I’ve had three months of exhibiting at dive shows this year and am getting ready to head off to Tacoma in two two weeks for the Scuba & Watersports Expo. Working non-stop with Show Producers, Exhibitors, Speakers and Attendees for the past twelve months was not only exhausting, but very educational and enlightening. One thing I can say for certain; Divers are very passionate about their recreation and their profession. Exhibitors want to meet as many attendees as they can during the entire length of the show. I don’t care if it’s one, two or three days long. They want high quality – high volume traffic. Preferably traffic that spends money on diving. Attendees want to see new dive gear, new training courses, exciting adventure dive travels, and a multitude of diving related goods and services. And that includes non-profit, environmental programs and events.
We know the pieces, or components, of a dive show. They are the Venue, Show Management & Staff, Volunteers, Exhibitors, Speakers, Sponsors, Local Promoters and Attendees. The most important of these is, of course, the Attendees. They are the “WHY” we are having a show to begin with.
What I have come to realize in the past year of attending trade and consumer dive and travel shows is that I look at shows as having three overall components; National Industry Professionals, Local Industry Professionals and Local Divers (and people who want to be divers). To have a successful dive show, you need all three components to actively participate or you don’t have a show.
The National Industry Professionals are the Dive Equipment Manufacturers, Training Agencies, Travel Companies, Non-Profits, and Services Companies. They usually make up the Exhibitors, Sponsors and Speakers. Without their involvement, the show is not going to happen. Notice I did not use the word, “Support”. Let’s stop asking dive companies to “support” us. They make money selling stuff to us. We want their involvement. It’s good for them, it’s good for us and it’s good for the local diving community.
The Local Industry Professionals have the most to gain from their local diving show, hopefully their largest annual event. They are the Local Dive Stores, Dive Boats, Dive Clubs and Dive Instructors. They are the local professionals who make a living from diving, albeit part-time or full-time. They may also be a very large part of the third component, the Local Diver. Show Producers conduct these dive shows to benefit the Local Industry Professionals and to give them an opportunity to share they local diving community with the rest of the world. The shows need their involvement to promote the show and communicate it with the entire local diving community. I would think twice about doing a show in an area that didn’t have the involvement of its Local Industry Professionals.
(There is one group that belongs to both the National and Local Industry Professionals, that I have chosen not to talk about now. They are the Seminar Speakers. These Industry Professionals are our Story Tellers. They are people we put on a pedestal and have well deservedly given awards, medals and recognition to. They are a large group that plays a big part in the past, present and future of dive shows. Let’s address that issue in another article at another time.)
Local Divers are the lucky individuals who still think of scuba diving as a hobby or as their main recreation. I envy them so much. Have you forgotten what it was like when diving was your Hobby? You talked about it all the time. You introduced your friends to it. You went diving every weekend. You had FUN. The success or failure of a local dive show is in the hands of the Local Divers and people who want to become divers. Having a great show keeps Divers active in the recreation and bringing in new Divers helps the industry grow. Your local dive show should be the great annual diving revival. It should be fun and the social event of the year. Maybe we should make diving a Hobby again? Or at least our family’s favorite recreation again.
If you have read this far, you know that our industry faces big changes next year. As the number of Divers gets smaller and smaller, the number of marketing options to promote our businesses and industry continues to grow. There is only so much money in the pot for face-to-face marketing. We all face some hard choices next year. Some of our dive shows on “the circuit” are growing and getting more successful; some are getting old & stale and shrinking; some are dying on the vine as we speak; or some are going through changes that may end in closure. In the mean time, the Travel & Adventure Show just added their 9th show (Boston), the Outdoor Show is growing in numbers and popularity and a small dive show with a new owner just opened his second location. At Beneath the Sea last month countless Members and Exhibitors bent my ear talking about their future options for advertising and promotion. Many of them ask for stats on all the dive shows going back 18 years. They want to see past performances and possible future trends. If you look at some of my charts, your future marketing choices may be obvious. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I do have one recommendation:
My recommendation is to get involved with the local diving community that is working together to make their show the one we all want to be a part of.
Let’s talk in Tacoma.