Making the Most of Your WWETT Show Experience

The key to a successful trade show visit is seeing innovative products, recognizing education opportunities and having a little fun.

Jim Kneiszel
Jim Kneiszel

I've attended the Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport Show (previously the Pumper & Cleaner Environmental Expo) each February for the past 15 years, and the feeling I had was the same every time I picked up an event program for the first time: sheer panic! Well, that may be a little dramatic, but paging through the book at first can be an overwhelming experience.

After all, we only have a few days to take advantage of time at the biggest trade show in the wastewater industry. This year the WWETT Show runs Feb. 17-20 for education seminars and Feb. 18-20 for the marketplace. It all takes place in Indianapolis, at the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium, and for the complete itinerary, go to

How do you use your time in Indianapolis wisely? What are the “can’t miss” events and opportunities, and what can you take a pass on? Clearly, there’s no way to visit the approximate 600 exhibitors and take in enough of the 100 education seminars. You need to plan for a meaningful experience and to get the most from your visit.

It goes without saying that you and your crew are going to want to check in with your trusted vendors on the show floor. Mapping your equipment supplier booth locations is certainly a crucial first step. Then there are the other exhibitors you want to chat with to look at new products or technologies to help your business. And you have to account for the “wander” time when you have unexpected lengthy discussions with exhibitors you’ve never met before. That’s part of the intrinsic value of the trade show.

Between these important exhibitor interactions, you will find many other opportunities for enrichment at the WWETT Show. You have to wade through that big book yourself, but I’m happy to get you started by suggesting some other ways you can extract value from your time in Indy:

Secure certifications critical to your success

• NAWT One-Day Inspector Certification Course (9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Feb. 17)

Dave Gustafson, P.E., extension educator from the University of Minnesota and a WWETT Show regular presenter, will cover the National Association of Wastewater Technicians inspection training and protocol. The goal is for pumpers and maintainers to manage onsite systems for long-term sustainability and provide solutions to wastewater problems. Among the topics to be covered are defining a system failure, inspection protocols for time of sale, title transfer or use permit programs, and inspection of sewage tanks, pump systems, advanced treatment units and media filters. Participants take an exam and receive a NAWT certification of completion.

• NOWRA One-Day Installer Class (9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Feb. 17)

Randy Miles, emeritus faculty of the soil science program at the University of Missouri, and Tom Fritts, vice president of Residential Sewage Treatment, Grandview, Missouri, will share best practice standards for onsite system installation with a national focus. The goal is to move the industry toward uniform installation practices and raising industry professionalism. The training will cover standardized construction techniques, communication between professionals and customers using standardized terms, and a benchmark for competent onsite technicians.

• OSHA Confined-Space Entry and Air Monitoring Overview and Refresher (8 a.m., Feb. 19)

Chris Cira, president, and Les Hendershot, safety officer, from MTech in Cleveland review many regulations governing confined-space entry from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The session is aimed at providing “real life” guidance for contractors over complex issues and a critically important safety concern they deal with regularly. The pair will cover recognizing permit-required confined spaces, how to comply with OSHA regulation 1901.146, and understanding alternative procedures and methods to eliminate risks and permit requirements.

In the classroom — three business seminars you may not have considered:

• Getting Comfortable Being Uncomfortable: Developing a Prosperity Plan (10:30 a.m., Feb. 18)

Andrea Booker, owner and operator of Crossroads Portables in Belding, Michigan, explains the differences between a business plan and a prosperity plan and uses a presentation and workbook to help contractors plan for a prosperous future. Among topics covered will be honestly assessing the current state of your business, determining your company’s reputation in the community and marketplace, hands-on vision board creation, and how to set goals, stay on track and take corrective actions when necessary.

• Increasing Service Profitability by Using These Four Steps (2:30 p.m., Feb. 19)

Michael and Kelcey Thompson, president and vice president of Applied Management Group in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, focus on generating more revenue from contractors’ service departments. Topics to be covered include developing a profitable flat-rate pricing program, setting benchmarks for pricing and costs, setting profitable retail labor rates and creating a memorable customer experience.

• Build a Business You Love: Don’t Make Your Job Harder Than It Needs to Be (8 a.m., Feb. 19)

Carter Harkins and Taylor Hill, hosts at Closing Commander in Nashville, Tennessee, share their wisdom about how contractors can build a business they love and that provides everything they need in life. They will pass along lessons on topics including developing clear core values; attracting, hiring and keeping the right people; and adopting the best leadership principles to win at business.

Are system inspections in your future?

A Wastewater Education 501c3 Onsite Wastewater Inspection track includes these sessions (8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Feb. 19):

• Legality, Liability, Professional Ethics and Common Sense Best Practices — A system inspection can be triggered by several events. Why and who has requested the inspection has a direct bearing on who gets the final report. Learn the who, what, where and when of inspections and legal lessons to avoid a costly mistake.

• Step-by-Step Guide to Locating and Recording the Condition of Treatment Field and Treatment Components — A detailed look at the techniques and safety issues involved with inspecting treatment fields and components utilizing video and virtual reality, focusing on difficult sites and difficult situations, cold-weather inspections, clay soils, and overgrown and damaged sites.

• Step-by-Step Guide to Locating and Recording the Condition of All System Components — How do you conduct an inspection in winter? What if the property has sat unoccupied for an extended period? What if there’s been a fire or flood? What if there has been illegal activity on the site? Attendees follow an actual inspection from start to finish.

Test your excavator skills against the best the industry has to offer

The national Roe-D-Hoe competition has become a staple at the WWETT Show. The event, held in Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts, has to be a WWETT Show highlight for spectators and participants. Bring a $5 bill and you can get behind the controls of a machine and compete for the championship belt. The event is put on by the National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association, or NOWRA, and sponsored by SALCOR.

Entrants, including winners of state Roe-D-Hoe competitions, are timed in several exercises. Preliminaries will be held on Feb. 18 and 19 with finalists going head-to-head on the afternoon of Feb. 19. Top finishers win $1,000 in cash and Roe-D-Hoe belt buckles. Just to recap the 2019 competition, the top finishers were (first place) John Moore of A&J Services, Zanesville, Ohio; Paul Willis of White Wolf Trucking and Excavating, Washington, Massachusetts; and Albert Breech of Breech’s Septic & Excavating, Lucasville, Ohio.

The NAWT Shootout: How much do you know about pretrip inspections?

During the WWETT Show Live events, septic service technicians can compete to see who can find the most problems during a mock pretrip inspection of a vacuum truck. Participants will list defects or issues they find with a truck set up for the contest. The contestant who identifies the most problems will win prizes. If there is a tie, the winner will be chosen in a drawing.


The key to having a successful show is to learn all you can about the wastewater industry and to have fun. I’ve met enough pumpers over the years to know they have the second part of that equation down cold. They know how to have a good time. Hopefully I’ve been able to make a suggestion or two that will help enhance your education and build your business. 


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