Another year, another January, another IndoExpo Denver event. 

IndoExpo Denver has been one of our favorite cannabis industry networking events to attend (along with IndoExpo Portland), mostly for the Saturday B2B focus.  I’m not sure what happened this time, but it wasn’t exactly a B2B crowd streaming into the building early on Saturday morning.  The entry line for folks with passes purchased on the IndoExpo Denver website was long and didn’t move very quickly, so there was a fair bit of grumbling all around. 

We’ve attended both the Portland show and the Denver show in the past, but this year leaves us wondering if perhaps the IndoExpo Denver show needs a bit of reorganization.  We like the show, we appreciate the effort that goes into hosting it, but after attending numerous NCIA events and the huge MJBizCon in Vegas (not the last Vegas event, even though it was billed that way at the time apparently) a few months ago, I’m going to say that while I did make some good contacts in Denver, it was not easy.  

No one likes it when the fire marshal shows up. Click To Tweet

I arrived just before the doors opened to attendees, and since I based my planning on both last year’s event and the Portland event, I was not surprised to see a line of people waiting to get in.  What did surprise me was how long it took to get everyone in, especially the people in the industry with Industry Pro badges.  I realize that most of those were free admissions (thanks, Heather!) but I also want to point out that those of us in the industry are the ones that are there to network and meet others who may have products or services that we need.  

I’m also not against the general public attending events, I actually welcome their presence, since the more popular the movement and the industry become, the harder it is for the federal government to move against us.  And if an event organizer wants to let the public in for the entire event, then it’s probably best to drop the “B2B day” tag and don’t promote the day as such. 

Too crowded to hear yourself think?

It was incredibly crowded (almost like Vegas) for the first few hours on Saturday, and then the traffic started to die down and people could actually have a conversation about business, as opposed to listening to exhibitors explain their products over and over to non-industry attendees.  I also realize that exhibitors selling seeds, paraphernalia, hemp/CBD products and other consumer oriented products are there to sell product, and many of them did sellout business early in the day. 

What I did not realize, until mid afternoon, was that the fire marshal had arrived and stopped anyone else from entering the building until the number of bodies inside abated.  On some level, that’s a good problem to have; on another level, that just leaves an entire group of people who did pay the full $199, or had Industry Pro badges, standing outside in a long line waiting for enough people to clear out so they could gain entrance. 

Again, we did achieve any number of our goals when it came to making new contacts, seeing old friends, checking in with customers and so on.  For me, I am not going to interrupt an exhibitor when they are talking to someone else, especially if it looks like they are talking to a prospect.  I heard from a number of people that the “prospects” were not that, just interested consumers who were toying with the idea of getting into the business.  

Some constructive suggestions regarding setup and traffic flow management. 

What do I think the show management could do to alleviate the situation going forward, while still making money for hosting the event?  I thought you’d never ask! 

  1.  If there’s a ‘B2B’ day, let’s make it that.  Change it to Sunday, or designate the first X hours of the Saturday as strictly B2B, and unless attendees have an Industry Pro pass or other proof they are in the business (many people that don’t qualify for Industry Pro passes are in the business), then they aren’t admitted until early afternoon.  
  2. Think about rearranging the exhibitors so that the consumer oriented booths are grouped together and the B2B vendors are grouped together.  I’m guessing there were a number of irritated vendors who found their booth frontage blocked by a long line of consumers buying seeds for the first few hours on Saturday.  Very few people outside of the line standers ventured into that row of booths, it was simply too chaotic and crowded. 
  3. Don’t oversell the event so much that if everyone shows up when the doors first open that the building is over capacity and the fire marshal shows up to stop admissions.  
  4. Ticketing and admissions for those with the Rush setup were on one side of the building, and the IndoExpo Denver purchased, or comped, badges were on the other side.  Clearly mark the entrances and have the staff making the rounds to direct people to the correct side much earlier and more often.  Last year this wasn’t an issue, this year there were a number of people who had been in line at least an hour before they were told to go to the Rush side to gain admittance. 
  5. Streamline the badge issuing (I can only speak to the IndoExpo Denver side of the line) by breaking it up into a multi step process.  If you’re going to use QR codes, bar codes, confirmation numbers, anything that can be computer scanned or pre-issued, then leverage that into kiosk style stations where the initial contact is made.  
  6. Once the initial contact is made and people have confirmed their badges, move them to the next station with humans who are going to check IDs and pull the printed badges and pair them with the lanyards.  Moscone Center in San Francisco employs this system and it works like a charm, week in and week out, for many thousands of attendees of shows held there. 

It’s entirely possible that it’s time for IndoExpo Denver to move to a larger, more well equipped facility.  The Denver Mart building isn’t the brightest or shiniest venue.  The carpets are old and stained, the restrooms are dated and poorly laid out, and the building layout is just plain weird.  This is a building, like an old shopping mall, that is in dire need of a facelift or the wrecking ball.  

The good with the bad. 

One thing I do like about the setup – exit and entrance doors are separate, and in order to leave the premises you have to walk down the “hemp hallway”.  I think this is brilliant!  It provides a lot of foot traffic to a dark and rabbit-warren looking section of the building, one that most people would likely miss if not for the required pass through to exit.  

We work with a number of events that use our ticketing, or our mainstream product, and we see these types of unintended consequences occur from time to time.  The event was still productive, so I’m not trying to throw shade on the whole thing, but rather I want to point out how it could have been organized differently so that everyone profited during the opening hours.  

We’ll still be attending other IndoExpo events this year. 

We’re looking forward to attending the Bay area event later in the spring and we are definitely planning to head over to the Portland event later in the summer; we really like IndoExpo and hope they continue to see big crowds and lots of prosperity.  And we also hope that by pointing out possible solutions to the issues, our comments, (ok my comments, Hazel wasn’t there) are not taken as criticisms, but as suggestions.  🙂 

This week I’m back in Denver (seriously, I live in Phoenix, why are we going all these cold places in the winter, instead of July lol) for the NCIA Seed to Sale show.  This one should prove interesting in many ways, the least of which is the continuing drama over at NCIA management. 


I’ll report on the NCIA Seed to Sale show when I’m back and settled and have gathered my thoughts.