It has been a week since the National Stationery Show 2017 closed and I am feeling only slightly less frazzled. I'm also feeling a little (a lot) shocked by what I now see was over-preparation. Or maybe it all went so well because I was so prepared.
Tim helps to set up the booth - I love this guy!
I had been preparing for the show since January. Earlier, if you count all the time spent deciding whether to attend, what size booth I'd get, and where I'd get my booth from (things that started in November 2016). Still, I began actively working on it in January.
1- Why did it take me so long to prepare?
Basically, because I did a ton of research. A Huge shout out to Katie Lawler Hunt andher Tradeshow Bootcamp and Paper Camp training. So much of my research was actively searching for answers on the Facebook page for alums of her training classes.
Besides all the research, there were a lot of decisions to be made including what booth size would be best (I chose an 8 x 10), whether I would hire someone to build the booth or if I would put it up myself (I hired Manny Stone Decorators to put up the walls and Tim came along to help set up the rest - thank you, T), how much lighting I would need, etc.
Note to self for next show: Less is MORE!
Additionally, I needed to design a catalog - and then re-design it when I realized my images were too small - design new products to round out my collections (I have three collections), order packaging products (thank you, Clear Bags), design marketing material, reach out to attendees to invite them to my booth, design and order signage, etc. etc.
2- Who put up the booth?
I hired Manny Stone Decorators to put up the walls. While they are very expensive, IMHO, this was my first go-round at this show and the Javits Center has a lot of rules about what is and what is not allowed (no power tools, no ladders, everything has to be fireproofed, etc.).
I purchased the floor tiles (which are supposed to look like marble, but didn't, though they were fairly innocuous and squishy, which was a relief to stand on) from Home Depot online. I was lucky to get them while they were on sale and, because we were driving down to New York, I wasn't worried about the bulk.
I ordered a "Parcan" light from the Javits Center and I am so glad I did. The booths that did not cough up the extra $400 were dark and had weird shadows. I also added 4 clip on LED lights that I picked up at Lowe's for $20.00 each.
Next time: Bigger booth (for all the collections) and use card decks.
I purchased two shelving units - one from Walmart online and the other through Amazon to show off product, hide office supplies, and give people a place to sit to write out orders. They looked great, did what they were supposed to do, and were cheap enough that I didn't feel badly about leaving them behind (they went to charity).
3- Did I get the level of new business I had hoped for?
I spoke with A LOT of exhibitors - people who have been going to this show year after year. They all thought this year was terrible for traffic. They gave a few reasons: a) the weather was great and people wanted to be outdoors, b) the show had been moved to the basement of the Javits Center because it was smaller than in previous years, c) did I mention the weather?
As a newbie to the show, my booth was put toward the back of the showroom. It was a crappy location, though I really liked my neighbors. Like everything real estate, location, location, location. Next time I'll insist on being closer to the entrance. Or the bathrooms.
It's true that pigeons are everywhere in New York City!
Still, I placed myself in the middle of the bisecting aisle-ways (I had a corner booth), and made sure I spoke with everyone who walked my way. And there weren't many. Looking down the aisles, though, I could see that there were not many attendees toward the front of the show either.
On the other hand, I did open up a few wholesale orders, which was my reason for attending. And I made a lot of contacts. And was asked if I'd consider a book deal for one of my card lines (Yes! We are in talks).
4- Was it expensive?
I thought so. I spent about $12,000 all told. But that includes transportation, meals, booth supplies, hotel, etc.
When things got slow, I Instagrammed.
5- Will I do it again?
Absolutely. I learned so much at the show that I think next time will go more smoothly. And I am fairly certain I'll get so much business from the contacts I made that the expense will end up being a smart investment.
Next year, a bigger booth.
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