LAS VEGAS — More than 200 general agents and product providers convened at the Las Vegas Hilton from March 8-9 for Agent Summit 2011, more than outpacing organizers’ attendance expectations for the inaugural event.

Co-hosted by F&I and Showroom magazine and Agent Entrepreneur, an new e-zine for agents, the two-day event featured keynote speeches, educational workshops, panel discussions and an exposition space.

The event covered a wide array of topics, from building an effective income development program, understanding the different aspects of reinsurance and prospecting new clients, to creating strategies for dealer training and preparing one’s agency for sale.

The conference attracted seven of the industry’s leading F&I and sales trainers to lead a host of training workshops. The lineup included Joe Verde, George Angus of Team One Group, Luis Garcia of Safe-Guard Products International, Gerry Gould of United Development Systems, Rick McCormick of Reahard & Associates, John Vecchioni of United Car Care and Robert Harkins of RAH Consulting.

The event also featured the release of a new study conducted by Angus’ training firm. Revealed during a special lunchtime presentation, results offered attendees insights on dealer product needs, preferences on service contract offerings and chemical products and dealer software and training needs.

“What a great event,” said Gregory Arroyo, executive editor for F&I and Showroom. “The sessions were well received, the audience was active and the presenters hit their marks. I don’t think we could have asked for anything more.”

Arroyo led what turned into a lively discussion on a controversial topic: “Aftermarket vs. Captive: Should Captive’s F&I Product Receive Better Terms?” Panelists and members of the audience exchanged stories detailing how dealers are being pushed into selling captive over non-captive products, as well as ways dealers have overcome the urgings of captive finance companies to move their products.

“What a great panel,” Arroyo said. “There were several ideas traded between panelists and audience members on how to combat the problem. However, I think the consensus was that this needs to be handled in-house. The agent community also needs a place to exchange ideas and information on the strategies some finance sources are employing to get dealers to move their products.”

Other panels included an update on the drive toward electronic contracting of F&I products. Panelists and audience members agreed that usage among dealers would likely increase with the adoption of a universal platform, among other advances, and that agents are likely to play a role in this still-emerging segment.

Angus also led a panel that gathered five of the top agents in the business: Christopher Blakely of Blakely Enterprises, David Griffiths of Profit Concepts, Gregg Lindo of Resources Management Group, Bob Loftus of Loftus and Associates, and Glen Tuscan of Dealer Commitment Services. The five panelists opened up their playbooks to reveal some of the techniques they employ for landing new accounts, driving F&I performance, expanding a dealer’s product mix and developing effective incentive programs.

Reminding the audience about the importance of the agent community was Randy Crisorio. Serving as one of two keynote speakers, the president and CEO of United Development Systems provided a motivational address that highlighted the role agents and agencies play in the automotive retail and finance industry. He covered emerging products, the Internet, leasing and the possibility of dealerships adding auto insurance to their offerings.

“It was clear by how many agents we had in the audience and how active attendees were that an event designed exclusively for agents was long overdue,” said Adam Kimber, publisher of Agent Entrepreneur. “I could hear attendees calling their colleagues to get them to the show, and I can’t count how many people were already asking about next year. I just want to thank the F&I team for their help. I think we put on one heck of a show.”