I’ve been working in the craft industry for a number of years now, and I have attended trade shows as a buyer, an independent designer, and an exhibitor. Now I will attend as a reporter for Scrapbook Update. I have booked my flight and hotel, so now it’s time to get serious about planning my time in Anaheim. Today I’d like to share some of my tips for attending the show and preparing for it in advance. I’m sharing tips that should work for you no matter what capacity you’re going in – or how long you’ll be there.
- Schedule. If appropriate e-mail people or companies pre-show (3-5 weeks prior). Try to set appointments, make contact with people you know, and figure out who you want or need to see at the show.
- Style. Work out your outfits now. Comfortable pants or a long skirt or dress that can hold up to standing, bending, and squatting for eight plus hours paired with a top that you don’t have to adjust all the time is key. The perfect top is one that’s flattering but also won’t cause you to be uncomfortable, flash people, or give you issues all day long. I suggest bending and squatting in front of a full length mirror before packing any clothes – you might get some surprises about how revealing your outfit might end up being!
- Tote. Figure out a good bag. Will you be dragging pounds of catalogs around, or just some business cards and not much else? Will you be storing your bag and working a booth? What you do and what you’ll pick up needs to figure into your choice of bag. From a big rolling tote to a shoulder bag to a backpack, there are plenty of options. Just remember you will be hauling it around all day long and you should be able to fit a 12 x 12 piece of paper inside (just in case you receive any samples).
- Research. Surf the internet. See those sneak peeks, find out what everyone is excited about, figure out don’t-miss spots on the show floor. You can also find out when your favorite personalities will be doing make & takes or demos on the show floor.
- Organize. Make some lists. If you have friends you want to meet up with, be sure and get their cell phone #’s. Write your contact names & booth information down, make sure to list out all the ‘must sees’ on your list.
- Supplies. Have your supplies in order now. Business cards, order forms, programming numbers into your cell phone, printing hotel & flight info, and so much more can be done right now and you’ll avoid that last minute rush.
- Tech. Don’t forget to pack your camera, charger, phone charger, and other electronic gizmos!
- Space. Pack light. Odds are you’ll be coming home with more stuff than you brought, so keep space in your suitcase.
On the Show Floor:
- Photos. Ask before you start snapping photos. Most companies are ok with it, but show rules require you to ask permission to photograph product or samples.
- Business Cards. When you give out a business card… try to remember to get one from the other person.
- Explore. Be open to companies you hadn’t considered before. You never know what manufacturer is going to be great and which one won’t.
- Business. Think big, but accept small opportunities. Getting your foot in the door is a whole lot better than nothing.
- Purpose. Never forget that manufacturers are there to show off their wares and make sales. If you’re not a buyer then be aware of priorities and don’t monopolize an exhibitor’s time or keep them from a customer.
- Solo. If you are trying to make new contacts and get new work walk the floor alone, or with only one other person. While being in a group is fun, not much actual work will be done.
- Service. If you have a BAD product (especially with you at the show) go and tell the company. If they are totally off in their customer service and don’t apologize or offer a replacement on the spot, then go tell their competitor. You’ll know a company to avoid in the future, make a new contact, and might even get an (improved) replacement.
- Talk. Talk. Talk. Talk. Forget your shyness and just talk to everyone.
- Be Social. To avoid coming home with major regrets… see above. (Talk!) Also don’t forget to take photos with the craft personalities and friends you get to visit with.
- Write. TAKE NOTES!!! Write down everything that you can. Take 1-2 breaks a day to sit, have a drink, and write. You won’t remember as much as you think you will. Seriously.
- Drink. Stay hydrated. You’ll feel more energized, look better, not get headaches as easily, and be in a better mood overall. Drink up!
- Hide. Bring under-eye concealer and Clear-Eyes or a similar solution for your eyes. Bloodshot eyes with bags under them due to lack of sleep is not a good look.
- Hiking. Wear shoes suited for standing 8 hours or more. Even if you have the best Nikes out there, your feet are going to be tired. Think about that before you go for high heel boots or pointy toe cute shoes.
- Creative Wear. Homemade accessories rock. Make yourself a necklace, a hair clip, or a flower top so you don’t lose your pen – anything! This is a craft trade show – show off your creativity! (If you are an aspiring designer this is an especially strong suggestion for you.)
- Nutrition. Bring in snacks and bottles of water (or your preferred beverage). Being able to down a Fiber 1 bar, eat an apple, or suck on a jolly rancher is quick and much cheaper than the snack bar.
- Moisture. Chapstick and moisturizer are both good ideas. There is just something about a convention center that’s dehydrating! Be sure to be good to your skin and bring these life savers.
After the show:
- Manners. Pen some thank you notes if appropriate to anyone who went above and beyond.
- Do it. Follow up if you said you would. Nothing worse than making a ‘show floor promise’ and not coming through for the person or company you said you’d do something for.
- Contact. E-mail or stay in touch with new friends or contacts. Forward photos as promised and get to be even better friends – all the better to have more fun at the next show!
- Journal. On the trip home take time to write down any more notes or ‘don’t want to forget’ items in your CHA journal. It’s a great way to keep things in your mind as well as fun to look back at years down the road.
Above all, my number one tip for you is this: You never know who’s listening. The hotel lobby, Starbucks, café, elevator, even the airport is filled with people in the craft industry. Before you start in on a hot gossip session or spill some serious dirt make sure you are truly alone and in private. That middle-aged man who doesn’t seem like anybody who’d care might be an executive, a husband, or an industry person you don’t recognize. That elderly woman could be somebody’s mother or… you get the drift. Say only things that you’d be OK with everyone knowing if you’re not in the privacy of your car or room.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my tips – and if you have some to add please feel free to do so by adding a comment. Also if you have any questions, I’d be more than happy to answer them here in the comments or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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