The DEMA Show may be the most famous of all the scuba diving shows in the world. This scuba diving trade show sets the trends in the scuba diving industry for the coming year. The DEMA show is usually the place where scuba diving innovations are introduced first. It changes locations between Orlando, Las Vegas and now New Orleans every year. I attended the DEMA for the very first time from the 13th to the 16th of November 2019, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. Based on my first-timer experience, I decided to share on my diving blog my best tips to people considering attending the following year for the first time.
Understand what DEMA show is
The DEMA Show is organised by the Diving Equipment & Marketing Association in the United States. Unlike all the other scuba diving shows I attended so far (Paris, Birmingham, Tokyo), it is a trade-only show. Only scuba diving professionals can buy a ticket and participate. As far as I know, this is the only scuba diving show of this style in the entire world.
Who attends the DEMA show?
Mostly scuba diving gear retailers and travel agents which can be grouped in the category of “buyers”. But you instructors and divemasters can also attend. The DEMA organisation checks credentials upon registration. Be prepared to send documents such as a scan copy of your business registry information, purchase invoice or your training agency-issued certification card (Divemaster level minimum).
For information, this year, registration opened in July, which is 4 months in advance.
Why attending the DEMA show?
If you are looking to meet up with directors of famous scuba diving brands, this is then the perfect place as only diving professionals can go. It also means alleys will be less busy than dive shows accessible to consumers which is a significant advantage if you are looking to make BtoB deals.
Generally speaking, the show is the place to be to see innovations in scuba diving equipment before everyone else whether for recreational diving, tech diving or underwater photography. It is a must-go place for retailers. Here is a selection of new products I photographed at the Aqua Lung booth and in the underwater photography section.
Download the DEMA show app
Preparing your visit of the DEMA show will be crucial for fruitful discussions. A month before the show you can download the DEMA show app on your smartphone. You can access the full list of exhibitors and seminar and put a star on your favourites one so you can find them easily afterwards.
You can use the app as an agenda to share your time efficiently between meetings on the show floor and seminars. I started sending emails 3 weeks before the show which worked fine. I had most of my meetings set-up before going to the show.
Bring comfortable shoes and keep it casual
Travel light and don’t bring a suit to the DEMA show. Even if the DEMA show is trade-only, since we are between scuba diving professionals, almost everyone wears a hoodie and jeans.
I walked nearly 10 km every day, so I recommend stylish but comfortable sneakers. Air-conditioning was very strong, so I recommend bringing your favourite scuba diving hoodie (preferably with your brand printed on it) or a light sleeveless puffer jacket.
Include seminars on your agenda
While the show floor looks like any other show I attended before, minus the crowds, the most significant difference of the DEMA show is the numerous business seminars available for diving professionals. Brands have their seminar schedule, but attendees can also buy an educational package to attend business sessions about marketing, sales and operations.
I attended a couple of digital marketing sessions. I was impressed by the quality of the presentations, which all lasted 45 minutes. Diving professionals can go back home with a to-do list full of new ideas to improve their business plan for the next year.
I also attended the responsible diving seminar organised by the Reef-World Foundation. The British non-profit organisation backed up by the UN Environment explained how there are spreading new best practices through the Green Fins program so we can preserve our favourite playground. The presentation then turned into a panel with business partners such as liveaboard operators and scuba diving gear manufacturers who explained how moving to a greener business plan (staff training, no more single-use plastic packaging, etc.) helped their company.
Book your flights and accommodation early
Although Orlando is a large resort area, famous for its numerous theme parks, I highly recommend booking your flight and hotel at least 3 months in advance if you want to get the best prices available. The hotels next to the Orange County Convention Centre were the most expensive (from 100$ a night), and I found the best prices by going a bit more north along International Drive.
I stayed at the Rosen Inn. Twin rooms in the US usually included 2 queen size beds, so I booked with a friend who was also attending the show. In the end, each of us paid about 35$/ 33€ a night.
It was only 10 minutes away from the convention centre thanks to the trolley bus (9$ for a 5-day pass). The room had a fridge, microwave and coffee maker, which was perfect for saving time and money in the morning. I loved they had their convenience store, which wasn’t overpriced compared to the other shop of International drive area.
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