The premier Portland cannabis tradeshow is definitely IndoExpo these days!

There, I said it.  You know that we’re not much on making lists of who puts on the best this or that, but in the case of what Portland cannabis tradeshow you should be attending, IndoExpo ought to be at the top of any list you make.

This was my first trip to Portland, and just like Seattle last year for Hempfest, the weather gods decided that living in Arizona in the summer was not enough; I needed to feel massive heat AND major league humidity while I was attempting to get out of the desert monsoon season for cooler climes in combination with a work excursion.  

[LISTEN: Using iBeacons at Vancouver’s 420 event – what worked best – PODCAST EPISODE]

We drove down to the show via Seattle, and the air was heavy with smoke from BC wildfires burning out of control.  The temperature in Seattle in the late afternoon was well into the triple digits, and Portland had a 109 on the thermometer the day before we arrived.  We do a lot of AirBNB travel, but this time we were lucky and booked into a hotel…  with air conditioning (I lived in California for 12 years and people don’t have A/C there, in case you’re wondering why this is such a big deal).

There was also a KILLER traffic jam on the 5 freeway coming down through Washington State.  It was pretty much the winner in the “LA-SF-other places who has the worst traffic for no reason” contest.  Three extra hours it took us to make the trip.  We heard from a couple of attendees that had driven over from Denver that they hit some massive traffic as well.  Bummer.  

What makes me think the best Portland cannabis tradeshow is IndoExpo?

Ha!  I thought you’d never ask…  we are roughly 8 months into this year, and I think I’ve attended at least a dozen different shows.  I’ve raked a few shows over the coals on my personal blog (without naming any names) for having poor attendance, sad layouts, impossible logistics, and more.  So it’s nice to be able to talk about the reasons that IndoExpo turns out to be not only the best Portland cannabis tradeshow, but one of my favorites for the year to date. 

First, the venue.  

The Expo center is not exactly in the best part of Portland, and the reviews for the hotels nearby weren’t overwhelmingly positive, but it was close enough to the airport that we got a great deal at a hotel that offered an airport shuttle 24/7 (great for my 5 am flight and better for Hazel since she didn’t have to give me a ride to the airport).  We also had air conditioning that worked like a champ, I can’t stress the importance of that enough.  

[READ: How NOT to run a trade show – MY PERSONAL BLOG]

The venue was also located just across the bridge from a quaint little place called Hayden Island, which is home to Jantzen Beach.  We managed to grab a late lunch at a cute little restaurant on the island – 3 Sheets at the Harbor – before heading over to the industry mixer on Saturday evening that was on the island.

Second item on my list – badge pickup.  

This was really well organized, the fast track was moving quickly, will call as well.  We didn’t head over until about an hour after the show opened this time, since the Denver show in January was super popular and had a pretty long lineup to get in (I came from the airport to that one, so I ended up standing in line since I was early).  

[CHECK THIS OUT: Here’s a link to our Instagram feed with show pics – cannabis_wallet is our account name]

Third component I want to mention – aisle space between rows of booths.  

I have no idea if this is mandated by the fire marshal, the venue organizers or the show hosts, but there is nothing worse than having the rows too close together.  The aisles at IndoExpo were nice and wide, and in the inevitable crush of people who want to stand in the aisle and have a conversation, it’s nice to be able to get through and keep moving, if that’s what you’re trying to do. 

Fourth and final reason.

I think that the best Portland cannabis tradeshow is IndoExpo (and the overwhelming main reason to go in my opinion) is the QUALITY OF THE EXHIBITORS AND ATTENDEES.  

I go to a ton of cannabis events.  Right now I think it’s one of the more important things you can do to start networking in your business.  I’ve written about it before, we’ve posted about it on this blog in the past, and it’s more important than ever right now. 

This is the first cannabis show I’ve attended where I really think we met people that we will work with going forward, on new ideas, new thoughts, and pro-active ideas.   It was fantastic to meet such a solid group of people at an event.   This is the kind of thing that makes me believe we’re starting to do more than just hang on in this industry; that we’re actually beginning to move forward like “real” businesses and enterprises do. 

There’s a little secret in the cannabis industry at the moment. 

There are a metric ton of big companies lurking in our space.  They know there is money to be made, and they see the figures that are published about the kind of money that’s coming into states with some form of legal marijuana available.  (Nevada in July, anyone?)  And these companies are starting to make appearances at shows and conferences. 

Boveda is a great example (sorry we missed you at the show, Drew, but happy birthday to your dad) of a company that’s added a cannabis division to a mainstream company and done exceptionally well with it.  

portland cannabis tradeshow boveda

This is a screenshot of their website front page.  Nowhere does it actually say cannabis, marijuana, hemp, etc – “herbal medicine” is the closest they come to it.  These guys have been making humidity control packaging for cigars forever, and they’re big time in the cannabis industry.  

There are lots of companies who are doing the same thing – some of them with their well known names, and some with alternate companies that they’ve created just for the cannabis industry.  We can all understand how that works, since my guess is that at least 80% of the people reading this have done something similar over their cannabis career.  

Networking can be critical to your business. 

These are the people that you want to meet.  You want to get some time to hang out with them, find out what their divisions, their parent companies, etc are thinking about this industry and how they plan to profit from their association with cannabis.  

As an industry, we need to be forward thinking, and as a business owner, you need to start crafting a business plan (seriously, maybe 10% of cannabiz owners have an actual written business plan!), and you need to get serious about how you will compete in the next few years when more competition, of the very well funded type, starts getting into this market. 

While you may be competitors, it never hurts to bounce ideas off each other, and to find some common ground.  One company isn’t going to be the “only” company in a particular part of this space; keeping your head in the sand and failing to recognize what’s happening around you with trends is just like shooting yourself in the foot. 

The only real minus to the show?

No mobile component.  Of course I’m going to be biased here, but it’s a real drawback when you compare it to shows that use mobile to engage, update and interact with their attendees, sponsors, vendors, speakers and employees or volunteers.   One of the comments we heard from a show volunteer/employee was that there are such a variety of pass types in use, it’s hard for people to keep up with what they need and when they need it. 

It would be so much easier to house all the information in a mobile wallet pass; or multiples if there are a lot of events – not to mention that’s a killer way to up sponsor participation with a great value add.  

[MOBILE FOR YOUR SHOW?  Of course we can help you with that]

I spoke at length with the owner of an SMS messaging service who is doing quite well in the cannabis space, and we agree that while SMS is great, at the end of the day it’s just “dumb messaging”.  It has no idea where you are in relation to an event, it has no proximity element for notifications built in, and you’re very limited when you calculate that you can only say so much in 140 (or even 240) characters – especially if you’re asking someone to click a link from the SMS that takes them to a slow loading web page.  

The chief takeaway here:  

If you are looking for a PNW show to attend, you should seriously consider IndoExpo.  The foot traffic was considerably more this year than last (Hazel was at the 2016 edition), and the quality of the people at the show was excellent.