by Susanne Kathol, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®
Trade shows are a great way to network with others in the jewelry-making community, research new products, scout out current trends and gather new ideas for upcoming jewelry projects. All it takes is a little advance planning and organization to get the most out of attending a trade show and make it well worth the time, effort and expense. This survival guide for trade-show goers includes helpful resources from Fire Mountain Gems and Beads to help maximize your trade show experience and be able to start designing once you return home.
Prior to the Show
Research the area and choose lodging close to the event center for added convenience. Ask if the hotel offers a discounted rate for show attendees.
Take advantage of pre-registration to avoid long lines at the show.
Set goals. Know what you want to accomplish at the show, such as particular artists you would like to meet, seminars to attend, etc.
Map out a game plan, many shows offer a trade show floor map and list of vendors online prior to the event.
Consider taking an employee or friend to help you cover more ground.
What to Pack
Make a list! Write down everything you plan to pack and check it off as you pack to ensure you don't forget anything.
Jewelry Maker's catalog and access to www.firemountaingems.com. These are great resources to use during the show to check products, compare prices and place orders to have product ready and waiting for you when you arrive home.
A guide to understanding how the pros compare prices.
Business casual is an appropriate dress for trade shows, as you are representing your business and brand.
Jewelry! It's always a great idea to wear one of your own jewelry creations (or carry pictures with you). Wearing your own jewelry provides a great conversation starter, helps you network with others and can lead to sales as well.
Look ahead at the weather forecast and plan accordingly.
Layering is a great way to ensure you will be warm enough, but you can also remove layers as you are walking the show floor.
Wear comfortable shoes. You will end up walking many miles throughout the day, so make sure to treat your feet nicely.
Plenty of business cards to use as a networking tool when you meet others.
A name badge if you have one, so others can clearly identify you and your business.
Notebook and pen/pencil to take notes during the show.
Camera for taking pictures at the show. * Always check prior to taking a photo to see if pictures are allowed.
Glue stick or mini-stapler to easily attach business cards inside your notebook.
Bottled water. It's important to stay hydrated.
Leave space in your luggage or pack an additional bag to bring home literature/notes from the show.
Typically the show will provide a bag, but just in case bring a strong-handled, comfortable bag for collecting literature and holding your belongings as you walk the trade show floor.
Breath mints, since you will be in close proximity with others all day long.
Most importantly--patience and flexibility! Trade shows can be crazy places, packed with people, long lines and ever-changing schedules.
At the Show
Get an early start. It's always a good idea to be there as the show is opening to give you the most amount of time there. Participants are fresh at the beginning of the day and sometimes there are free gifts available to the first attendees through the doors. This is also important when you are driving and need to find parking.
Find an updated show guide when you arrive in case booth information has been revised.
Set your strategy. It's always a good idea to start the show by walking all the way to your right and weaving your way down every aisle to make sure you don't miss anything.
Don't linger too long at any particular booth, as you will typically have a lot of ground to cover.
Take notes as you go. This is where the glue stick or mini-stapler will come in handy, just quickly attach the card to your notebook and make your necessary notes. Make sure to do this directly after you leave the booth, as it gets tricky to remember particular information after a full day.
Take mini-breaks to rest your legs and drink water to stay hydrated. Carry small snacks to eat on the go during the day and plan a time to sit down for lunch. Most shows offer lunch service at the event. Use this time to network and meet others and review your notes.
Request literature and samples be mailed instead of having to carry them home.
Leave the show a little early to avoid long cab and bus lines.
If you are attending a multi-day trade show use evening time to organize your notes and get started on future designs:
Use our easy product search at www.firemountaingems.com to find the products you are looking for and quickly price compare.
Search our Gallery of Designs for design ideas using products you've spotted at the show. It's always best to brainstorm your designs while they are fresh in your mind.
Make a note of how-to video and informational resources for new techniques you plan to use.
Take advantage of our website at www.firemountaingems.com and 24-hour order line (800) 355-2137 to place your order. Avoid the hassle and security concerns of packing product home and find your new supplies waiting for you when you arrive home. Shop with confidence with our Return Policy and the convenience of FedEx ground shipping.
After the Show
Once you return home, unpack your order from Fire Mountain Gems and Beads, and start designing while your inspirations are still fresh in your mind.
Take time to review your experience, follow-up with people that you met at the show and organize your new contacts for future reference.
Place an order for any additional products or new supplies you plan to work with based on your trade show notes.
Make a note of anything you would like to pack for next time.
Call to reserve your hotel room for the following year and mark your calendar for next year's show registration dates.
We would like to share some of the customer comments we received in response to the article, "Trade-Show Attendee Survival Guide," featured in the June 21, 2011 newsletter. Please keep in mind that the comments expressed below are those of our customers and do not reflect the views of Fire Mountain Gems and Beads.
"I find hand sanitizer EXTREMELY important as much as hydrating. I do go to the bathroom and wash them, but in between trips the sanitizer helps. You may want to add that to the list next time."
"This is an excellent resource for attending any kind of trade show, not just ones connected with beading and jewelry! I'm going to pass it on to my husband who collects coins, as well. The idea of carrying a notebook and stapling/gluing cards in it is a fantastic one. We're both guilty at our respective trade shows of going back a second day and asking, "now where was that..."! Thanks,"
"I found the info. on attending a trade show very good and helpful, as someone who has not been to one. The details were quite extensive. Thank U. I'm not sure why but I did not find info about this show prior to it on your web site."
"You know what I'm really interested in? Selling at these shows! If you do not already have a guide for selling at art shows and the like please make one. If you do already have the guide link it in this article, its what most people came here for!"
"What a great article on trade show survival I read it from beginning to end. Next time, I'll just stay home and order everything from your company. You have everything. It'll save the travel expenses and time. Should I decide to attend anyway, is your booth the first one to the right as entering the hall?"
- The Bead Muse
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