As someone who has directed over 250 events globally, I was excited at the idea of attending MJBizCon, a three day cannabis conference and expo with over 1,400 exhibitors, 140 speakers, and 35,000 attendees.
With legalization sweeping across the world, it’s nice to see such a massive industry event take place to support legalization efforts in the United States. The event covered various aspects of the industry, and provided education and opportunity for a broad audience, from manufacturers to growers, retail cannabis dispensaries, and ancillary service providers across the supply chain. Cannabis business leaders were able to connect and learn in a jam-packed week of events.
I’m going to break down the best and worst of MJBizCon. I want to help readers understand what went well and what didn’t so you can take these event lessons and apply them to create success in your local markets at events and trade shows.
Best of the best:
Gold Coast Ingredients: Best booth on a budget
You don’t have to spend $80,000 or more on a booth property to be successful at an event. Great experiences can be created from small but intentional efforts. Here’s what I mean: we were walking by TONS of exhibitors and this booth caught my eye. They pulled in my attention using colored tinctures in their booth property to draw attendees’ eyes toward their product display.
It encouraged me, along with a line of others, to stop by and consider what was there out of curiosity. This was a huge win and I applaud them on their out of the box thinking to pull attendees in and create conversation.
Blazy Susan: Best booth experience
Blazy Susan stepped it up and brought entertainment, swag, and great photo opportunities for guests. My favorite touch was the arcade-style claw game where you could put in a token and play to win high end swag items. Their booth was welcoming, fun, made use of props to encourage people to take photos, and their swag items were higher end. They also didn’t discriminate – no one left empty handed when I was there. They made sure people felt included.
Mary Jane SmokeWear: Best giveaways and best engagement
This was one of my favorite booth visits. I felt welcomed and accepted. They did a good job bringing people in from the Hall of Flowers and encouraging engagement at their booth. They had a low-cost selfie station in their booth that they created and took down hand written leads. After a warm welcome and engaging conversation, the co-owners swagged us up and sent us on our way. The cool thing about their giveaways is that they were distinct and noticeable to their booth/brand and people wanted to stop by when they noticed what I was wearing. We got so many compliments on the bags, and the event itself gave away sponsor bags that people seemed less enthusiast about.
STRIO Smoke Culture: Best Branding
I’ve said it once and I will say it again, when competing in heavily saturated markets like Vapes, you have to have a strong brand to win. Your brand must come before marketing, so that it’s all consistent from your business card to your event booth. Check out this booth creative:
They had a LINE at their booth while other vape vendors with booths next to them had no one engaging at all. The difference was night and day. What drew people in? The artwork. The vibrant colors. The display. The welcoming staff. It was a welcoming and non-stuffy atmosphere and people wanted to be part of it. The staff was also PROUD to show us their products. They didn’t give away a single thing…they didn’t have to. They had the room and something more cool to show us as we worked our way down the booth. We stood in front of their competitor booths and couldn’t even get eye contact from the person working the booth.
Networking events after MJBizCon: Most Intimate Connections
As a field marketer at heart, I’ve spent my career planning field marketing events off of trade shows. I’ve influenced millions in revenue strictly off event strategies like High Times and other organizations used. High Times and other businesses leveraged their presence in market with sponsored networking events, allowing MJBizCon attendees a more intimate space to connect and engage with fellow cannabis industry peers. Plus, what a moment they created for their attendees getting to see two monumental figures in cannabis culture: Red Man and Method Man!
Worst of the worst:
Paywall behind women in cannabis event
MJBizCon had intentions of amplifying women’s voices in cannabis, after recently publishing an article about the low percentage of women remaining in the industry. However, it didn’t quite land this year as they put a paywall behind the women in cannabis networking event. The numbers are staggering, with female representation down to 22% by some estimates. It would have been more impactful to have supported women owned businesses by leveraging the expo floor and having a free, open to all women in cannabis event and having people purchase drinks on their own so that more people could access and support women in business. Otherwise, you lose out on crucial networking opportunities as many people fled to the free networking events and after parties. Regardless, the women in cannabis event was a great time and I can’t wait to see it evolve next year.
Bad Staff Experience at Vendor Booth
Representation matters! Who you send to represent your brand at an event matters. Many executives love to attend events in Vegas, it’s a great reason to get out of the office. I never see executives turn down a trip to the strip but that doesn’t mean it’s the right strategy. Think about your goals: Are you trying to close more business? Do you want to demo your product? It’s important you understand your goals and the representatives that can help you reach them.
I stood at one booth for over five minutes hoping to talk to someone to get a demo so that I could hopefully refer them new business. I stood and watched their team talking to each other and laughing and having a grand time, totally disengaged from the event and their surroundings. Finally, a VP of Marketing approached me and asked if I needed help, as I was about to walk away in frustration. Elated that I could get my questions answered, I started diving into my list of questions about their product. The executive could not answer a single technical question about their product. It was painstaking. Some of the questions were not even that difficult and it immediately sent red flags. On top of that, he spoke so softly, I could hardly hear over the noisy trade show floor. It was an awful experience and made me simply not want to do business with them! Their competitor, on the other hand, had a solutions manager answering all my questions and setting up times to talk post event. Make sure you’re staffing your event properly.
MJBizCon 2022 was a great opportunity to connect with industry peers. We saw the good, bad and ugly in the industry but more than ever are hopeful for the opportunities ahead. One thing that stuck out to me was that the industry is still very inexperienced when it comes to event marketing. Everyone there had opportunity to improve, to drive more conversations via 1:1 meetings or booth engagements, and more. If you need event marketing help for your next industry event or trade show, reach out to our event planners at The Source. We’ll make sure your have a solid event and lead follow up strategy to make the most out of your budget. To everyone we met, thanks for a great time, see you next year!