Change is what they wanted and change is what they got at this year’s Boating Ontario Conference.
Under the oversight of a reinvigorated Boating Ontario board led by its President, Janet Bauer, the event presented member delegates with a new venue at picturesque Blue Mountain Resort based at the bottom of the popular ski hill destination just northwest of Collingwood, Ontario in late November.
This year’s event featured 25 exhibitors divided amongst four of the charming resort village’s pubs, a big shift from the all-in-one room format previously featured at the conference in years past when it was held at Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville.
Delegates were presented with an incentive-based passport that required check offs from exhibitors they visited during the show’s opening night pub crawl. A fully filled out passport qualified visitors for entry into a prize draw. Delegates had a good time networking with their colleagues during this segment of the event, visiting exhibitors in a relaxed social setting.
Although the jury’s verdict is still out on what guests thought of the new format via the post-show survey, a simple hands-up audience poll during one of the collective presentations suggests they were quite pleased with the conference’s new venue at the very least.
Boating Ontario’s Board of Directors President, Jeff Wilcox, mentioned the association would be very interested in receiving exhibitor feedback to allow the continued improvement of the event in the coming years.
Keynote presentations from NMMA President, Thom Dammrich and IPSOS Public Affairs CEO, Darrell Bricker, presented a wealth of statistical insight. The presentations included details into the types of vessels being sold in Canada and the US as well as specifics on the gender, age, income, education and birth place of buyers within several major boat categories.
Several conference presentations catered to boat dealers trying to boost boat sales, improve marketing campaigns and better connect with an evolving consumer demographic.
Javed Khan, President of marketing services company, EMpression, delivered an engaging presentation on networking, which included a number of interesting tips for disengaging from unproductive conversations.
A number of attendees seemed particularly interested in an app he suggested that enables a sales person to discreetly call their own phones with a push of a button. Upon receiving the call, the sales person says: ‘I have to take this call’, potentially enabling them to break conversations with tire kickers during boat show season.
Tina Varughese, a professional speaker and trainer delivered an engaging and entertaining presentation offering insights into cultural differences marina operators and dealers should anticipate from Canada’s mostly untapped immigrant population as they’re introduced to boating.
Varughese delved into a wide variety of first-impression scenarios, such as eye contact, hand shaking, chit chat and body language, and how our Canadian outlook of social norms shouldn’t misinterpret the culture differences of others seeking to learn more about boating.
The conference also featured a series of panels. Marinas operators were presented insight into a few recent initiatives that proved successful for a few of their peers as well as insight into insurance claim trends, meeting ESA (Electrical Safety Authority) electrical safety regulation inspections and creative money-making tips by utilizing unused space at the marina.
A number of Boating Ontario members were honoured at the association’s annual President’s Awards gala dinner this year, including:
The W. J. Robertson Award, recognizing an individual who has demonstrated an outstanding contribution to the Boating Ontario Association, went to Karen Harrington of the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police).
The Gord Blake Visionary Award, recognizing an individual or business that has made an outstanding contribution in the field of innovation was awarded to Chris Perrera of BoatDealers.ca.
The Robert Eaton Environmental Award, honouring those dedicated to environmental responsibility and stewardship went to Ryan Stovold of Lefroy Harbour Resorts. Stovold was also recognized at last year’s conference, receiving a Clean Marine award for Lefroy’s achieving the highest possible rating within the marina-rating environmental program.
Finally, the President’s Award, recognizing an individual demonstrating an outstanding contribution to long-term impact on the boating industry, went to Canadian Boat Show Director, Linda Waddell.