I recently wrote a column about how boat shows can be a challenging, stressful or possibly boring time for captains and crew working them. But they also are an opportunity for making new connections in the industry.
Yes, the days can be pretty busy, but there usually is some time to walk around a bit and check out the show. What I want to suggest here is while moving about the show, stay open and curious, and be willing to engage with others. It can be an interesting and worthwhile experience.
When I was just starting out as a young captain, I went to all the shows in the northeast. The big shows in Stamford, New York and Annapolis were well represented by the sailing industry in those days and that’s what I wanted to be around. I got my first steady gig with a major sailing school after meeting one of their representatives at a N.Y. show.
You never knew who was going to be at these shows. I spoke with authors Tristan Jones and Don Street, whose books on their sailing adventures I had enjoyed. I met the most respected news anchor of all time, Walter Cronkite, who was also an avid sailor. Five years later, I was fortunate enough to sit down with him for an extended conversation in St. Thomas as we discussed me taking over for his recently departed captain.
I didn’t accept the offer, though. When I informed the owner I was working for at the time of the interview, he doubled my salary. What a great feeling. In five short years, I went from hitting the boat shows to having two great owners both wanting me as their captain. This is what can happen when you put yourself out there and connect at boat shows.
I know the shows are a little different these days. The Florida shows certainly are focused on the motoryacht and megayacht industries, but the opportunities to connect are still there. Even if you are content in your present position, meeting and talking to new people is always stimulating and interesting. A good conversation and exchanging contact information can pay dividends down the road. You never know.
It’s always better to be in the game than on the sidelines. If you are on the sidelines right now, either looking to get in or looking to get back in, go to a boat show and introduce yourself to everyone. Don’t be shy or intimidated. These shows revolve around people meeting and talking and making connections.
Yes, most folks with booths working the show are there to sell their products or services, so take that opportunity to learn about the latest products and services. It can also stir up an opportunity in another field in the industry. You just never know.
These connections aren’t only about a new position or employment opportunity. You may want to talk to a health insurance agent, or a phone rep, or a banking professional to get info about your needs in those areas.
Of course, it’s always interesting to check out the latest navigation and communication technologies as well as ask questions about your current systems.
Then finally there is just plain old socializing. Shooting the breeze, catching up on the latest scuttlebutt and sharing a laugh can make a boat show fun. We should all remember not to take ourselves so seriously that we can’t relax around people and have a good time.
If you feel bored or in a funk at your next boat show, try showing some interest in someone else’s story. Get out of your own stuff for a while and ask questions and listen. It’s a good thing to do.
Enjoy the voyage.
Rob Gannon is a 25-year licensed captain and certified life and wellness coach. He offers free sample coaching sessions and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments are welcome at email@example.com.