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The legal cannabis industry started with a small group of passionate people connecting in person at events that slowly spread across the country. That face-to-face connection is still essential to generate leads, build relationships, and close deals in the industry today.
Whether you’re a cannabis license holder, ancillary business, or aspiring cannabis industry entrepreneur, attending networking events, conferences, and business meetings is critical to your success.
While many of the business meeting and networking do’s and don’ts for the cannabis industry are the same as any other industry, there are some unique considerations and nuances you need to keep in mind. Following are five tips you can follow to ramp up your cannabis industry networking and meeting success.
Before you attend a marijuana industry conference or business meeting, make sure you’re prepared. While the industry might be perceived as fun and still have a lazy stoner reputation among some people, the reality of the industry is quite different. Today’s cannabis conferences and business meetings are filled with savvy business people, and you need to be prepared to impress them if you want to be successful.
With that said, make sure you have professionally designed and printed business cards, bring a lot of them with you, and hand them out generously. Write and practice your elevator pitch so you can deliver it on the fly.
Whenever possible, pre-schedule meetups with people who you know will be at the trade shows you plan to attend. Things can get crazy during expos and conferences, and it’s easy to lose track of time and miss opportunities to meet with people when the hours pass quickly.
It’s extremely important that you know who you’re talking to at all times and adjust your message to match your audience. Remember, not everyone who works in the cannabis industry is a cannabis user. In recent years, there has been an influx of professionals from Corporate America and consumer packaged goods (CPG) executives, and many of them don’t use cannabis products at all.
For example, if you’re at a business meeting or trade show, don’t assume the people you’re networking with will want to share an edible with you. Always let the other person(s) take the lead when it comes to indulging in cannabis with business connections. Just like sharing a glass of wine at a business dinner is acceptable, sharing an edible is acceptable as long as you keep things professional (see #3 below) and don’t overindulge (see #5 below).
Being professional is a rule for any business meeting or networking event, but it bears reinforcement as it relates to the marijuana industry. Be respectful to everyone you meet and never make assumptions about anyone based on their attire or appearance. You never know who you might be speaking with – they could be your next big client or investor.
In addition, use common business etiquette and turn off your phone. The person you’re speaking with should always be your top priority. Therefore, schedule times throughout the day to check your phone and respond to calls, emails, and texts only at those times.
It’s always a good idea to wait to indulge in cannabis until after a networking event or conference. Even if the atmosphere at an event is fun, you’re not there to party – at least not until you’ve finished your business activities.
Think of it this way – people are less likely to take you seriously and view you as a professional they want to work with or invest in if you’re prioritizing fun over business. There is a time and place for everything, so be patient and indulge at the right time and only in appropriate places.
Never overindulge at a business meeting or event. Just like you should never drink too much, you shouldn’t use so much cannabis that it negatively affects your behavior in a business situation.
Similarly, don’t attend a business function smelling like marijuana, which can be associated with overconsumption and a lack of professionalism. Again, there is at time and place for everything, so exercise restraint and be smart.
Keep in mind, being smart doesn’t end when business meetings and networking events do. Be sure to get business cards and contact information for everyone you meet and follow up with them right after the meeting or event ends.
While meetings and networking events are great for making connections, generating leads, and building relationships, you need to nurture those relationships on an ongoing basis if you want to turn them into closed deals and business successes.
RELATED READING: Ultimate Guide to Cannabis Industry B2B Event Lead Follow-up for Sales
There are many different types of cannabis conferences, expos, and events held every year in the United States, Canada, and international locations. Following are 10 popular cannabis events (in alphabetical order) that you can attend and flex your B2B networking skills. The Cannabiz Media team has attended each of these events, and they’re all excellent.
The Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference is one of many conferences held by Benzinga. The event brings together many of the biggest cannabis industry professionals who are driving the global industry forward. The event provides numerous opportunities for learning, networking, and making deals.
Cannabis Conference is presented by Cannabis Business Times, Cannabis Dispensary, and Hemp Grower. The event brings together people who work for and with plant-touching cannabis and hemp businesses from the United States and countries around the world. The focus is on educating attendees and discussing challenges and opportunities in the legal cannabis and hemp industries.
CannaCon events are held across the U.S. throughout the year and are promoted as a one-stop shop for all cannabis business needs, including “cultivation, innovation, education, business and legal advice, retail insights, extraction technology, scientific and financial trends, marketing, branding and so much more.” Events include trade show exhibitors, educational sessions, and networking opportunities.
CannaVest conferences were developed specifically for institutional and accredited investors in the cannabis industry. CannaVest Institutional Capital Forum and Cannabis Investment Conference & Expo events are typically held in conjunction with another cannabis industry event, such as MJBizCon in November 2022 and CWCBExpo in June 2023.
The Cannabis World Congress and Business Exposition (CWCBExpo) is promoted as the premier cannabis B2B expo and conference on the East Coast. It has been held every year since 2015 at the Javits Convention Center in New York City. Attendees have opportunities to network, attend educational sessions, and see product displays.
The Lift Cannabis Business Conference (Lift&Co Expo) is billed as Canada’s #1 cannabis conference and trade show where top business leaders, subject matter experts, innovators, and regulators from across the cannabis industry gather to learn and network. Lift events are also held in the United States.
MJ Unpacked is considered to be a premier event in the cannabis industry providing education, networking, and investment opportunities for attendees. In fact, attendance is exclusive to cannabis retail and brand executives with the title of manager and above as well as accredited investors who are actively investing in the industry.
MJBizCon is the largest cannabis industry conference and trade show in the world. It’s described as the event “where the game-changers, rule breakers, and disruptors unite to connect, innovate and leave their mark on the industry.”
The New England Cannabis Convention (NECANN) is a B2B cannabis industry event that launched in the Northeast in 2014 but is now held in multiple cities across the United States each year. NECANN brings businesses, entrepreneurs, cultivators, advocates, patients, investors, educators, and consumers together for education and networking.
The Emerald Conference is promoted as the original, longest running interdisciplinary cannabis science event for discussion on discovery science and how science and data support best practices in cultivation, production, and quality assurance. Each convention focuses on the current state and potential of the local market where the event is held and is targeted to people and businesses who work in and with analytical testing, extraction science, research and development, cultivation science, formulations, and pre-clinical research.
The tips for cannabis industry networking provided above give you a solid foundation to start with, but you’ll need to do your homework to truly succeed. Research each event, get to know your audiences, and adjust your messages, behavior, and offerings to match.
With your due diligence completed, it’s time to practice, practice, practice! That way, you’ll be prepared, perceptive, professional, patient, and smart, and you’ll be more successful at every event and meeting.