Boating Industry’s Elevate: Strong Content, Light Traffic

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Boating Industry’s inaugural Elevate Summit delivered high marks for content geared to the C-Suite, according to participants. The three-day event, however, attracted smaller crowds than previous events, such as last year’s MDCE. Organizers say the reduced attendance is part of its “management-exclusive” model.

“The Elevate conference had high-quality presenters and beneficial training for all aspects of the boat business,” says Russell Baqir, senior vice president of Northpoint Commercial Finance. “The dialogue addressed both micro and macro hurdles facing the industry.”

From a vendor perspective, however, Baqir adds that exhibits were “lightly attended.” He says some fellow exhibitors reported solid leads.

“It was slow on the floor concerning discussions with dealers, and there was no OEM boatbuilder presence,” Baqir says. “I did have quality meetings with some existing dealers and enjoyed quality time with a few engine OEMs. The jury is out, however. We’ll have to see if vendors realize much return from their investments.”

Jeff Husby, owner of Regal Nautique of Orlando, agrees that there was a high caliber of education at Elevate. But he also wanted to see more OEM, dealer and vendor participants.

“While there were a lot of new faces in attendance, which was great, the opening two days didn’t have many big dealers or boat OEMs,” Husby says.

Since the event was geared to executives, Husby says, “the smaller, much more intimate setting provided easy interaction with the guest speakers, plus the diverse crowd in attendance.”

Husby participated in a lively dealer/supplier panel presentation. He and his leadership team also attended multiple sessions. “From a content perspective, we loved Dr. Elliot Eisenberg as the economic speaker,” Husby says. “We also enjoyed the Rosen School of Hospitality speaker who addressed young leaders. I would pay to see him again.”

For future summits, Husby recommends more boating-focused content versus the broad overall review.

An Intimate Gathering

“One word describes the kick-off of the Elevate Summit: intimate,” says Bruce Hawkins, market developer for Vantage Resource Group. “I was met by the owner of EPG Media, who escorted me to my booth and took time to review the complete schedule of events and the event networking app.” Hawkins says the the “icing on the cake,” was an impromptu meeting with a key speaker, Scott Crabtree of Yacht Executive Solutions. “It was highly valuable,” Hawkins says.

Keri Doscher, vice president of Emerald Coast Marine Group and a speaker on the Women’s Leadership panel, had high marks for the event. “I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of speakers and leadership-level educational opportunities,” she says. “I found the smaller attendance beneficial in terms of networking and had a chance to connect with key players from different industry segments. The depth of content was also very positive.”

Volvo Penta was an Elevate sponsor. Outgoing president and CEO Ron Huibers delivered a fireside chat, sharing candid insight regarding everything from retail pricing and market sectors to the critical need for ongoing industry innovation.

“Continued education, development and best practice discussions are imperative for anyone in the marine industry, regardless of the sector one represents or level of experience they have,” Huibers says regarding Elevate.

Approachable, High-Level View

Elevate provided an “approachable, relatable and high-level view” of the boating industry, says Yamaha WaterCraft advertising manager Leslie Zlotnick.

Boating Industry Elevate Summit and Top 100 managing director Jonathan Sweet says planning will soon be underway for next year’s event. “We plan to conduct further participant surveys, but our initial speaker evaluations have been very positive,” Sweet says. “We’re thrilled and excited about improvements ahead.” 

This article originally appeared in the January 2020 issue.

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