We hate to admit it, but anyone with Facebook and a modicum of organizational skills can rent a hall and say they're putting on a cannabis conference or industry event. It takes considerably more planning, insight, and thoughtful organization, however, to make one that's actually worth going to.
As you wade through the listings for what's already shaping up to be the busiest year of all time for cannabis-industry events in North America, here are 7 questions to help to determine which ones are worth it.
1. How old is it?
While inaugural or almost-new events might deal with a cool new angles of the industry, beware of events that are so new they seem disorganized. On the flip side: some of the most time-honoured gatherings (and we aren't naming names) have grown so bloated and corporate that they're boring and skipped by people on the vanguard of the industry. "You can literally attend, speak or exhibit at an event every weekend," O.penVAPE Chief Business Development Officer tells Forbes. "It has really had a negative impact on the attendance and viability of the few shows that are worth going to." Pick an event with a track record of proving it's worth the price of admission, but scrappy and small enough to be interesting.
2. How much does it cost?
Attending a quality cannabis-industry event is expensive: Drissen said that an event in the U.S. can cost his company between $20,000-$40,000 depending on the size of the exhibit booth and between $30,000-$50,000 internationally. With the company exhibiting at approximately six shows a year, three domestic and three international; conferences become very expensive." According to one grower interviewed by Williamette Week, "my colleagues were quoted $15,000 to $40,000 to have a booth at the last High Times Cup in California." In an environment where many organizers are interested in turning a quick buck, it's all the more important to target which trade shows and conferences you attend.
3. Who's speaking?
It's exciting to see big names you've always been curious about on the bill: less so the same, tired round of 'usual suspect' industry experts and consultants. "One thing that I always look for in an event is a keynote speaker that is either speaking at an industry event for the first time, or close to their first time," writes Johnny Green. "That's not to take away from 'the usuals' that are always speaking industry events, because a good event has to have those too. But I like to hear fresh perspectives from people."
4. Who's attending?
Look for the activists' tables. "If an industry event doesn't allow reputable activist organizations to have a presence at their event, that's a deal breaker for me," writes Green. "I get it, it's an industry event, but the industry and reform movement go hand in hand, and so if there's no activism present at the event, that tells me that the people behind it aren't that smart and likely don't have an established background in cannabis."
5. Who are the sponsors?
Some growing competitions are getting a name for handing out awarding prizes to companies that also - shocker! - happen to sponsor their event. "Crosscheck the speakers and sponsors," advises the Week's Lauren Terry. "If there's not a total overlap between them - that is, if there are speakers who are not sponsors and sponsors who are not speakers - you may actually learn something new and make connections with people who are as passionate about this plant's potential as you."
6. Is it about profit, or people?
Most of us first became interest in cannabis because we love the plant and what it does: there's nothing more depressing than free-spirited rejection of the status quo transformed into an un-hip cash grab. Skip events that give you a sense that the people running the thing are interested solely in the potential to turn a quick buck. "Nothing is more suspect than a man in a suit talking about drugs," writes VICE's Jeff Weiss. Of course, all kinds of Civilized guys wear jackets and ties, but point taken.
7. What are you in the mood for?
Fun, music festival atmosphere? A serious, university-style educational seminar? A competition between the world's best growers? Do your homework, check out pics and press coverage of previous events, and talk to people who've attended to avoid disappointment. "Since the industry is so new and so many people want to get in on the 'green rush,'" writes Forbes columnist Debra Borchardt, "there is a flood of conferences and companies wanting to capitalize on the influx." That means, happily, that you're spoiled for choice.
banne image: Shutterstock.com / Pavel L Photo and Video