CalARVC-logo-286x145The goal of the new California Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (CalARVC) RV Park Day events is to create connections and facilitate relationships, and that is exactly what happened last week at Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort, CalARVC reported.

Surrounded by beaches and palm trees and immersed in California sunshine, more than 90 park operators and vendors got to know one another in unique ways as CalARVC reinvented its approach to trade shows.

Kampgrounds of America’s (KOA) Larry Brownfield challenged participants’ communication skills with three different exercises. Using blindfolds, drawing paper and picnic tables, vendors and park operators honed ways in which to connect.

Darrell Sisk of Pismo Coast Village RV Resort shared his experience. “The Minefield Exercise put me back in the shoes of a new employee and what they feel when starting a new job. It really helped open my eyes to what they are experiencing,” Sisk said.

In another exercise, Pauline Wood of San Francisco North/Petaluma KOA challenged participants’ descriptive skills. Park operators and vendors broke into teams of two and took turns describing different shapes wile their teammate attempted to recreate the shape. “The exercise forced me to think clearly and concisely about what I was trying to say,” Sisk said.

In a final exercise, led by Debbie Sipe, CalARVC’s executive director, groups of four or five participants were challenged to throw away their assumptions about one another. Their job was to find similar likes and attributes and then to come up with a group name. The Cookin’ Campers and the Trainwreck found their similarities quickly, while other groups struggled to find common ground. Eventually, each team found their name and in the process made some new friends.

Next, Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort became the star of the show. After lunch, Andy Theodorou, the park’s general manager, explained the operations of the resort and its different entities. A guided tour wound through the property, past the marina and the restaurant, through the RV park and over the back bay bridge.

With all the introductions out of the way earlier in the day, participants were able to focus on the experts.

Park operators were able to drill down into deeper conversations with 25 different vendor experts. Conversations included a variety of topics: Solar electric productions, Wi-fi, reservation software, branding, marketing, site maps, insurance, park management, park trailers and specialty lodging, tenant screening, professional services and more

With no booths, no signage, and no table cloths, the traditional sales floor was gone. Yet park operators and vendors shared conversations, insights and built better and deeper relationships in an outdoor reception-like setting.

The connections were casual yet meaningful, according to CalARVC, and throughout it all, business was accomplished on many different levels.

This new format, while not yet perfected, allowed a new level of peer interaction that the traditional trade show does not.

According to CalARVC, “We have timing adjustments to make. We need more water and hats if our host properties keep providing the best weather possible.

“We were blessed with the ability to pull together the vendors and park operators in a post-session evaluation. The feedback we received was enormous and staff thanks each participant as we strive to build a better event!”

CalARVC is making final plans for the organization’s final 2014 event, which will happen Sept. 23 at Far Horizons 49er RV Village Resort in Plymouth, Calif. Early-bird rates are still available.

Photos from last week’s event are on the CalARVC Facebook page.