After accomplishing the biggest relocation of a major show in marine industry history last year, the National Marine Manufacturers Association executed a second-year improvement plan in remarkable ways while dispelling any doubts about this iconic show’s permanent new home.
If you’re looking for final attendance and sales reports, I’m sure those facts will be reported in Trade Only Today later this week. But I’ve been at the show all five days (helping in the Discover Boating Center) and I’m writing this blog as the show is closing. So I can share things that won’t likely be reported about the how and the who behind this year’s success.
NMMA executive vice president Ben Wold has provided extraordinary leadership for the show team. He moved from Chicago to Miami for a year to build on the show’s initial success following Cathy Rick-Joule’s retirement. It was Rick-Joule who led the relocation to Virginia Key last year and actually continues to be a key player in a consulting capacity. In fact, she was on hand managing the expanded water taxi operations this year that worked flawlessly.
Wold’s nearly 40 years of experience has been key this year. For example, his decision to bring in veteran show management personnel from the NMMA’s other shows around the country to handle key operations (instead of contractors) was a game changer.
But Wold concedes all the credit to his leadership team, namely director of operations Melissa Gaffney and director of sales Larry Berryman. Gaffney, for example, is responsible for all of the overall operations and all contractors on the show — and there are lots of them. The NMMA employs nearly 3,000 people to put this show together.
Gaffney also made some key changes that included bringing in Hello! Florida Destination Management to greatly improve all shuttle bus coordination with a veteran staff on site. To be sure, she spent hours detailing and demonstrating precisely how the NMMA wanted things done and the result has been excellent service for exhibitors and visitors alike.
Another big change was putting the food and beverage operations in the hands of caterer Great Performances. From the venerable hot dog to fresh Florida stone crab, the variety and availability this year was outstanding.
Meanwhile, Berryman, in addition to exceeding space sales targets, supervised the design and installation of the temporary marina for the show’s in-water display of 528-plus boats this year. In fact, if one walked the 10 piers he would cover about three miles. Building the marina began just after Christmas Day and took seven weeks to complete. The base dock covers 1/3 mile (1,680 feet). Each of the 10 piers shoot 560 feet out from the base requiring more than 500 dock modules (by Bellingham Marine), 70 electric transformers, 250 distribution panels, more than 300,000 feet of electric cable and 10,000 feet of other cords.
On the humorous side, it’s got to be the first in-water boat show to have some show-goers in a seaplane just taxi up to the floating docks (you should have seen Berryman’s face!) And, while one dock was branded a demo dock, the truth is there was a constant parade of boats coming and going from throughout the marina taking literally hundreds of prospects for demo rides.
With Rick-Joule and other NMMA personnel on site to coordinate the increased water taxi service instituted this year (up from 17 to 25 vessels) and the designation of better mainland pickup points, this operation carrying thousands of exhibitors and visitors was virtually free of problems.
“There are really so many on our staff that have made important contributions to this year’s success,” NMMA president Thom Dammrich told me, “but in addition to the ones you’ve noted I think you can certainly single out Ekita Shaw, who has played a key role in assisting Melissa Gaffney with the operations and contractor coordination.
“And I can’t emphasize enough the work of Armida Markarova who leads the all-important marketing effort on this show,” Dammrich continued, “as well as the work of our public relations team lead by Ellen Hopkins. Between the advertising and the PR, our show has been so visible everywhere in South Florida. Of course, there are dozens more NMMA staff and extremely good partner contractors who are important members of this team. As you know, the success of a show the magnitude of Miami doesn’t happen by accident.”
Finally, Strictly Sail, which is staged in downtown Miamarina at Bayside, chalked up another successful year. This in-water show has been at that same location for years and enjoys an excellent following. Show manager Kevin Murphy and his team assemble an excellent event for sailors that features a host of well attended seminars, hands-on sail training and an outstanding fleet of the latest sailboats and related equipment displays.