The Ultimate Boat Show Guide for Attendees
There’s nothing quite like a boat show. For more than a half-century, boat shows have been a vital component of the marine industry. These shows provide a wide array of opportunities for marine industry companies, fisherman, boating enthusiasts, boat builders, yacht owners, captains, crews, event organizers, and others.
As an attendee, boat shows give you a behind the scenes look at the companies and brands you love, and exclusive opportunities to meet with industry experts, attend seminars, and enjoy a weekend with family and friends. With dozens of boat shows ranging from small rural to large shows with over 100,000 attendees, there are different sights, sounds, and benefits to look and prepare for when planning your trip to a show.
With decades of experience attending and exhibiting at boat shows around the world, Frigibar Industries, Inc. is providing this guide to share our passion for the marine industry and to help you make the most of your show adventures. The Ultimate Boat Show Guide for Attendees is meant to help you do anything from finding the boat of your dreams to helping you make new connections and friends at a show.
We’ll start with the types of shows and the benefits of attending boat shows, and then navigate through the important aspects of planning for, attending, and what to do after the show. If you have any questions about this guide, please contact us at info@Frigibar.com. We hope you enjoy this guide and to see you at an upcoming show!
- U.S. Boat Show Season
- Types of Boat Shows
- Benefits of Attending Boat Shows
- Goal-Setting for Boat Shows
- At the Show
- Following Up After a Boat Show
- Boat Show Lists
- Additional Boat Show Resources
U.S. Boat Show Season
Boat Show Season in the U.S. takes place after most captains, crews and owners have finished the majority of their trips and on-the-water activities. The Boat Show Season in the United States takes place from September until April each year, while most recreational boating takes place from April to September when the majority of lakes, oceans and seas are ripe for swimming, cruising, sailing, boating, and fishing. Taking advantage of your time during the boat show season will help you get prepared for the trips you plan to take during the prime boating season.
There is no shortage of shows regardless of what area of the country you live in. With over 50 boat shows in the U.S. alone during the season, you are sure to find a show that is the right size and fit in a desirable location.
Types of Boat Shows
There are numerous types of boat shows, each offering something different. What type of show is the best fit for you depends on your boating interests and preferences. Here are the most common types of boat shows:
- Fishing Expo: As the name implies, fishing expos, which are often grouped together with boat shows, are events that bring the best of the fishing world together in one place. Fishing teams, experts, and companies attend and exhibit to share information about their trade with fans and amateur anglers.
You can find a lot of the same boats and gear you would at any other boat show, but the core focus is using that equipment and vessels for fishing, both on a professional and amateur level.
- International Boat Show: The largest boat shows in the world bring the most prestigious and most reputable companies, captains, crews, and tens if not hundreds of thousands of attendees from anywhere and everywhere. If “international” is attached to a show you’re considering attending, plan for large crowds. Make sure to plan far in advance to meet with exhibitors, try your best to estimate travel times in-between exhibits and show areas, and reserve parking and lodging months before the show.
- Refit: Shows like Professional BoatBuilder Magazine’s Refit International Exhibition and Conference in Fort Lauderdale are dedicated to boat refits. Refitting includes “repairing, fixing, restoring, renewing, mending, and renovating an old vessel.” This show is a great opportunity to learn about restoring a boat or yacht and seeing what is available to you in this process.
If you are interested in a new construction or purchasing a completely refurbished vessel that does not need any repairs or restoration, you may want to consider a different show.
- Sportsman: Sportsman shows are similar to fishing expos, but with a wider array of interests and trades. A sportsman’s boat show is geared towards outdoorsmen, anglers, hunters, and others. For boaters, sportsman’s shows will have aluminum boats and generally smaller vessels than traditional boat shows. Expect to see plenty of guns, knives, hunting and fishing equipment.
- Sailboat Show: Put that engine away. A popular niche type of boat show is a “strictly sail” show. These are geared towards sail enthusiasts, America’s Cup World Series fans, paddleboarders and more. Although you will find some power boat related companies and items at these shows, they are primarily for adventurers that prefer to experience boating without an engine.
- Workboat Show: Commercial based boat shows are geared towards professionals that work in the marine environment. These shows are attractive for commercial fishermen, transport companies, and other service type companies in the marine industry. At this type of show, you will be able to learn about new products and trends, network and connect with service and equipment providers, and gain useful knowledge from industry professionals.
- Marine Industry Professional Trade Show: Marine industry companies work with suppliers around the world to find products to incorporate into their offerings and to find new products and services to sell. Events like METSTRADE in Amsterdam and IBEX in Tampa are trade shows that connect leisure marine equipment industry companies together to form partnerships, learn about each other and to buy and sell to each other.
Benefits of Attending Boat Shows
Boat shows are not traditionally expensive events to attend, but the time, travel, tickets, and lodging if attending a show out of town, can make for a significant investment. As with any investment, you need to weigh the benefits against the costs of attending any given show to make the best decision possible. Here are several benefits you may enjoy from attending a boat show:
- Boat shows serve as a great overview of the industry and what products are available.
- You have the opportunity to talk to multiple vendors in one place instead of making five different phone calls or trying to drive out to meet with them in person at their physical locations. While searching and shopping online is convenient, you don’t get the opportunity to see and touch the products or talk directly with the founders of the companies as well as other boaters and attendees to ask every and any question you have.
- Bargaining is not easy to do online, but can be a part of your purchasing process at an in-person event.
- The environment is electric! There isn’t anything that matches the fun environment of a boat show. Everyone is excited, learning and shopping for things they desire around a common interest and passion. When you get a group of people together that are passionate about the same things, it’s impossible not to feed off of their energy and be excited and charged to be there.
- Expand your network. The marine industry is full of some of the most well-connected people you could hope to meet. It’s very likely that you will find new like-minded connections at a show if you’re active and looking to meet new people.
Goal-Setting for Boat Shows
The only way you can accomplish your goals is to have goals to accomplish, and a lot can be said for clearly laying out your goals so you can then plan out how to achieve them. Even if your only goal is to have an amazing weekend with your family while looking at boats, setting goals is a great way to maximize your trip.
If you’re goals include making a final decision on what marine refrigeration system to purchase for your yacht, buying a tender, emergency equipment or fenders, you’re going to want to outline what criteria will help you make your decision and how you can get this information during your time at the show.
We recommend writing down your top three goals to accomplish during the show (ex: find a new freezer for my yacht, learn about advanced angling techniques from seminars at the show, and get diving gear quotes from vendors at the show). Don’t go unprepared – download the Frigibar Boat Show Attendee Checklist:
At the Show
Getting the most out of a show is about more than just planning ahead to accomplish your goals. You have to take advantage of opportunities, show resources, exhibitors and other attendees.
- Read, print, and bring a copy of the show guide along with you. See who’s advertising, what exhibitors are promoting, and where the exhibitors you want to visit will be located to make navigating the show as simple as possible. Here’s an example of a show guide from the 2015 Providence Boat Show. Show websites also offer lots of pre-boat show information to assist you before you get to the show including parking and lodging options, pre-purchase ticket discounts, maps and more.
- Don’t waste time getting lost or be too shy to ask for help. Most shows have information booths set up, event staff walking around, and exhibitors are more than willing to help direct attendees. When you get to the show, pick up a show guide which will have a useful map and a directory of exhibitors and their locations.
- Follow the event hashtags and social media pages of the boat show and exhibitors you want to stay connected with. You’ll be able to see giveaways and updates immediately.
- Bring a camera and something to record notes with, along with a way to give out your contact information (business cards if you have them).
- Even if they aren’t advertising a special, ask exhibitors if they are running a deal for the show.
- Look beyond the boat or product itself, make sure to speak with the owners and staff. You’re investing in the company you purchase from, so get a good feel for their customer service and how they do business.
- Stick to your guns. If a product is more than you expected or if you find yourself in a pressured situation, sleep on a decision before making one you might regret. Consider attending the first day of the show or meeting with exhibitors the night before the show to give yourself additional time to consider.
Following Up After a Boat Show
Boat shows are community events, even if it’s an international show. Making new friends and connections is a worthwhile investment. Take time after each show to go through the materials you collected, send thank you notes to people you took time to meet with and want to continue talking to, and schedule follow-up meetings and phone calls if necessary.
Exhibitors may be extremely busy after a show, so give them some time to respond to your questions or emails.
If you enjoyed the show, share your experience with the event staff and organizers. They are connected with all of the exhibitors and knowledgeable. They may even be able to help provide insight or connect you with a company or individual that could help you with your search. You may also want to share your experience at the show on social media. The show and exhibitors count on attendees to make the show a success for them. If you enjoyed your time at a particular show, let your friends, family and colleagues know that it was a worthwhile trip. The more people that attend the show, the better the shows will be.
Boat Show Lists
With so many shows in the United States, it can be overwhelming to keep up with the schedule. Below are a few links with information about shows throughout the county during the boat show season.
If you find yourself interested in a boat show abroad adventure, there are multiple shows in South America, Asia, the Middle East and the Mediterranean that are also worth a visit which you can easily find with a quick search on Google.
Additional Boat Show Resources
The NMMA is the nation’s leading trade association representing boat, marine engine, and accessory manufacturers. Collectively, NMMA members manufacture an estimated 80 percent of marine products used in North America. View their resource list for recommended partners and associations.
For additional resources and marine industry websites and company information, view the Frigibar resources page.