Lessons from Myrtle Beach

Why (aside from the weather) did we come down here?

November 18, 2011

We had a lot of fun doing these e-newsletters during the Carolinas show the past few days. Personally, I played some golf, taught a seminar and schmoozed until my lips bled. I love this show.

But, that alone is not enough to justify devoting three days of coverage to a regional event. So why did we do it? Let me summarize:

I believe this is the ONLY legitimately healthy trade show in our industry. I’m sure I’ll get a few nasty notes from conference organizers around the country defending their events, but can any other regional show honestly say they had record exhibit sales, record educational enrollment and sold-out side events like a golf tournament? I don’t think so.

Other shows I’ve attended for years are half the size they were a decade ago. That’s largely because of bad management…most notably scheduling education opposite the trade show, a.k.a. “biting the hand that feeds you.” At some point, the exhibitors get tired of spending two days talking to other exhibitors and they don’t come back. At the Carolinas show, the association has built a culture that includes the sponsors/exhibitors and they actively encourage members to spend time on the floor. It’s all about traffic, my friends.

Their leadership is also interested in new stuff. They welcomed the idea of GCI doing this enewsletter nationally to help spread the word about the association. But, they’re also the group that dreamed up Rounds4Research. They have excellent lobbying teams in both North and South Carolina. They constantly try to find new ways to add value to their show and member services. The people running the association are innovative, aggressive and fun to do business with. Unfortunately, not every local group can afford the quantity and quality of staffing the CGCSA has, but the reason they have that staff is because they know the show pays the bills and they do it very, very well.

The last thing in the world the folks at the Carolinas would do is actively encourage Yankees to skip their snow-bound local conferences and head south to Myrtle Beach next year to join the fun. That would be like poaching. However, I’m not on their staff so I’ll come right out and say it: for less than $1,000, you could fly down here, stay in a beautiful condo for three or four days, attend accredited education events taught by leading university personnel, play some golf and thaw out. Mid-November is the off-season in Myrtle, but the weather is still nice (it was in the high 70s the whole time this year) and everything is dirt cheap. Condos and hotels are sitting empty, so you can literally stay right on the ocean for $60 a night. The seminars are first-class and the golf is damned near free even if you don’t get the “courtesy” rate. Need I say more?

We focused a big spotlight on the Carolinas GCSA Conference & Show for one reason: they deserve it. Don’t believe me? Y’all come down next year and check it out for yourselves.