Visits to Outdoor Recreation Conferences, OIA Rendezvous and Overland Expo

Just last week (October 3-9, 2014) I attended both Overland Expo 4×4 festival and parts of the Outdoor Recreation Industry (OIA) annual “Rendezvous” conference.  Both were held in Asheville, recognized as an east coast hot spot for outdoor recreation and adventure activities and businesses.  The Overland Expo, which has always and will continue to occur in Flagstaff, Arizona, held its first ever east coast event outside of Asheville, at the Taylor Ranch in Fletcher.  From what I heard it was a resounding success and all signs point to a return for years to come.  OIA Rendezvous was here four years ago, in 2010, and, after a rotation of locations, made its return with a heavy involvement and attendance by southeastern recreation and gear companies, distributers and retailers.

OIA is the premier association for businesses involved in or supplying gear to the outdoor recreation and adventure industry.  Many clothing and gear companies are involved with OIA and attend the annual conference.  This year’s conference included recreational activities in the region, including hiking, biking, and rafting, a community service event along the French Broad River in conjunction with Timberland and Riverlink, an evening of fun and games at the local Highland Brewery, and many speaker and breakout work group opportunities.

Keynote speakers at Rendezvous addressed such issues as being creative and innovative within company structure to recognize individuality, highlight creative problem solving, and improve performance and results; embracing and adopting the flexibility and adaptability of modern business and marketing; how to stay on top and/or improve marketing and sales in the global digital marketplace; and focusing on effective leadership moving into the future of the outdoor recreation industry.

The conference also held breakout sessions and speakers on a wider range of topics, many better focused towards smaller businesses, including, but not limited to: broadening the customer landscape for the outdoor recreation industry, leadership with intent, efficiency and results, delivering branding and retail to potential customers, how to weave storytelling into business (something highly prevalent and effective for lawyers too), trends and technologies in gear and clothing design and manufacturing, supply and retail, positive results by maximizing collaboration and feedback, both from customers and colleagues, mapping out goals and challenges to realize how to best move forward with your recreational business, the importance of community, sustainability and organic development in business and modern society, and the more typical how to handle adversity and stay ahead of competition throughout the outdoor recreation business nertwork and market.

One of my greatest appreciations of these conferences was not only the information gleaned from speakers or the direct contact with current and potential clients, but the community of like-minded individuals, who are in these industries because it is something they enjoy.  As expressed multiple times, these people don’t mind working hard because they believe in the people they serve, products they create, manufacturer and/or sell, and underlying challenges and causes related to these industries, such as environmental and conservation concerns, so that future generations may enjoy the same recreational activities that we do.  It’s a “work hard, play hard”, “practice what you preach” type of crowd . . . right up my alley!

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