You’ve heard it a million times before but here comes a million and one: the pandemic changed life as we know it and it may never be the same. This became the most obvious for us when we returned to trade shows earlier in the year. Our 2021 tour has brought us all across the U.S., from CHAMPS Las Vegas, Orlando and Atlantic City to our second to last stop at Hall of Flowers at the end of September, so we got to witness several facets of this strange mid-pandemic/post-pandemic twilight zone. Our Brand Manager Tony was on the front line at every show, so we sat down with him to get his account of what’s changed, what’s the same and what’s getting even better.
Finding Confidence on the Other Side of Uncertainty
Tony paints an overall picture of an environment in flux; a transitionary period of adjustment that left many vendors feeling hesitant and uncertain where once they’d felt at home. Despite organizers implementing a more hands-on approach in terms of enforcing regulations, some vendors still expressed confusion over changes to rules and the standard trade show protocol. There were questions about everything from whether samples were permissible to whether masks were mandatory. In many cases, vendors unhappy with new restrictions found ways to bypass them or simply ignored rules when out of the sight of organizers. Tony describes the frequency of different parties pulling in opposite directions as a low point of events that formerly carried with them an unwavering sense of togetherness and community in pre-pandemic times. “I don’t want to say it killed the juice or anything, but on Day 2, Day 3, you’d start to notice a dip in audience size and stamina,” he admits. “But we were still really excited to be there because it really was a chance for us to connect with our customers in a completely different way than what we'd been accustomed to during the pandemic.”
The Importance of Connection
Despite this obvious shortcoming of the mid-pandemic trade show atmosphere, Tony highlighted how vital it felt to reconnect with familiar faces after the extended period of absence as well as finally meeting people who had thus far only existed in emails, phone calls and Zoom sessions. “It’s so crucial to interact with people,” he explains. “It’s just so different to actually feel the products, the textures, to see the size of everything and hold it in your hand… it’s just so much more beneficial than a phone call.” For a company that finds one of its greatest strengths in the relationships it builds, it’s no wonder the Master-Minded team shares an enjoyment with the trade show crowd of finally connecting faces to names. He noted that while there were plenty of impressive displays to take in, browsers were prone to a residual interest in the Master-Minded booth, often visiting multiple times throughout a single day. This was perhaps most evident at CHAMPS Las Vegas; one of the more popularly attended of the CHAMPS shows.
The Bottleneck Effect
But there’s an element of overwhelm that Tony noticed in the trade show goers that wasn’t as obvious during previous tours.He credits this to the lengthy gap forced by the pandemic; a period of time when trade shows ground to a halt but the cannabis industry continued forward with new products, new innovations and even new brands without breaking stride. “There was a lot to take in,” he recalls, his eyebrows raising at the mere memory. When asked what customers seemed the most interested in at the Master-Minded booth, he instantly replies, “Focus V, of course. Everyone always wants to know the latest with CARTA. A lot of people were seeing the Laser editions for the first time. People were really curious about Dip Devices too. They’d just won an award for Best New Product for the Little Dipper earlier in the year and we were sharing a booth with them at CHAMPS Orlando so we had the trophy on display at the booth.”
The Trade Show Circuit After Dark
While we’ve always got a focus on providing expert knowledge and top notch service when we hit the trade show circuit, the afterparties are a huge reason we love our time on the road. “Honestly, it felt like nothing had really changed,” Tony says of those post-show seshes when the Master-Minded team met up with other vendors and acquaintances after a long day. “Obviously the trade shows have more of a business-oriented feel to them, but the hang outs and after parties really capture the culture as whole, as well as the community spirit. And there was lots of catching up to do.” Whether grabbing a bite to eat at a local restaurant, checking out the sights like the Atlantic City boardwalk or the neon strip at CHAMPS Las Vegas, or simply kicking it back at the hotel, these moments of leisure allowed the Master-Minded crew to meet each day with fresh minds and a reinvigorated thirst to share our enthusiasm for our diverse catalog.
Where We Are Now
But between the business and pleasure, there’s something emotional verging on spiritual in the way Tony describes these trade show tours. “It was incredible to just witness firsthand the growth of Master-Minded as we establish ourselves as a premier distribution company,” he explains, unable to hold back a proud grin. “This industry just kept growing and we grew with it. You could see it in the relationships we’ve built and continue to build, the repeat visits to our booth, the connections… it was just so cool to see that Master-Minded has become a staple in this business.” And perhaps it's in that perseverance that Tony finds hope for the future. You can see for yourself at our next stop, one of the hottest on the tour: Hall of Flowers in Santa Rosa starting September 22nd!