It seems like you could attend a different cannabis networking event every week if you had the time and means to go. 

Does that mean you should attend cannabis networking events, or should you skip them in favor of spending the time and the money on other parts of your growing cannabis business?

That can sometimes be a hard question to answer, since no one likes to work in a vacuum, and you really do tend to be more productive when you spend time with your peers; you pick up ideas and discover ways to work more efficiently and more productively.  

Cannabis networking events can also offer a lot of fun socializing, especially if you meet one or two people that are like minded. 

[LISTEN: The ROI of Legal Cannabis Networking Events PODCAST]

On the flip side, it can be expensive to attend, especially if there are flights, hotels or other¬†lodging, rental cars, or transport fares, and of course, the price of admission. ¬†Some cities are way more expensive than others – San Francisco and Seattle rank right up there these days with NYC, making Vegas look affordable, especially if you’re not going in January during the prime Vegas show season.¬†

We’ve been attending a lot of shows for years, and some of them were a complete waste of money.¬†

While we haven’t been in the legal cannabis industry for the past twenty years, we have been in online marketing and advertising for that length of time. ¬†And over those years, we have attended a TON of shows, in a huge variety of locations. ¬†Everywhere from Curacao (that’s a Caribbean island with very favorable banking laws, did that show 8 out of 9 years) to Amsterdam (well before the US cannabis years lol) to about three hundred million shows in Vegas… ok, maybe it just felt like that many in Vegas.¬†

And the ones that ended up being a complete waste were generally the ones that were poorly organized Click To Tweet

And the ones that ended up being a complete waste were generally the ones that were poorly organized – that should have been our first tip-off that it wasn’t going to be a productive place to go. ¬†

One of the first criteria we have these days for deciding whether or not we should sponsor an event is the level of organization the producers demonstrate from the get-go. ¬†If there’s no media packet, or we can’t get a floor plan of the event, we strike it off our list immediately. ¬†We might still attend, if it’s close to home or somewhere interesting that we have other business, but that will be the extent of our financial commitment.¬†

Cannabis networking events don’t all have the same attendee demographic, so make sure to ask the organizer.¬†

We got a call last week from a well known company in the industry, trying to sell us on booth space for an event they have coming up very soon. ¬†We’re not naming names and there are so many events coming up that it could be almost anyone, so don’t bother trying to guess who it was. ¬†

Everything was moving along ok, or at least as ok as it could be when someone calls us¬†less than a month out and try to sell us exhibitor space at full price (if they¬†were full,¬†they wouldn’t need more exhibitors, and obviously this close to the event, vendors are severely limited in the collateral they can produce), and the sales guy actually seemed to understand what we might need in order to make it worthwhile.¬†

[LEARN: Be Heard – Using iBeacons to Create Buzz at Tradeshows]

But no. ¬†That wasn’t the case. ¬†When I asked specifically about events that were geared towards the vendors, since we are B2B, the sales guy explained to me that we couldn’t purchase tickets to the VIP event unless we were vendors. ¬†After already having told me that he understood we were B2B and had zero desire or need to put our product in front of consumers. ¬†

And some show organizers just don’t get it.¬†

$#%@@$#$###?!!!! ¬†Yeah, that. ¬†Why is he wasting my time? ¬†We can’t get access to the people he knows we need to access, unless we buy a booth that does us no good. ¬†

And we aren’t the type to go around clogging up other people’s traffic flow in their booths by trying to sell them something when they’ve paid good money to have a booth to sell to their demographic (consumers in this case). ¬†It’s just rude. ¬†There are people who don’t seem to believe that’s the case, but reality is that if we buy booth space and you come to talk to us about buying something when the show floor isn’t completely dead, you’re likely to go on the No list without a chance to redeem yourself. ¬†

These are the 3 simple criteria we follow in choosing to attend a show: 

#1 – Target demographic

– as mentioned above, we’re B2B. ¬†If we can’t get quality time with the other vendors, then there’s no reason for us to attend about 90% of the events. ¬†Consumers are nice people, but they’re not buying our product and we’re not trying to sell it to them. ¬† We’re happy to go to consumer oriented shows if there’s a VIP vendor event or something we can sponsor or buy tickets to attend. ¬†

#2 – Total cost to attend

It’s nearly impossible to quantify the ROI of one show, especially as an industry starts to mature. ¬†

In the beginning (IE right now in legal cannabis networking events) it is much easier to meet people that can not only become your best friends and business partners, but can become customers or vendors for life. ¬† Hazel and Kim (our co-founders) met at an affiliate marketing trade show event, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and WiFi didn’t exist. ¬†They saw it other roughly once a month for years by attending trade shows all over the world.¬†

So it’s probably a good idea to spend a little more early (when you least have it, of course) to go to a few shows and get some face time with your vendors, clients, and peers. ¬†Make a personal connection and nurture it when you’re back home.¬†

#3 РAre the organizers any good? 

This one is big, really, we cannot stress enough just how important it is. ¬†When you spend several thousand $$$ to exhibit at a poorly run event and you get almost no return on that money, you’ll learn the lesson of good organizers versus disorganized organizers. ¬†

[READ: Hazel recaps the Seattle road trip for the 25th anniversary of Hempfest]

And there’s always some scumbag who has a show and talks a good game but never delivers on the keynote speakers, or the hall space is not what was promised, or the entertainment is just terrible. ¬†

Learn your lesson, take your lumps, don't bother spending any money on that company's shows again. Click To Tweet

Those companies don’t usually have more than one show, maybe two, before they’re found out to be a big waste of time and practically fraudsters. ¬†And if you keep one ear to the ground, there’s always a rumbling about who puts on a bad show and you can tend to steer clear.¬†

What’s the takeaway? ¬†

Pre-qualify the attendee demographics, make sure the organizers have a good reputation, and expect to be let down once in a while when it doesn’t work out like you planned. ¬†But meet everyone that you can while you’re there, since you never know who you’ll end up working with or being friends with after the dust settles.¬†