You've made the decision to exhibit at the Surtex or the National Stationery Show at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City for the very first time. Here are some tips for how to make your show more effective, and cut your expenses:
1 - Let show management know that you're flexible with booth placement, so if a better location (near the main entrance, closer to the front than the back of the hall, or near a powerhouse company that will draw lots of people) opens up, you would be fine with moving your booth.
2 - Announce via email, Twitter and Facebook that you be at the show. Give dates, location and booth number; if your booth number changes you can always send out another notice.
3 - Heavy or bulky materials for your booth can be a real nuisance. Figure out well in advance of the show what images and signage you're putting on the booth walls, create them attractively and as inexpensively as you can, and figure out packaging. How will you get them to the city, and then from the hotel to set-up day? I usually FedEx a few boxes of materials to my hotel, then wheel them over on set-up day; at the end of the show I repackaged everything, slap on already-prepared FedEx labels and drop them off at the FedEx at Javits. If you're shipping materials via Freeman, then they'll be delivered directly to your booth space, and they'll pick up the materials to ship back to you after the show is over.
4 - Try to set up appointments so you have definite commitments from active and potential clients coming to your booth. Traffic builds traffic. Having people in or around your booth will generate interest and you'll wind up having more people come over to see what it's all about.
5 - Collect cards. You want to capture as many identities of potential clients as you can. Be sure to bring plenty of your own cards to hand out as well. When you return back from the show, you'll want to follow up with every potential client you met at the show, however briefly. So don't forget to have sufficient business cards and any other hand-out's created well in advance of the show, and don't forget to bring them. When you return to your hotel room that evening after the show or after dinner, organize whatever cards or materials you picked up at the show, straighten out your notes and add any additional notes that will help you remember key things about visitors, as that will help you with follow-up's once you're back home.
6 - Keep receipts on and and all expenses from the time you leave your house to go to the show, to when you return to your front door. If going out to dinner, meals, coffee, with people in the industry, keep a quick note of who you went with. And, of course, keep all monetary receipts from the NSS itself, as well as all costs involved in preparing booth materials. We get a lot of our Surtex investment back through expensing our costs and reducing our taxes.
7 - Flying in to New York City? There are three major airports that serve the city - La Guardia, John F. Kennedy, and Newark. La Guardia is closer in, while Kennedy is farther away, so a cab from LGA will be less expensive and time-consuming than a cab from JFK. Once you have your luggage, you'll have several options of how to get into the city. If you're flying into Newark, take the shuttle train out of there. At the other two airports, it's cheaper to take a shuttle with other travelers but tends to be more time-consuming. Check out your options before you leave.
8 - Driving into the city? There are park and ride options in New Jersey directly across from Javits, and you can leave your car in long-term parking, take the water ferry across, and then and connect with transportation once you've arrived at the terminal. Keep in mind that long-term garage parking tends to be more expensive the closer you get to midtown. You pay for convenience. Many hotels have lower-cost long-term parking arrangement for their guests with local garages. Be sure to check with the concierge at your hotel before you leave for the city, to find out what options they provide or recommend for long-term parking. If you drive into the city, please note that you cannot legally make a right turn on a red light, traffic increases the closer you are to midtown, and evening rush hour is brutal.
9 - If you can, take the shuttle bus to and from Javits as opposed to taxis. Be sure to check out the free bus schedule to see if your hotel is on or near a bus route. But keep in mind that Javits is pretty much on the edge of the city and that it can be a long, hard walk on concrete - after a long day working the show - to get over to midtown, so don't rule out cabs completely.
10 - Avoid expensive tourist restaurants around Times Square. Why pay $15 or more for coffee and some eggs for breakfast, when you can get the same at a small convenience store or take-out place. Or, better yet, pick up something the night before for a quick bite when you get up the next day, and be sure to use the coffee/tea set-up in the room (but not the pick-it-up-and-pay-a-fortune little refrigerator that stocked with pricey stuff. Times Square restaurant prices are way higher than most New Yorkers would consider paying unless desperate. Also, after getting into your room, survey the menus at any restaurants in or within a block of the hotel so you find cheaper, decent options. Hotel restaurants are famous for long lines to get in, and absurd prices. One thing I've done at shows at Javits is to make coffee in the room, then get a Starbucks and bagel at the show itself first thing.
11 - Options for eating lunch at your booth or at the Javits center include calling for delivery to the various companies that will leave menus on your booth table, bringing a sandwich from outside, getting someone to spell you at the booth while you run to the main entry hall eating area to grab something, or going downstairs to the food court in Javits itself. There's also a small cafe in the back of the show and one at Surtex as well, and those are options. Sometimes people in adjacent booths will agree on one volunteer to go get the food and something to drink, for everyone. Another note - I always bring a few bottles of water to the show because if I get busy and I'm talking a lot and can't get away, having water right there is a life-saver.
12 - One last thing. Go easy on your body. Try to get plenty of sleep between show days. Make sure you're eating and keeping hydrated. Another tip - on set-up day locate the closest bathrooms to your booth, orient yourself to where you are in the large convention floor, and determine the fastest routes to bathrooms, water, and food.
Oh, and be sure to have a good time and meet lots of people. Don't be scared or intimidated; you deserve to be there. And try to enjoy one of the most exciting and interesting cities in the world in the little bit of free time you might find.
Are there other tips that will make your trip easier, less expensive and more effective? Of course there are, and I welcome comments, and additions to this posting. Everyone who has done either Surtex or the National Stationery Show will have their own best ideas, so don't be shy in asking those who have gone before you!
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