Last week I was in New York City for the NY NOW gift show (formerly NYIGF) with a client. NY NOW is where stores go to see and order merchandise for their stores. Buyers place orders at the show, and exhibitors ship products to them after the show.
My client is getting ready to exhibit in her first trade show next year, and I thought a visit to one of the biggest wholesale trade shows would help her get a taste of what she’s in for. She had never attended a show before, and neither had Lytle, my Analog Creative Co. sidekick, so I briefed them with some tips before we headed to the Javits Center.
Here are my TOP 10 TIPS for walking a wholesale trade show when you’re not a buyer (though if you are a buyer, these tips still apply):
1. Wear comfy shoes. Seriously. Like your mostest comfortablest cushiest shoes ever. I usually plan my outfit around my shoes! I love espadrilles for the Spring and Summer shows and boots for the winter shows. If you get a blister, blister bandages are a life saver. I always pack a few in my wallet. Sometimes I put them on my heels to help prevent a blister. Take care of your feet, or you’ll be miserable.
2. Bring a roomy, but not ginormous bag. A light tote is perfect. You need room for your phone, charger, business cards, wallet, water bottle, and all the line sheets & catalogs you’ll pick up along the way. Big bags and backpacks will get in the way and are super annoying to everyone around you.
3. Bring water and snacks. The food is okay at the Javits Center (I recommend the Greek stand in the basement), but the lines are loooooong and the prices are shocking. The last thing you will feel like doing when you’re starving is standing in line. Once you stop walking your feet will probably start aching!
4. Ask before taking photos. If a booth has their Instagram handle posted, it’s probably okay to take photos (just be sure to tag and properly credit any photos) — but still ask first. If a booth doesn’t have their Instagram handle posted they might not want you taking photos.
5. Bring professionally designed and printed business cards. I really hope I don’t have to explain this one.
6. Be respectful. Exhibitors spend a lot of money — not to mention blood, sweat and tears — to get to their little corner of a trade show. Be respectful of their time, their products, and of them as human beings! This means don’t hog their time, don’t ask for trade secrets (or proprietary information or for samples or freebies), don’t steal their products (or catalogs or take anything away from the booth that isn’t specifically given to you besides a business card), and be nice. Think about how you’d like to be treated and go out of your way to be nicer than that.
7. Don’t block the aisles or the entrance to someone’s booth. Have a plan. Most shows are divided into sections. Take a look at the floor plan and pick a starting point. If there are specific booths you want to visit, make a “walking list” and sort them numerically. Your feet will thank you. If you start to feel overwhelmed, check out a snack cart at the end of many aisles (frozen lemonade! Haagen Daz! Crepes! NY hot dogs! Pinkberry! Iced coffee!) and take a break.
8. Don’t flip your badge over so people can’t see it, and don’t judge people by their badges. Your badge holder doubles nicely as a business card holder. Stuff a few behind your name tag for easy access.
9. Freebies are not free. Catalogs, giveaways and candy cost the exhibitor a lot of money, so think before you accept anything. Don’t take a catalog if you’re not a buyer. You can probably find all the information online anyway. If you’re offered something that you don’t really want or need (even as small as a business card), politely decline. Better it stays in their booth kit for next show than in a trash can.
10. Have fun. Love something? Tell someone in the booth and you just may make their day.