The cannabis industry has always been interesting, but now, the CBD niche is shaping up to be even more intriguing. It wasn’t that long ago that MJ Biz was the only expo to attend. Now, there are so many you can literally find something almost every weekend. CBD expo’s seem to be popping up all over as well, which are leading into “alternative” expos becoming more CBD leaning. In the last few days, a few of my team members attended Champs, and this past weekend I attended Natural Products Expo West. Both were promoting to have many CBD vendors, and apparently the upcoming South by Southwest is planning to do the same.
I found it interesting that a lot of the CBD companies were saying that the shows in our industry are just too small. That was discouraging. So, it led me to do some research on if bigger, is in fact, better.
When it comes to networking, it’s easy to assume that bigger is better. The more people that will be there, the higher the chance you’ll make good connections. I’ve actually found the reverse to be true. In fact, I’d rather be in a smaller, intimate setting with deeper conversations rather than a sprawling, crowded event with a speed dating type of networking.
I recently read a quote that mirrored my opinion when someone talked about skipping this week’s 85,000-person strong Natural Products Expo West:
I’m noticing a trend towards something different this year. Many startups product buyers are skipping the festivities to attend more intimate gatherings where they can network and collaborate with more closely relevant colleagues who matter for their business’ growth.
People who have been to many of the big events aren’t looking to have that same experience over and over. They want a personal combination of location, relevant discussion and deal-making potential.
The last sentence nails it. Let’s break down.
Location: It’s two-fold. First, the locale could be remote enough so that it forces more intimate networking. CES in Las Vegas, for instance, has the opposite effect, as it isn’t conducive to having focused conversations. Second, the locale affects the ability to actually hear other people, just as a low-key lounge may have deeper connections than a noisy club. The bigger the gathering, the harder it is to connect.
Relevant discussion: Relevant discussion shouldn’t mean what your business needs right now, but what your business will need to go to the next level. One of the reasons why I go to the relatively small TED conferences is that the conversations take my vision well beyond the current scope. Broader events need to appeal to as many attendees as possible, so the agenda won’t be as fine-tuned.
Deal-making potential: It comes down to the ability to meet people outside of your social, economic or cultural circle. I love bumping into people I know at different events, but I love connecting with a potential new business colleague even more. Bigger events often are less curated affairs, so more people does not necessarily mean you’ll meet the most compatible people.
Seems to me that 80% qualified individuals in a group of 1500 is much better than 10% qualified buyers in a sea of 85,000. I’m shocked people are mesmerized by numbers as opposed to quality. Our industry is so niche and still partly illegal that it’s not typical. I can’t tell you how many times at NPE I heard “well, we are planning to get into CBD, but after it becomes “totally” legal”. You will not hear that at MJ Biz, nor NoCo, nor any of the CBD Expo Tour stops. When allotting your marketing dollars, don’t forget that we are still different and when you are different, vast numbers are not synonymous with a niche.