I still remember the butterflies I had the first time I flew to a trade show by myself. As soon as that plane left the ground I was having a silent panic attack. What was I doing? What if I had made a mistake by doing this and I was so far from home?
At that time, I had already attended several shows with at least
one other person, but going it alone was a whole different adventure.
However, I learned two very important lessons. The first was to
put myself in God’s hands. The second was to talk to everybody
else attending the show. I made some dear friends at that show.
I also had a much broader education than I had received at previous
Having been an attendee, a speaker and a vendor at past shows, I
have experienced a wide range of educational opportunities. From
day one, the interaction with attendees, the new knowledge in seminars
and the latest products and techniques found in the vendor hall
weave together to heighten your enthusiasm and learning potential.
All of these things will recharge your spirit, but that does not
necessarily mean it will increase the contents of your pocketbook
afterwards. Spiritual renewal is indeed important but you have to
plan to reap financial profit from your investment that also will
offset the time you lose from your business while you are attending
a show. And you need to do this planning months in advance.
BEFORE THE SHOW PROGRAM COMES OUT
Know your goal for your business for this year and for the next
three to five years. This is so important as we often change the
direction with our business, but overlook that fact when we attend
a show. Attending a trade show probably will be the biggest investment
in education you will make in a year. If that investment is not
taking you in the direction of your goal, then the investment is
On the other hand, do not let fear keep you from attending a show
for the first time. If you know this will be an exceptional investment
for your business success, then make the decision to go. You will
make many new friends besides the financial reward the show can
bring you. It will help you “step out of the box” and
will start you on the road to separating and distinguishing yourself
from your competition at home.
Because you know your goal, make a list of what you must do or acquire
to reach that goal. For example, if you need to make your fabrication
operation more efficient, then you must find equipment or learn
more efficient techniques. If this is your main goal, then a trade
show can offer equipment, supplies and seminars to give you ideas.
However, if you are involved in an Internet industry e-mail list
or forum, you can find supply sources through it as well as new
or different ideas of fabrication technique. Even so, this is not
the same as actually seeing products demonstrated or learning tips
from professionals who present seminars. And then too, there will
be new products that your online friends may not be aware of.
If you need equipment, you can see it on the Internet, but you cannot
experience it. If equipment is your focus, then research online
to learn what equipment you may need. When the show program comes
out, you can check vendors for the equipment you need. Also check
their Web sites as they may offer more that could help you that
you did not know about.
There must be enough companies showing at the show to warrant your
time to go see them. Otherwise, it might be more beneficial to fly
to the company itself to see what it offers rather than attend a
Another reason to attend a show might be to find other workrooms
to which you can farm your overload. What better place than a trade
show to see the quality of other companies? By networking with other
attendees, you can learn what companies they like and don’t
like and why. You even may find attendees with whom you would want
List one or two key reasons or goals for attending the show. It
is best if you focus on only one or two tasks. More importantly,
write down how you will know if you have achieved these goals. You
must know what you must return home with to make it a worthy investment.
This will be your guideline as you examine the seminars and vendor
WHEN THE PRELIMINARY SHOW PROGRAM COMES
• Review your reasons and goals for attending the show.
• Review the seminars and other activities closely. Do they
offer what you need for your goals? If the seminar descriptions
are not adequate for you to make a decision, contact the show promoter.
Ask if you possibly can get contact information for the speaker
to clarify your questions. I have done this in the past and I’ve
had others contact me when I was a speaker.
• Review the speakers. Are they people you know and from whom
you are confident of receiving valuable information? If you don’t
know them, do their credentials look like they can help you?
• Review the vendor list. Will the vendors you want to see
be there? Many times only a vendor’s name is given in the program.
If the name does not tell you what the vendor offers, try looking
them up in the D&WC Directory & Buyer’s Guide printed
annually and available in the fall or online at www.DWConline.com.
• Ask your network of industry friends for recommendations
on speakers, seminars and vendors.
• Know how much the trip will cost you. Then look at what you
can receive from that investment. Do not forget to calculate in
the energy charge you will receive just from being at the show and
talking with other industry professionals. Are the chances good
that you will come back with enough new contacts, information and
enthusiasm to make the trip worth the investment? Sometimes the
networking and that shot of enthusiasm only acquired from attending
a trade show are worth the entire investment!
• Make your decision on whether or not to invest in the show.
TWO TO THREE MONTHS BEFORE THE SHOW
• Read the requirements of registration for hotel and show
activities. Be sure to notice if you are a member of a group that
can receive a discount.
• Register early for a discount. Most shows make this offer
for hotels, airfare and seminars. Early registration enables you
to get your choice of seminars and hotels. Think about how you will
feel after walking the trade show all day and how many blocks you
really want to walk to a hotel.
• Be sure you receive a confirmation for your seminars and
a confirmation number for your hotel and an e-mailed or faxed confirmation
to verify all information is correct.
• Be sure to note the hotel cancellation and shortened stay
policies. Also find out when you can contact the hotel directly
if you need to make changes or requests.
• Register for additional get-togethers such as online industry
group gatherings or Window Covering Association of America (WCAA)
• Start a folder of all your show information: directions,
maps, confirmations, show pass, flight information, etc.
• Get a second photo ID to keep somewhere not with your normal
one. This way, if one is stolen or gets lost, you still can get
on the airplane to go home!
• Check your stock of business cards. Be sure to have plenty
to take to the show.
• Go back to our March 2004 article, “Its Show Time,”
to take you through to the show.
Investing in an industry trade show is only wise if your business
will profit from it. You are the only one who has the power to make
this happen. Now go look at your goals for the year. I know you
have them written down! Write down how a trade show can help your
business. Start with No. 1 . . .
Stein, CWP, WCAA past board member, is a 26-year veteran of the drapery
workroom industry. Having owned drapery workrooms
as one person and as a company of nine, she is now president of Workroom
Concepts a consulting firm offering educational resources to the
industry on its Web site (
www.workroomconcepts.com ). Her experience
in both the retail and wholesale window covering arenas has contributed
to her success as a business consultant. A professional speaker and
writer, she has authored several industry products including Order
in the Workroom, The Price List, Workroom Specifications and Price
Your Work with Confidence, available