May’s Top Tips for Making The Most of CHA

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.

Starting now:

  • 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.

For YOU:

  • 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.


8 Responses to May’s Top Tips for Making The Most of CHA

  1. milkcan January 8, 2010 at 12:45 am #

    Love this! Awesome, awesome list!

  2. Lain Ehmann January 8, 2010 at 8:50 am #

    Comprehensive list — nicely done! One more thing – BREATH MINTS. I always need those! 😉

  3. May Flaum January 8, 2010 at 1:52 pm #

    I got an e-mail that has some great tips from a vendor that would be especially good for store owners & buyers. Thanks to Andy Millet from Quick Quotes Scrapbook Company (CHA Booth #3771) for sharing:

    1. Pre-printed address labels for when they are placing an order, or for drawings. It should have their company name, contact, info, mailing address, telephone #, and email. TThis will same them tons of time.

    2. They should also have copies of their business license and other important business documents, especially if they plan on ordering from new companies. This helps speed up the ordering process. Quick Quotes can’t ship orders without all the right paperwork and then post show our staff trys to follow up and it just takes a long time to get that paperwork in.

    3. Try all the make-n-takes you can. If you like the make-n-takes chances are you’ll like the product.

    4. Really talk to your vendors and ask what programs they have built into their business to help store owners. At Quick Quotes we have two buying programs that help with inventory management and cash flow, the two biggest ‘Store Killers’. Just make sure that when you place an order it is with a company that wants to see you succeed and not with a company only sees your company as sale.

  4. Nancy Grant January 8, 2010 at 3:50 pm #

    What great reminders and new tips I’ve gained from reading your post. Thank you so much for the advice.

    I’ve been wearing what I think are comfortable shoes around the house to see which ones I’m gonna take with me. I even bought some really cute wedges from Crocs and wore them for the day.

    My regret from last Winter CHA is that I didn’t keep a journal. Maybe it’s not too late write down what I can remember this time around.

    Thanks again,

  5. Liz Hicks January 8, 2010 at 7:41 pm #

    What a great list May, totally laughing about the undereye concealer because it is soooo true! December and January are sleepless months 🙂

  6. Ellen Lumpkin Brown January 9, 2010 at 12:07 pm #

    These tips are absolutely super!! Here are a couple more — wear something both comfortable and recognizable — you never know where you may see a potential customer, even outside of your booth. And, have a brochure/bookmark/or even just a simple note with your booth number on it to give out — just in case there is a mistake in the show book (this happened to me) and, customers may misplace the show book.

  7. alison wood January 10, 2010 at 4:52 pm #

    What a fantastic list May!! I agree with the 1st tip from Quick Quotes Scrapbook company – I’ve worked on Kaisercraft’s stand and pre-printed address labels are the best idea – it saves store owners so much time!!

    comfortable shoes are a must, as is a big bottle of water to keep hydrated from all that talking!

    Thanks May!


  1. Make the Most of CHA · Scrapbooking @ CraftGossip - January 12, 2010

    […] she goes over tips for preparing for the show, and how to make the most of it while actually there. Click here to go to the article on Scrapbook Update. You may also […]

Let us know your thoughts!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.