Fall is peak cannabis convention season. Between MJUnpacked, Benzinga, NECANN, Hall of Flowers and many more, the cannabis industry workforce has been busy criss-crossing the country to network and do business. The cannabis conference season culminates in one last big hurrah - MJBizCon in Las Vegas. Now in its 11th year, MJBizCon is by far the largest and most anticipated cannabis event of the year. Over 35,000 cannabis industry folks will converge in Las Vegas in mid-November for the event.
What is MJBizCon?
MJBizCon consists of an Expo (as well as a full roster of panels and workshops) at the Las Vegas Convention Center, along with a host of cocktail events, dinners and parties. Just like any other major conference, MJBizCon is both exhilarating and exhausting, filled with opportunities to learn and network. This year will be my 4th MJBizCon and each year proves to be remarkably different from the last. With that in mind, I’ve developed a set of MJBizCon tips that I’m excited to share with the cannabis community.
- The Basics - If you haven’t booked your hotel and flights, what are you waiting for? MJBizCon runs from a Wednesday to a Friday. I prefer arriving as early as possible on Tuesday to settle in, procure supplies and assess the lay of the land. In terms of hotel, I highly recommend not staying near the convention center and instead focus on hotels on the Strip (that’s where you’ll likely spend your nights anyway). Hotels in Vegas can be large and overwhelming, so I usually like to stroll around the hotel after checking in to identify restaurants, bars etc. I especially make sure to find breakfast and coffee options in my general vicinity, as well as scope out the legal cannabis scene in close proximity (just in case).
- The Expo - It’s become common for cannabis industry insiders to say things like “I’m going to Las Vegas, but skipping the expo.” This is understandable for some industry veterans, but it’s a mistake to skip the expo completely.
If you’re new to the industry or if this is your first MJBizCon, I recommend planning to spend at least one full day at the expo. My first MJBizCon in 2018, I was blown away by the size of the event and the diversity of vendors. I never knew there were so many companies selling extraction equipment, soil, lighting, white label vapes, terpenes, AgTech solutions, packaging, stickers, rolling papers etc. I walked the floor from end-to-end, ensuring I had hit every row of vendors. I attended the organized panels and workshops. I really soaked it up and am thankful I did. It helped shape my understanding and vision for the sector - and where I, as a cannabis public relations specialist, fit in.
If this isn’t your first rodeo, I still say don’t skip the expo. Nowadays, I use it as a chance to walk the floor with a colleague or a client. The MJBizCon App is also a great tool to use so you can be intentional about your time at the expo. If you’re not interested in talking about agriculture or extraction, you can cut out over 50% of the expo right there and just visit the booths that interest you and your business.
- The After Parties - The cocktail hours, infused dinners and late night after parties are legendary at MJBizCon, but don’t forget to pace yourself. I’ve seen far too many people go hard on Tuesday night only to be incapacitated on Wednesday and ruin their week. I generally like to arrange a group dinner with friends and colleagues on Tuesday night followed up by no more than one party (and thus a not too late night). That way you can roll into Wednesday fresh and relaxed.
Wednesday and Thursday night are the big party nights. There are generally dozens of small to mid-size cocktail events thrown by law firms, CPAs and brands. Ask around or scour social media and you’ll find some events to get invited to. There are often small invite-only infused dinners taking place. Again take to social media and start some conversations for an invitation (some of these are paid events too). Finally there are usually a few major events each night, including concerts, experiential events and large-scale parties at massive Las Vegas nightclubs. For those events you usually need to know someone to get on the list.
Whatever you end up doing at night, just remember it’s Las Vegas - equal parts extravagant and sleazy!
- Meetings - During the months prior to MJBizCon, I start to plan my schedule for the three day marathon. I begin by identifying cannabis industry insiders, influencers and potential clients I want to meet with personally and prioritize people who don’t live in my home city/state. I always set aside some dedicated time for these in-person meetings outside of the expo. If you’re setting up back-to-back meetings and you need to travel along the strip, make sure to leave adequate time as Las Vegas traffic can be bad. Best case scenario is that you can host these meetings either in your hotel or a bar/restaurant in a hotel (Chandelier Bar is a popular MJBizCon destination).
A few final tips for the MJBizCon:
- Wear comfortable shoes. You’ll easily walk 1-2 miles just in the convention center.
- Skip cabs and take the Las Vegas Monorail.
- Bring snacks. Talking and networking makes you hungry.
- Bring a refillable water bottle. Las Vegas is dry.
- Bring a bag with you for all of the swag and information you’ll walk away with.
- Take lots of business cards.
- Always have a mental agenda for your meetings.
- Never be late. Always be respectful of people’s time.
- If meeting at a bar or a restaurant, always pay, especially if you asked for the meeting.
- Bring something memorable to your meetings so you stick out - this can be a unique business card or a little gift (like custom rolling papers) for all of your guests.
MJBizCon is the grand-daddy of all cannabis events and is a great way to understand the breadth and depth of the cannabis industry. It’s a must attend event for anyone who works in the cannabis industry. By following these basic tips, you’ll be sure to make the most out of your experience (and money spent to attend).