Atlanta and Some Exhibiting Realities

Whew. Just in last night from a week-long trip to Atlanta, staring at this pile of stuff on my desk (and floor, and numerous other flat surfaces) and wondering how I will ever get through it. So let’s write a blog post instead. As one of our customers said this past week: “We are a nation of A.D.D.”
We spent six days inside the AmericasMart, three of them exhibiting in the License and Design section and three more meeting with clients in showrooms, and all I can say is – wow. The atmosphere was electric, a wonderful change from the last few years; showrooms were crowded, orders were being written and there were big grins all around. A few comments:
“It’s like the good old days”
“We are up 15 or 20% over last year and it’s only Thursday”
“The showroom is going to set an all time sales record this market”
”I’m happy to see retailer’s chins off the floor”
Hard to argue with that. We had a great show, great meetings, great things happening – follow up is actually going to be fun over the coming weeks.
Speaking of the L&D show, we had a mix of new and seasoned exhibitors and talked to both (hopefully helping out some of the newer folks) but those conversations got me thinking about exhibiting realities. Now a person could write a book–and some have–about this, but there are some things they won’t tell you (or they just don’t know). After investing a couple hundred thousand dollars into exhibiting at dozens of shows we can offer a few tidbits:
1. You are not going to walk out of the show with a fistful of contracts or even firm commitments. Expect none, they don’t normally come until weeks or months later.
2. If there are people at your booth, potential clients will continue walking, so do not sit in front of your, or other, booths chatting and keep your friends away from the front of yours.
3. Make your booth approachable, have chairs (usually out front) for more than one person, make it easy to view your portfolio(s) and think about how you will deal with multiple customers at once. Do not expect them to come inside the booth, they don’t want to be trapped.
4. Carry your portfolios onto the plane or into the motel at night if driving – we never let them out of our sight before the start of a show – then you will always have something to show. Shipments do disappear, are sometimes late, and airlines occasionally lose bags.
4. This is not an art fair or a decorating contest. Wall displays have one purpose – to stop people so you can engage them. If it is too elaborate they often think “crazy artist” and stay away (same for your outfits…). Printed roll-up banners make life WAY easier.
5. This is a professional event so act like a professional. Wear business attire (your clients do). Have a business card and a handout sheet. Arrive well before the show opens and never leave before closing time. Plan on standing up for most of the show. Don’t eat in the booth. Smile.
5. Watch the agents – in addition to all of the above they will engage people in the aisles, listen carefully to and concentrate on their customers. There’s lots of laughing and hugging going on at their booths – it’s a people business and shows are about building and maintaining relationships as much as they are about showing art.
6. Attendees have a short time to see countless portfolios, and many are looking for only one category (such as Christmas or floral) so respect their time. Organize your portfolios by subject, I suggest at least Baby-Juvi, Everyday and Holiday and then get more detailed if you wish. Many will refuse to make appts at shows, and even if they do your meeting may be late, hurried or they may skip you altogether – just get over it, hitch up your dungarees and go back to sparkling.

Remember your art is not for everyone so many people will walk by with just a glance. That’s just how it is so don’t be concerned. Unless they all do – then it’s a whole different conversation…

5 replies
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Jim, Thank You!! for pointing out that these shows pose difficulties for us attendees as well. At a show like Surtex we cannot possibly look at every design in every booth in the short time we have, and keeping appointments is just impossible. I know this is frustrating for the exhibitors but it is the only way we can see what we need to see there.

  2. Jim Marcotte
    Jim Marcotte says:

    Just a note to let you know i received an email from the AmericasMart management stating that this market set an attendance record, and that many showrooms are reporting record sales as well. Let’s hope it keeps up!


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