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New York National Boat Show: new dates and a new outlook

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When discussing the change in dates of the 2008 New York National Boat Show, there are several points of view. Many have asked me, “Why are you going?” The short answer is that I see a great opportunity (i.e. with less exhibiting, there is less competition).

This year’s show runs Dec. 13-21, while last year’s ran Dec. 29-Jan. 6. People are generally resistant to change, of course, but with boat show attendance trending toward decline nationwide in 2009, isn’t it worth giving change a try — even if it is the week before Christmas?

I am reminded of the best-selling book by Dr. Spencer Johnson, “Who Moved My Cheese?” In the book, Dr. Johnson writes how change is inevitable and par for the course. So I ask you, why not look at the new dates as if it were an entirely new show, or game, or cocktail party? That’s right — why not look at the boat show like a cocktail party?

In any show venue there are many different “cocktail parties” (booths) taking place amidst the larger show festivities. You have the fish boat parties on one side, sportboat people on another, and, of course, all those wakeboard people gathered around the loud music. If you step back and look, you can see how there are different “pods” of people in different areas hovering around different things. In the same respect, you see the dead spaces without people, too. I make the argument that dead space exists because there’s nothing there that people want to be around. So therein lies your No. 1 opportunity: Be the life of the party!

Have you ever been to a cocktail party and gotten stuck talking to the dullest, most negative person in the room? If not, then maybe you were smart enough to spot them from afar and steer clear. We’re always attracted to positive people and good conversation, so why not make sure your show personnel are mimicking this desirable behavior?

Going into the show with a positive attitude is the most cost-effective measure you can possibly take to beef up your exhibit, and it’s sure to bring you some of the best end results. Encourage employees to abandon their complacent thoughts of old and redefine the event for you and your clients. I’m sure you’ll be surprised at what kind of ideas you’re able to draw out. If your employees are fresh out of ideas, perhaps you should try asking your clients what would make them want to come to the show; then use that customer feedback to help get your employees out their box and start looking for that cheese.

With the idea of reaching out to your clients still top of mind, let’s keep the focus on them in relation to the upcoming boat show season. Most of us out there have had a tough year, with reports of industry sales being down an average of 25 to 30 percent. But don’t forget about the remaining 70 to 75 percent of people who are still spending money with you. Don’t alienate them! It’s always easier to talk about how much sales are off, but remember: That isn’t the majority. There’s always a silver lining; you just have to find it.

Times are a-changin’, as they say, and we must change with them. This is an historic time in our country. Why not make sure this boat show season is historic for you as well?

Jay Strong
Sales manager
Strong's Marine
Southampton, N.Y.


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