Whew! Now that the Toy Fair is over, the real work begins! It was an overwhelming experience, but in a good way. Here’s a brief recap and possibly some nuggets of advice if you’re going to attend next year for the first time. (I’m mainly writing them down so I don’t forget!)
I brought my 14 year old stepson Alex and my buddy Pat. We got to the Javits Center Friday around 1pm and had all of our booth gear in the car. If you’re packing your own stuff, I highly recommend the black plastic footlockers sold at Walmart. For $20, the can’t be beat: sturdy, stackable, wheeled and a handle on the side make them the perfect way to haul this type of gear if it fits. We dropped off the gear, then checked into the hotel, then I parked the car at a garage for the weekend. All of these were within 3 blocks of each other, so that made it very convenient. We went back to Javits and set up the booth. I attended a fairly uninformative briefing session for new exhibitors, but there were free cookies, so that made it OK.
The Fair ran Saturday through Tuesday, 9am-6pm (but ended earlier on Tues) and was pretty much a typical trade show – people walking by your booth, possibly stopping if it caught their interest or if you brought them in. Pat was a master at bringing in the traffic, so much so that we got busted a few times by the show staff (more later). We were down on the first level in a section devoted to boardgames and puzzles – the “big boys” like Lego, Hasbro, Melissa & Doug etc, were upstairs on the third level and it had a decidedly different vibe. Many more suits, larger prefab booth spaces and lots of appointment-only meeting rooms. We were much happier where we were (and the temperature was much more pleasant on the first level). It was a fairly diverse group of attendees – service providers (marketing, production, legal etc) to the toy industry, brick-and-mortar store owners, distributors, media and people looking for cool new ideas. Walking around to other booths was allowed and we got some business leads by going to other booths with card-related products.
I feel like it was a really great success for the Card Caddy. We made some sales direct to retailers of our POP display package, one deal with a distributor and had a ton more contacts to followup with. If only a few of the hundreds of business cards we collected bear fruit, it will be worth it. But, now the real fun begins of entering and contacting all of those leads. The older Card Caddies were very helpful in at least categorizing the cards as they came in.
So, what lessons did I take away? Here are the ones that come to mind, in no particular order.
- Bring a stapler. In fact, bring along a whole little desk kit. We got asked for a stapler a lot since we had a business card and flier and people wanted to attach them, but having a handful of office supplies is very handy as well.
- If you’re bringing someone under 18 in at your booth, be prepared for some hassles. For example, you’re supposed to pick up a new badge for them every morning and they’re not supposed to be o the floor until after 9am.The organizers do make it clear that you need special permission for anyone under 18 and they adhere closely to the rules. Alex was good since he is super mature for his age and did the Chicago Fair already so he knew the drill. He was not supposed to be out of the booth on his own, either, but made it look like he knew what he was doing and no one bothered him.. So, it’s jut like anything else – if you don’t make it an issue, the people in charge likely won’t either.
- Know your neighbors and be aware them may complain if you go outside your booth space. We got scolded twice by the event staff since apparently one of our neighbors complained. We were really just asking people as they walked by if we could show them the Card Caddy, but it seemed like people in the rest of the booths were content to stand behind their table and wait for people to come to them. Not us (especially Pat) most of our best leads were people who would have walked right on by.
- But, have a good booth set up with a banner or something on the back the gets peoples’ attention. We didn’t have a big banner, just the premade sign from the show organizers and it was pretty drab.
Those are the big ones for now. Anyone out there have advice on exhibiting at these types of events?