San Jose, CA- Evolving regulations and increasing investment have created a rapidly maturing Cannabis B2B trade show industry. I visited the Cannabis Business Summit and Expo in San Jose on July 23 and 24, 1019 to check out the state of booth engagement in this burgeoning industry. CBS is produced by the NCIA, the National Cannabis Industry Association, so advocacy and B2B commerce were heavily focused upon.

hardware at cbs

As this was my first cannabis trade show, I was surprised to find it to be primarily a heavy equipment manufacturing product show, with booths consumed by giant gleaming steel machines and elaborate corporate farming lighting systems. Although there were a few booths staffed by stereotypical overall-wearing farmer-types, many of the larger booths showed growing sophistication in the trade show engagement landscape.

In this edition of my ongoing series of post-show tactical analyses, I offer up a brief overview of some of the engagement techniques I observed at CBS 2019. I hope you can use this info to increase booth effectiveness while saving money and time wasted on unsuccessful tactics.


chemistry at cbs 2019

Giant gleaming high-tech agriculture machines dominated booths throughout the floor at CBS. Most of these booths seemed to have an engagement strategy of simply rolling out their giant machines and then letting prospects wander in and ‘kick the tires’ without assertive engagement. Reasons for this laid back approach included “long sales cycles,” “people who want us come and talk to us,” and “we’re just here for brand awareness.” I would highly recommend a re-evaluation of marketing budget in cases like these to judge ROI. If a trade show presence makes hard financial sense, then booth staff training for assertive engagement is critical to make it worthwhile.

Rating: C

Booth Promotional Models

Unfortunately, a few booths utilized skimpily-attired promo models to promote their brand at CBS 2019. Although this tactic undoubtedly works for a small subset of prospects, this somewhat cringey throwback evidences a still-maturing industry trade show environment. There is a clear disconnect between utilizing promo models and delivering use case-specific messaging to prospects. If this industry hopes to continue growing in legitimacy and sophistication, I hope it will redirect engagement budgets to more effective means like booth engagement training and professional presentations.

Rating: D

Social Media Portraits

linkedin portraits

A couple of CBS 2019 exhibitors provided professional portrait photographer services in exchange for leads. As one of the few truly useful giveaways on the floor, this tactic successfully lined up prospects at booths. Although not directly related to the solutions provided, as long as booth staff properly engaged and qualified prospects, sales will be in good shape on the back end.

Rating: B-


As a relatively young industry in the process of gaining legitimacy and learning to take itself seriously, Cannabis B2B offers many growth opportunities for trade show marketing managers. A few recommendations:

Industry-Specific Giveaways

I noticed fairly standard giveaways like can coozies and fidget spinners at CBS 2019. A clever marketing manager could easily create buzz by creating a industry specific branded giveaway. A small tool used in cannabis production that could be branded, perhaps?

Hourly Raffles

Ongoing raffles of low-cost prizes are an easy way to create all-day traffic at a booth. However, traffic is only as good as the conversations generated by booth staff, so ensure that staff is prepared to engage and qualify the crowds.

Booth Theater Presentations

At a show like CBS with obvious experts manning the booths, why not have them add value for attendees by offering scheduled expert presentations in the booth? Just ensure that your experts are properly prepared to present in the distracting trade show environment. If a brand overview is relevant, consider a professional presenter, who will not only deliver your messaging in a compelling way, but will also pack your booth all day long.

Until next time, best of luck planning your next event marketing initiative. We’ll see you on the show floor!