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A Lesson in Storytelling: Surf Expo 2013

A Lesson in Storytelling: Surf Expo 2013

I am a son of…the ocean.  It is my DNA. I live for surf and sun and fishing and skiing and beaches. So for me, as you could imagine, the recent Surf Expo at the Orange County Convention Center made me feel like a kid in a candy store. As the world’s largest surf and water-sports industry event, there’s more fun and raging zest-for-life-energy there than any place I could imagine.

Truly one of the greatest aspects of the show this year was the new museum-like exhibit: “Surfing Florida: A Photographic History”. It was absolutely chock-full of irreplaceable historical photos, colorful bios of people and events that I knew, and great memorabilia. It was an opportunity for attendees to re-live so many fond memories of their glory days. I had a never-ending smile.

This year it was also interesting to see the continuing surge in popularity of Stand-Up Paddle, where riders stand up on very large surfboards and paddle them through surf, and on lakes and rivers. I must confess, I’d never done it, and really just didn’t get it, but there was a large demo pool there, so I had to try (see photo below)! It WAS pretty fun, and I didn’t create a spectacle by falling in. It’s definitely something I’d do again.

But SUPs aren’t the point of this note. Stories are. I’m an active water-dude and love everything about the industry and the lifestyle. I want to know about products and trends and new ways to enjoy active sports in the sun.  I’m a passionate fan, and want to be more immersed.

On the Expo floor I saw a large booth for a newer brand that I’d seen a lot of while fishing and beaching. But I really didn’t understand what it was all about and thought to ask their sales and marketing folks to share the company’s story. I was sure I was missing something there and wanted to be impassioned about them, too! It was kind of shocking and disappointing that the only story they could tell me was that…”yeah, this whole thing started from a tattoo artist who drew a tattoo, that sort of got really popular and became a logo and has a viral aspect now. What?! Are you kidding?! That’s all your brand’s about?! For goodness sake, man, if you don’t have a story…MAKE ONE UP will ya?! For me, this really drove home the importance of having a deep and rich story into which your audience can immerse themselves. These people didn’t have one. I WANTED to be a fan, but I’ve gotta say…I walked away disappointed.

I think that most people work, and volunteer and own businesses as an extension of their passions. It stands to reason that if they’re passionate about what they do, that others might become passionate as well, if they’re allowed to come inside and connect. I can’t remember seeing or experiencing such a blatant vacancy of story before, but it really brought home for me the importance of having that foundation, so that people can see, and feel, and touch, and connect with your product to make it part of their lives. People…just need to be invited inside.

Mark Edson
Mark helped build the company’s convention sales, event productions, and Synergy and Alliance Marketing units with his creativity, strong client dedication, and innovative problem solving.