Top 5½ Trends At GCATS
What We Learned at the GCSAA Conference + Trade Show
EPIC employees and clients already know our three brand values: that we’re scrappy, honest, and kind. But EPIC employees working with clients in the golf industry would probably back me up in saying that “GCATS” (our affectionate name for the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show) could be a fitting fourth pillar to our brand. Scrappy, Honest, Kind, and GCATS. It’s our thing.
The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America’s (GCSAA’s) conference and trade show is the largest annual event in the turfgrass management industry—a show that EPIC has attended for 30 years. This year, EPIC sent 13 employees to the land of oranges, magic, and sunshine to assist our clients with booth set-ups, media requests, and video coverage, and to run the GCSAA.tv stage, live-streamed from Orlando, Florida’s Orange County Convention Center. After a successful trip, here are the top five trends we took away from the show (which can really be applied to any industry):
1. This year the golf show was BACK
While it was my first time at GCATS (along with Project Manager, Derek Seidel), many EPIC employees and partners have attended the event for years. For those who have attended in previous years, it was the shared sentiment that this year’s attendance and engagement felt comparable to pre-pandemic GCATS shows.
Traffic was strong and the clients I talked to (mostly GCSAA.tv sponsors) were happy with not just the turnout, but the enthusiasm and engagement from attendees,” said COO, Tim Merath. “It definitely did feel like we were really back.”
The energy was back, all of the industry’s biggest names and players were there, and the attendance numbers skyrocketed, nearly doubling the in-person attendance of 2022. Check out GCSAA’s most recent release for more information about this year’s show statistics.
2. The evolution of the trade show booth
This year booth displays were bigger than ever, with an emphasis on finding creative ways to integrate tech. These days companies are investing in tech and graphics, not just to be flashy and keep up with the times but using them purposefully to create meaningful and memorable experiences. Some of the best booths found ways to thoughtfully integrate tech with the rest of the booth design. EPIC worked with the John Deere team to develop a user-driven product experience that allows a salesperson to tailor a product presentation to the needs of the customer. That digital experience doesn’t steal the show, just adds to it.
3. The global impact was felt (again)
People, companies, and exhibitors from across the globe were in town for the event. Our very own Kelly Shoff, video producer, recalled meeting people from England, Spain, South Africa, Australia, Canada, and Germany at the conference this year! After technology helped bridge communication gaps during the pandemic and now that international travel has returned in full force, we’re more connected to the world than ever before. It’s a huge win for the industry when people from all over the world can attend and share their cultural perspectives to help the game continue to grow.
4. Giveaways generate a LOT of buzz
This year’s GCSAA show had no shortage of exciting giveaways for everyone in attendance to try their luck at winning. Most exhibitors had either a jar to drop a business card in or a QR code for you to scan for your contact info, occasionally asking you to subscribe to a newsletter to enter a giveaway. With more than 40 giveaways from exhibitors, prizes came in all forms. Some golf-related things like a new golf bag or brand new putter, while other prizes included things like a Yeti cooler or a year-long subscription to a publication of your choice.
There were also some free giveaways that drew big crowds, including happy hour beer pours from a handful of exhibitors, while another company appealed to the sweet tooth by giving out freshly baked cookies from 12:30-1:30p after lunch on Thursday. While free cookies and beer are enticing, I don’t think any of those giveaways compared to the hype generated by the Flyaway Geese puppy giveaway—it’s hard to compete with extremely adorable and well-trained Border Collies.
While giveaways generate lots of buzz and can create an incentive for people to visit a booth, one of the biggest takeaways for businesses leveraging them is the importance of getting people to sign up for alerts, emails, and newsletters. That’s a twofer: building awareness for the brand while creating future exposure for a business’s digital marketing strategy.
5. Everyone was truly happy to be there
Whether it was the full-scale attendance or sunshiney days, it was seemingly agreed upon by everyone in attendance that they were happy to be there. While everyone traveling to the show was missing their families back home, there was a familial feeling held between co-workers and clients alike.
This year, walking on the show floor was so rewarding. The work we contributed to the event was stellar. Clients were gushing, the EPIC crew was in a rhythm, and the usual stresses seemed non-existent. I was so proud of the work everyone was doing. The ‘got your back’ approach everyone had was something to behold.” —Joe Rogge
I was really impressed with how willing everyone was to help one another; whether it was setting up and taking down booths, grabbing lunch or drinks for each other, or anything just to keep things running smoothly.” —Derek Seidel
5½. “GCATS” Trending
Whether he was trying to or not, EPIC Content Director Scott Covelli was building a lot of hype around our internal nickname for the show—GCATS. Whether it was out on the show floor talking to exhibitors or at the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA) breakfast on Thursday morning, Scott was rallying the troops behind the name GCATS as the official, unofficial show nickname… and people loved it!
Whether it was chasing around Orlando with cameras, helping out clients on the show floor, running the GCSAA TV live stage or setting trends, EPIC left its stamp on the GCSAA show. And we’re already looking forward to the next GCATS show in Phoenix, AZ next year!