A week ago I made the three-hour drive from Bakersfield to Costa Mesa to attend the annual GCLA Expo. This annual event is like a mini-trade show with industry vendors setting up booths, builders bringing vehicles to display and networking abounds as operators broke bread and shared cocktails together. The show itself is worth the six-hour round trip just to have a little face time with my affiliates like Mo Garkani of Continental Limousine, Chris Hundley of Limousine Connection and of course the Katzin’s from A-1 Limousine. These guys always have my back and I enjoy hanging out with them.
Of course Hillary (my wife) loves these shows for the swag bags and all the goodies given out by the vendors and the food is usually pretty decent too. I will say, GCLA does a fine job of choosing vendors with great food and this was no exception with a buffet line up of Italian, Mexican and Oriental food, a dessert bar, a gourmet coffee bar and of course the all important cocktail bar. You can almost count on Mo to be near the bar buying cocktails for everyone all night.
The entrance to the event was swank. After picking up credentials, attendees walked the red carpet after first stopping at the requisite photo backdrop and feeling the glitz of starting the red carpet walk. The red carpet walk was a long one too, spanning almost the length of a football field. The air was filled with lively music and the carpet ended with a plethora of vendors handing out trinkets and trying to land new business. I must say, I found it odd that LCT Magazine and Chauffeur Driven Magazine were forced to share a 6-foot banquet table. Can you say, “awkward”?
Once we were done visiting the vendor booths, we headed to the parking lot for the vehicle displays. We had a great time there visiting with industry coachbuilder luminaries such as Pat Butler and Ed Grech. That’s when the trouble began.
We went to get plates of food and then purposely sat with people we didn’t know including Nadia Scott from Wantlimo.com in Santa Ana and Russell and Olga McGillicuddy from Air One Limousine in San Jose to meet new people. However, the music was so loud that it was nearly impossible to have any kind of exchange of ideas until the band finally took a much needed break. I’m not sure the band needed a break but we certainly needed a break from the band.
Through dinner, the expo was filled with energy and excitement. However, as the dinner hour wore on, people began to leave. There were many people who traveled great distances to be in attendance. Many, like myself, came to hear the keynote speaker, our own publisher of LCT, Sara Eastwood-McLean. In my opinion, Sara should have been on stage while we were having dinner and the show had a full attendance. Instead, a handful of people were selected to roll some dice for a chance to spell out L-I-M-O with the special dice. This thing drug on for nearly an hour while the only people concerned about it were randomly selected through a business card drawing that included way, way, way too many people. This little stunt saw a third of the people attending head to the parking lot and begin the long drive home.
By the time Sara took the stage, the audience was diminished to a handful of people and the vendors who had to stay until the bitter end but hung out at their booths having conversations amongst themselves. In my opinion, this was a tremendous disservice to Sara, to the people like myself that spent six hours on the road and to the attendees that wanted to hear what Sara had to say. I really thought after doing the same thing to Diane Forgy last year that a lesson would have been learned. Apparently, not!
As an event planner myself who produces a festival attended by 6,000 people each year, and annual Halloween Party for a thousand people and several charity golf tournaments, I admire Mark Stewart and his crew for putting the event together. It takes a commitment of time to pull an event like this off. I’m sure all the intentions were good and overall, the theme was awesome. The time management thing was the only failure but unfortunately it had a major impact since so many people left in sheer boredom before the keynote address occurred and that’s a shame.
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