Forget the golf course. How about a tour down the Platte River on a 30-foot airboat?
That was what Timothy Bryson, owner of Bryson's Airboat Tours in Fremont, Neb., had to offer Wednesday at the 24th annual Buy the Big O! Show, a business-to-business trade show. About 300 vendors, including businesses and nonprofits, packed the CenturyLink Center exhibit hall to display their products and services in hopes of striking deals with other businesses.
Bryson owns land on the Platte River in Fremont, where he hosts private events and airboat tours. He said that while much of his business is done with individuals who are just interested in taking a tour, he's looking to grow with other businesses, hosting corporate parties and team-building events.
“We're ready to go to that next level,” Bryson said. This year was his fourth attending the trade show, and he had his $100,000 airboat in tow, which was quite the draw. “People aren't used to seeing an airboat in Nebraska,” he said.
He also had an opportunity to network with other business professionals, including people in marketing and event planning. Wednesday morning, he had already connected with an event planner and someone with a local music company to collaborate on a “Jazz on the Platte River” event that's in the works now.
Tracey Fricke, senior director of special events for the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, said about 5,000 people were expected to attend the show. This year, organizers were encouraging interaction on Twitter and Facebook and offered a free app with a map of all of the vendors and booths, a contact for each vendor and what kinds of deals they were offering.
The main focus of the trade show, however, was connecting face to face. Fricke said that in today's online world where much of business is done via email, there is still value in meeting someone in person.
“Anybody can grow from meeting new people,” Fricke said.
Susan Johnson of metal-working shop Brand Metal Works agreed. She said the trade show was a great opportunity for the company, which has been in business for about a year and a half, to gain exposure and meet with people one-on-one.
Haley Patten, a sales executive with Pay-Less Office Products, also noted it's nice to meet with sales representatives outside of the office. Pay-Less sells commercial cleaning and office supplies and furniture. Patten said about 75 to 100 people had already stopped by the company's booth before 11 a.m. “We haven't had a chance to stop,” she said.
Thrasher Basement Systems also had seen quite a bit of traffic, employee Stephanie Henion said. The company, which solves basement-related problems, said that last year the company got 24 leads from the trade show.
Like Bryson's Air Boat Tours, Minneapolis-based Rove Pest Control attended the event to grow the commercial side of its business. While residential clients are the company's bread and butter, Omaha branch office sales manager Jacob Staack said he hoped to meet with apartment complex managers and independent landlords.
Anytime you can get out in front of this many people, it's an excellent opportunity, he said. “The question is why wouldn't you come out?”