Regional Dive Show Component Communities –
by Gene Muchanski
Editor, The Dive Industry Professional
I’ve come to realize that the main strength of the diving industry is our sense of community. Think about it. What we all have in common is the fact that we are scuba divers. As a whole, we are individuals, adventurers, explorers, risk takers, environmentalists, and water men & women. We are out-going, gregarious, and social individuals. Learning to scuba dive and being active in the recreation takes a special kind of person with a curiosity and respect for the unknown. When we meet another scuba diver, we like to say, You’re a diver? Me too! Scuba Divers are created locally. Local Dive Industry Professionals are our front line ambassadors who teach people how to dive, sell them gear, and take them diving. After a person gets certified, it’s up to them to stay active in the recreation. Hence, a local diving community is born.
Regional Diving Communities: I’ve been working on building Regional Diving Communities for a number of years now. I always thought of the International Diving Community, as being broken down into Regional Territories. i.e. Continents, Countries, Territories. We always think about the Local Diving Community when we get involved in Regional Dive Shows. Beneath the Sea brings the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Dive Community together. Our World Underwater caters to the North Central Dive Community. Scuba Show has done an excellent job bringing the California and Southwest Dive Communities together. These shows have historically been the annual highlight of their respective community for many years. Regional diving communities are a very important concept to promote. Unfortunately, we are seeing the decline of our regional diving community concept.
With the advent of Our World Underwater Dive & Travel Show being cancelled this year and having to be rescheduled for 2021, our Association began examining the causes of this regional decline. I think I may have something here and I’m hoping you’ll give it some thought and get back to me.
We have known for more than ten years now that Regional Dive Shows were losing market share and were in a steady decline. With the advent of international dive travel, the desire to dive locally has declined and so has our affiliation with local dive shops. The internet has made dive travel and equipment purchasing much easier and we have lost the social aspect of being involved in a local dive club and local dive store community. Still, this doesn’t explain the paradigm shift in the makeup of the dive communities that are within each and every Regional Dive Community. It seems that every regional dive show is a composite of nine fully functional and independent dive community groups. Let’s look at them in more detail.
Dive Show Component Communities: This is one community we are working with more this year. Here’s why: 1) I believe in Regional Dive Communities. 2) I believe that Regional Dive Shows are a local community’s major annual event. 3) I believe that our industry must work to improve and strengthen our Regional Dive Shows. With that said, I want to state why I feel that a regional dive show is made up of nine separate dive communities. I don’t want to put a priority on any one of the groups because I feel that all of the groups are needed to make an annual event successful. A balanced regional dive show is made up of workshops, seminars, film shows, exhibits, meetings, social events, sponsors, show staff, and attendees. Each section has their own dive community. Members of each community usually know each other, hang together, dive together and socialize together at regional events. Sometimes they know members of the other communities, but many times they don’t. This is based on my 50 years of experience with regional dive shows and events, but it is still one man’s personal opinion and observation. I’d be interested in hearing your comments.
- At most of the regional shows and events, you will have individuals and companies conducting workshops before, during or after a local show. I’ve seen cylinder training, regulator maintenance and repair, training updates and crossovers and photography workshops of all kinds. They bring in attendees, training and revenue, but they tie up an attendee’s time for nearly a whole day. The Workshop Community is small.
- Seminars are the meat and potatoes of a regional dive show. It’s what most attendees come to see. Historically, it is what defines a show, and could be local or international in scope. Ticket sales contribute to the profitability of an event. The Speaker Community is quite extensive, seasoned and diverse. They are our industry story tellers and may be regionally based or international in notoriety. This community is under appreciated and usually does not market their talents outside of their own community. If there is one community that our industry needs to spend more time promoting, it’s this one. Dive Industry Association maintains a database of seminar speakers, photographers and film makers.
- Film Shows can be more important than seminars if they are conducted properly. I remember going to Underwater Film Shows in the 70’s and was amazed by the presentations. I remember Jacques Cousteau, Jean-Michel Cousteau, Stan Waterman, and John Stoneman giving their presentations and amazing the audience. It was the way I recharged my industry professional batteries. Unfortunately, many of my peers in the Exhibiting Community don’t go to film shows anymore because we are either too tired after a day of standing in our booths or we are out with clients at night. That needs to change. The Photographers and Videographers in this community are highly specialized and are in high demand for their talents, films and presentations.
- The Exhibit Hall is what pays for the cost of the venue. Without exhibitors there would either be no show or admission prices would have to be much higher to cover the costs of a commercial venue. Hotels and Convention Centers are very costly to rent. You could see how important Exhibitors are to a show. Universities and Colleges, however, sometimes donate space to non-profit organizations who hold their events on campus. Our database includes over 1,000 exhibitors in the diving exhibitor community. If you add some of the travel, apparel, outdoor, boating and watersports exhibitors, it would be in the tens of thousands. Exhibitors do better at events that are called expos, where the focus is on the sale of goods in the exhibit hall.
- Meetings could be an intricate part of an annual regional event. There are many advantages for organizations and associations to schedule their annual meeting during a regional event. The venue is already booked and many dive industry professionals have saved the date in their calendars. All an organization needs is to book a few hours in a meeting room and provide drinks and snacks. Sponsoring a party for their group would even be a bigger reason for their members to attend. After the meeting, there is something to do for their group members. Many groups have negotiated discount tickets to the event from the show producers.
- Social events at an annual regional show are very important. They are best when the actual participants are invited to participate. We’ve all been to annual events where private social activities were going on during the time the event was taking place. There is nothing worse than paying over $1,000 for booth space that you have to staff while a party is going on. That one particular disconnect is what reduces exhibitor participation at many regional shows. It’s not the act, it’s the attitude. On a positive note, we’ve all been to events, both regionally and nationally where the show producers sponsor parties and hospitality suites for the attendees to meet and mingle with the speakers, exhibitors, industry leaders and show staff. Those are the types of social events we all remember and cherish. That’s what building a regional community is all about. In fact, it’s the perfect way to intermingle and unite different communities.
- Sponsors. We have a database of dive companies who are willing to put up money to help pay for regional, national and international meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE). They are paying for “eyeballs” and will only come on-board after you can assure them that you have a full and interesting show agenda, have secured a large number of exhibitors and can almost guarantee a large attendee turnout. Sponsorship dollars can be used for advertising and special perks, like socials and hospitality suites. Remember, exhibitor revenue pays for the venue.
- Putting on a Regional Event is not a one person job. It takes an entire staff to put together a successful show. Beneath the Sea is a sterling example of a regional show that has a large, volunteer, community based staff who all have jobs, titles and specific responsibilities. One of the best volunteer staffs I have ever seen in the diving industry was the volunteer staff from Sea Space, the annual dive show held in Houston, Texas. If you exhibited there in the past, you may remember the volunteers helping you unload your vehicle, park your car and even fill in for you at your booth so you can have a potty break. Of course, even the volunteers at Sea Space didn’t make us sandwiches for lunch like the volunteers at Seas Scuba Expo in North Carolina did. Those were the days. Having a large, organized volunteer staff brings the local diving community together and makes them feel like it’s their show, not the private enterprise of one person or one person’s personal charity.
- And finally, the attendees. It’s all about the attendees. and I don’t mean only in numbers only. I mean in quality. Giving free admission tickets at the bus stop to increase your number count does the speakers, exhibitors and sponsors no good at all. We should be seeking qualified attendees who want what we offer and are willing to pay for it. Then everyone wins. Attendees are the reason we do all this work for. You may ask, what do the attendees want to see at a regional dive show? Exhibits of dive equipment, training and travel? Seminars? Workshops? Film Festivals? Are they there for meetings or social events? Well, the answer is YES to everything. Remember, we are not calling it an Expo, where the focus is only on buying stuff from the exhibit booths. We are also not calling it a Professional Development Conference where the focus is on educational seminars and workshops. It’s an Annual Regional Dive & Travel Show where everything the attendees want is available, in one place in one weekend. Pretty simple.
I hope you enjoyed my rant about Annual Regional Events and their associated communities. Now I would like to give you some ideas that may help to make them more meaningful and successful.
- Show Producers – Plan your events for the next three years and publicize the dates. Establish a volunteer staff, delegate responsibilities and have follow-up meetings monthly.
- Speakers and Exhibitors – Commit to your participation one and 1/2 years (18 months) in advance. Pay your deposits early.
- Local Dive Stores & Dive Community – Save the date for your participation. Don’t plan trips or classes during the event weekend.
- Local Dive Clubs and Non-Profit Organizations – Plan to conduct your annual meeting during the show. Negotiate discount tickets for your members through the show organizers.
- Social Celebrities and Hall of Famers – Plan your meetings and fundraisers for your Regional Members during this time. Enjoy the fruits of our labor.
- Sponsors and Large Dive Companies – Become a sponsor and assist with advertising one year in advance. Arrange for social events, soirees, and hospitality suites at the host hotel.
- Industry Media – Promote the show regionally, nationally, and internationally starting one year in advance.
- Competing dive, surf, outdoor, and travel shows – Don’t plan to hold your event during the same weekend as our Region’s Annual Events. At least not in the same region. You wouldn’t like it if they did the same to you.
So now we can begin a Regional Event revival and bring back Annual Regional Dive & Travel Shows & Events to their former glory days. Your thoughts?
For more information, comments or suggestions, contact Gene Muchanski, Executive Director, Dive Industry Association. Gene can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org