn the difference between alkalines, acids and solvents and where each should be used. Learn why common grocery store and many janitorial cleaners are not good for maintaining tile and stone installations. Attendees will learn how to prolong the life of sealers, remove stains, prevent damage to grout, tile and stone by understanding the role of proper maintenance.

Thursday, March 17 - 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Stone and Tile Restoration - An Extension of Your Business

Speaker: John E. Freitag, The Stone and Tile School

Should I be in the stone and tile restoration business? This workshop will help installers, fabricators, and other stone professionals become more aware of the opportunities to add restoration services to their existing business. The expression “don’t leave money on the table” applies to this workshop. The instructor will showcase: training and equipment needs, establishing a business plan, sales projections, calculating costs per job. If you want to know what it takes to start a restoration business or add these services to your existing fabrication/installation company, don’t miss this workshop.

Thursday, March 17 - 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Genuine Stone - A Natural Choice for Sustainable Design

Speaker: Joshua Levinson, Artistic Tile

This session will be an introduction to sustainable design and the sustainability movement, and will describe how genuine stone makes an appropriate, natural material design choice that will contribute to a sustainable design solution over a project’s lifecycle. Learning objectives will include:

• Recalling several objectives of sustainable design

• Understanding some characteristics of genuine stone and their relevance to sustainable design

• Identifying ways to reduce environmental impacts when selecting and sourcing genuine stone

• Explaining how genuine stone was used to support sustainable design goals, upon reviewing case study examples