Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Thinking about the GIS attendance figures

Much is made of the fact that the national is the biggest event in the industry. It is. But, consider this...

The numbers are a little fuzzy, but show hosts said attendance was 14,780 or so. That's good, all things considered, but remember that two-thirds of those who attended were there to sell stuff to superintendents.

GIS hosts said there were approximately 5,750 "qualified buyers" attending. That includes superintendents, assistants, management company execs, owners, managers, architects, builders and anyone else who says they have "purchasing influence" for one or more facilities. Based on past breakdowns of who those qualified buyers are, I'd estimate about 2,500 actual superintendents -- the core of the market -- were in Orlando.

There are 15,800 or so golf facilities in the U.S. (we'll disregard Canadian and International attendees/courses to keep this simple). That means the show attracts only 16 percent of the primary customers nationwide.

(That said, if you look at the demographics of the superintendents who do attend, they clearly have higher-than-average budgets. So, that 16 percent who went to Orlando may command as much as 30 percent of all purchasing power in the U.S. market. That's why exhibitors still spend lots of money to be there.)

Yes, the show matters a lot...and attendance was surprisingly good. But, 84 percent of y'all didn't go to this year's national. A lot of us...including me...need to remember that the Big Show is a luxury that most facilities either can't afford or just don't care about because they're focused on surviving in the real world of today's golf market.

Monday, February 14, 2011

GIS Thoughts and Images #1

The GCI team is back from Florida and starting to catch up on the real world. I'll be posting a recap soon, but the bottom line for GIS 2011 is that we have glimpsed the "new normal" and it is a pretty damned good thing. Leaner, meaner but more focused and intense.

In the meantime, I'll be posting some of the more interesting images and moments from the show. Let's start with the fact that Golf Course Industry magazine is now the proud owner of the most famous bedroom slippers in turf. Dr. Kaminski passed along these beauties (which were, of course, featured in our cover story about him last year) and we're going to figure out a way to auction them off for an appropriate charity.

 But first, we need to deodorize these suckers...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Go Big or Go Home...Orlando Day 2

The days of a mass flood of attendees spilling onto the floor eagerly running for hats and other swag is over, but that doesn't mean there wasn't plenty of action on the show floor today. A few observations about the industry's biggest event...

- Exhibitors seemed very pleased with the quality -- if not the quantity -- of the superintendents and others on the floor today. The typical observation from suppliers was that those who are here are here to buy. I sure didn't talk to many superintendents that were just farting around. And you didn't see guys with clubs over their shoulders heading off to do "turf research" in the hotel lobbies this morning. It was all business.

Joe Livingston, friend of GCI
 - That fits with the new culture of the golf market. It's time to be serious, use resources well and justify trips and events like this. Well, not totally serious...

- Funniest thing said to me today: "Twitter? Seriously?"

- It was incredibly gratifying to get so many great comments about the improvements we've made to the magazine. We're pleased you think we're giving you a better publication, a better website and more information in more forms. Look for more.

- It was also very humbling to hear so many "attaboys" from folks who were supportive of the changes in my personal life. All I know is it's a helluva lot easier to survive this Bataan death march of a week sober.

Final note: I was talking with a young up and coming superintendent today who was interested in writing an article for GCI and asked for some ideas on moving on the ladder. We talked for a while and I shared some ideas. He said, "Why would you take time to help me with this." I reminded him of what the late great Harvey Penick was fond of saying, "If you play golf, you are my friend." In this case, we are all in this crazy business together...which makes us all friends.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

First Impressions - GIS 2011

Tuesday at GIS was far from the usual day the show we've come to expect in past years. Why? One word: compression.

The high expectations, high pressure to use time well and the highly compressed schedule that were created when organizers went to the two-day schedule for the trade show have made this the busiest event in years for me and many I talked with. Between seminars, sales meetings, luncheons, receptions and the inevitable and all-important 5-minute hallway conversations, I simply can't remember this many things going on in the "down" day prior to Wednesday's ribbon-cutting.

A few notable moments and thoughts:

- Legends. Two of my favorite people, Dean Graves and Frank Dobie, on stage to receive well-deserved distinguished service awards.

- Fail! Seeing at least three people crash into various objects (a large trash can, for example) because they were texting while trying to move about the convention center.

- Signs of Life. Hearing a healthy, optimistic buzz at the annual "Think Independent" reception which gathers many from the chemical, fertilizer and seed markets into one place for a few intense hours. (Imagine 300 really good sales people in the same room...the average customer would never stand a chance.)

- Personal Space Invasion. Awkward man-hugs now seem to be standard amongst us old guys. Exchanged them with Ron Dodson of Audubon, Gregg Breningmeyer of Deere, Dave Heegard of Lebanon, Stan Zontek of USGA and numerous others. This trend must be stopped. We're sweaty old dudes...we should act like it and just opt for the hearty handshake!

- Designing Woman. Great to see Jan Bel Jan, longtime Fazio designer who is now out on her on. Want to know how golf designs and facilities can be more accommodating and welcoming for female players? Talk to Jan.

- Tweeting. Good lord, we're all doing it, but it seems like opening a door and yelling something into an empty room. Is anyone listening out there?

- Veterans. Perhaps the younger guys were all in seminars all day, but it seemed to me the vast majority of superintendents I ran into were the established, older guys. I'm curious to see if this holds true tomorrow as well.

In general, the mood is cautiously optimistic. There isn't a lot of concern about total attendance and such. The attitude is that the people who are here really want and need to be here and aren't just hanging out and partying. It's always fun, but this GIS seems like serious business. And that's a good thing.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Trade Show Tip #3 - More on Socks

After advising everyone that changing your socks is a great idea, I promptly failed to pack ANY socks.

Thankfully, Walgreens sells these...

Problem solved!

On the Ground at GIS

Okay, Day One in Orlando. A few notes:

- Get ready for the first Twitter overload show. Between @johnkaminski, @gcimagazine, @gcsaa and @ everybody else, Twitter might chirp in pain and die. That said, good way to follow the show if you can wade through the redundancy.

- Talked with Rhett Evans today for a video interview we'll be posting later this week. I asked him specifically if the idea of going to an every-other-year schedule for the show was still being discussed. His answer, in a lot more words, was "nothing is off the table." This is the just the second time I've met him. I like him. Good guy.
- The show floor seems farther along that usual in terms of people getting booths set up. A lot of folks said they want to be done today so they can have sales meeting tomorrow. The new schedule (two-day show) is forcing everyone to use their time on site more wisely.

- Best thing I've seen so far: Palm tree outside my hotel window instead of a snow plow.

Look for updates, pics and videos from us on the GCI site, Twitter and Facebook. Note that we'll be doing a preview edition of our Fast & Firm e-newsletter coverage overnight tonight and sending special show editions out Tuesday night and Wednesday night for your morning reading pleasure.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Trade Show Tip #2: Booze or No Booze

In my drinking days, I always scouted the closest spot to do some shopping for my favorite beverages when I went to GIS. For those of you who do indulge in the occasional adult beverage in the privacy of your hotel, here's a handy list of spirits shops near the Orlando convention district.

For those of us who have realized we have already reached your lifetime quota of adult beverages, here's a place to find a meeting outside of the convention center.

There's also a daily AA gathering into Room 309B of the OCCC Mon-Fri at 5 p.m.

Enjoy responsibly kids!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Trade Show Survival Tip of the Day

Our good friend and colleague Kevin Gilbride suggested this to me a few years back and I've become a big proponent of it:

When your feet are starting to hurt after a long day at a conference or trade show, take a quick break before you go out for the evening and put on a fresh pair of socks. You will feel like a new person.

Sounds bizarre, but it works. Trust me on this people.

And no, you may not see the rest of the sock lady...