Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Trade Show Advice

I am not a trade show veteran! Just letting you know so you don't think I'm old and wise. I just completed my first show, and was both terrified at the logistical nightmare of putting together a booth for the first time, and thrilled by the whole experience. So, having just gotten back from NYNOW, the huge gift show in NYC, I thought I'd share my experiences and what went well and what I'd do differently.

I read books, blogs, and asked friends for help. I even asked strangers. Thanks to my friend Beth from 1Canoe2, I ordered 400 catalogs instead of 2,000. Yes, I really thought I needed 2,000! I've been to several trade shows now to scout and because of the huge number of people walking the show, I just thought I'd need a ton. For me, 400 was the right number. I handed them out pretty freely, and have about 80 left. (Like everyone says, you should always take a business card from everyone you give any literature to!)

Here are some things that seem pretty basic, but I just didn't have any idea.

For your catalogs, make sure the middle page, the one on the seam, has important content, because that's where everyone flips to first. Also, I am glad to have had catalogs on hand, but many people didn't! I heard lots of booths asking for cards and saying they'd send their catalog over digitally. You save money on printing, and you save money on shipping.

People were using power tools left and right. The official show rules state that tools are forbidden due to union labor laws, so I didn't bring any. I'm not saying it's a good to bring tools, I'm just telling you what I saw.

The official show rules also state the set up time ends at 5pm on the days before the show, and I was gone before that. But I hear my neighbors were there until 11. Set up goes late.

Do your research when it comes to shipping. Mine was awful, my crate wasn't there when I arrived, and I hear it didn't get delivered until around midnight. Every person who heard who I used said "Yeah, I hear they're awful."

Make sure your logo is matte. I had ours made into a vinyl decal which looked great, but I didn't think to ask my printer to make it matte. The lights in the booth are bright, and our logo was so reflective it was hard to read! We repositioned the lights again and it was ok. Just something I'll keep in mind for next time.

You NEED to paint your booth. I didn't think I was going to paint mine because I wanted white walls. But we got there and found out that the walls aren't really white, they're kind of primed and smudgy and there are huge seams. So plan on bringing masking tape to tape up the seams, a paint can, roller, brush for corners and edges. Color looks much better than white to help brand your booth.

White foam floor tiles might not be such a good idea. I'd heard that the carpet they have in the booths is yucky and was sure I needed to budget for some foam tiles. So I did, and I got white so my booth would have a clean, modern look. But the second we put them down you could see dirty footprints. And apparently I lose a ton of hair because it was all over the floor and I ended up in a pony tail for days! In the end we borrowed brooms from maintenance when we saw them walk by, and a little hand broom from a neighbor and it was ok. But the white tiles were definitely not reusable and we pitched them at the end of the show. Oh, and I didn't think the carpet in the booths was so bad. It's not the look I was going for, but it's mostly an inoffensive black or dark grey carpet. And next time I'll bring a little hand broom for quick maintenance.

Bring a tarp to cover your booth at night. I never thought of it and no one mentioned it to me. Sure enough, the 2nd day of the show we arrived to discover that some products had fallen off our walls at night and maintenance had apparently swept them up and thrown them away! So, a tarp and a few spring clamps.

Invoice books are hard to work with. I ordered some pretty standard invoices with our logo, which worked well. They book had a cardboard back, but it wasn't very strong. Luckily I had a clipboard. But after receiving several orders, and stapling business cards to them (make sure you have a stapler!) The books looked messy and were getting more difficult to work with. I was really jealous of our neighbors across the aisle who had a metal clip board with a box that they kept invoices inside of. Nice and neat.

Bring a change of shoes. Changing into ballet flats at 2pm, after standing for 5 hours with 3 more to go can be a lifesaver. Not to mention that the streets of NY were filled with snow and slush and I stepped in a foot deep freezing puddle on my way to catch the bus to the show!

Stay at a hotel which has a shuttle to Javits. Or at an Airbnb apartment within walking distance. There is just no other easy way to get to Javits.

Don't go alone. I thought I was going to go alone. I have a small business, and really need all of my employees back in the studio to keep things running. With just a few weeks to go I decided I needed moral support and muscle, and made arrangements for Grandma to babysit, and brought my husband with me. I'm really not sure what I would have done if I were alone. Setting up a booth takes work! Opening crates, painting, measuring, hanging displays, having someone to run to Starbucks or Sumac for lunch, having back up when your booth is over-crowded with enthusiastic shoppers... these are all good reasons to have someone there with you. Don't go alone.

Hope this has helped a little. Would love to hear comments on any other tips you have!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the advice on how to do well on trade show booths. I'm planning to join soon.