MJBizCon Vegas is the largest of the cannabis industry shows you can attend at the moment.
The 2018 edition of MJBizCon Vegas turned out to be a monster… there’s really no other way to describe it. From a purely numbers perspective, we pulled some newly released figures directly from the conference press release –
- More than 1,000 – 1,028 to be exact – companies exhibited at the event, a 38% increase from 2017’s show.
- Exhibition floor space was up nearly 70% from last year’s conference, rising from 105,000 net square feet to 175,000 in 2018.
- Going through each aisle of the exhibition floor was just over a 3-mile walk – approximately 6,200 steps.
On the surface, this looks great, at least for MJ Business Magazine, industry trade publisher and host of the very popular MJBizCon suite of conferences and trade shows. But what about the attendees? The exhibitors? How do these folks feel about the ever growing cost, mixed with the (seemingly) ever shrinking amenities their dollars get them as part of the Vegas show?
MJBizCon Vegas is the most expensive show to attend, and that doesn’t matter if you’re bringing a booth and employees to man it, or if you are simply coming to have a look around. While there are plenty of deals to be had on Vegas hotel rooms (especially if you’re not staying at the Westgate, which used to be the Las Vegas Hilton and hasn’t seen a real upgrade in many, many years), the cost of getting around town – transportation, tips, miscellaneous hidden fees, these tend to add up quickly.
No more free lunch.
In previous years, and at previous shows – including the Toronto edition that we attended back in August – there’s always a “free” lunch. It’s almost de rigueur at cannabis industry conferences; there are only a couple of very inexpensive ones that have a very specific public component to them who are not providing lunch for everyone.
We also spent a LONG time in line getting exhibitor badges on the first morning (and afternoon) of the show. Frankly, this is unacceptable, and MJBiz should be sending massive numbers of apology letters – I think the specific number is 1,028 of them to be exact – to every single exhibitor, begging their forgiveness for this behavior.
It seems that MJBiz decided that it was a better idea to force everyone to get their picture taken and put into their badge than to keep the lines to a minimum and to get employees to the floor to work their booths on time. Express line? Riiiiiiiight. Lots of people late to work on day one? Yep, you got it. Never fear, the attendees were standing in an equally long, slow moving, ridiculous line so they weren’t exactly flooding the floor with their presence.
The reason for doing this? MJBiz somehow has decided that they need to squeeze the exhibitors (and the attendees, but let’s keep focused on the people and companies who are spending the BIG BUCKS to have a spot in that concrete cavern known as the show floor), and prevent anyone from attending who does not have their picture on their badge.
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The poor little retirees who work the show floor entries can’t get the bar code readers to work properly half the time (most likely because the units – not the retirees – are old and tired and cranky) which only jams up the entryways even further.
Not our first rodeo.
Having lived through years of iterations of trade shows ranging from furniture to adult entertainment to technology to (now) cannabis, we’ve seen every mistake that trade show producers can come up with, and while it’s just not nice to piss off your attendees, messing with your exhibitors is a VERY BAD idea.
While they might not decide to quit your show entirely (although that’s not going to be out of the question depending on what NCIA decides to do to sweeten the pot for their shows next year), they will certainly be looking at how to bring fewer people and have smaller booths (which by nature, need fewer people working them).
Chief takeaways from MJBizCon Vegas –
- There are lots of people in cannabis, and a whole slew more trying to get into the industry.
- Big pharma and big tobacco still haven’t made a full frontal assault on the industry yet. That doesn’t mean they won’t but they’re going to be starting on the hind foot.
- Big ag and big data are coming in with all guns blazing. Whether it’s food processing equipment, dehumidifiers (oh, sorry, indoor moisture control, I was corrected while standing in line to pick up my badge for nearly an hour and a half), extraction equipment or security and processing (um, yes, that’s us) companies, there are a lot who are looking to expand their footprint in the market.
- Parties were big, disorganized, and in some cases, stale sausage fests. Business owners, seriously, if you are hosting a party, you need to get women into the venue. We do not mean just the ones you pay to walk around dressed in your logo t-shirt and not much else.
- We are talking about actual live females who are in the industry, can carry on a conversation with contemporaries, and will create a situation where people appear to be speaking to each other.
- And while you’re at it, turn the volume down on the smoking patios and other places where people congregate to talk, as opposed to the areas where they go to dance and party. The pool area at the Cannabis Wonderland party this time was probably the most amenable spot to having an actual conversation with another person.
MJBizCon Vegas gets a new name next year.
There will be a lot more people (unless something crazy happens with the feds) at the next MJBizCon Vegas, which has already announced a scheduling change for 2019. The event is going to be held in mid-December, traditionally one of the slowest times in Vegas throughout the year.
The city, county and tourism bureau are all set to name it MJBizCon Week, and it will potentially be an actual weeks’ worth of activities, although the show floor is still supposed to only be open for the traditional three days we have seen in the past.