The Southern Designer & Work-room Conference and Trade Show held February 28 to March 2 at the Knoxville Convention Center, Knoxville, TN, offered interaction, instruction and inspiration aimed at helping professionals at all stages take the next step to increasing business and profits. Interaction with peers from regions outside one’s own market helps raise awareness of the successes that are being achieved. Instructional seminars raise the quality of the work being done and the efficiency of fabrication. Inspirational presentations and discussions raise the goals for what can be accomplished.
It is a tribute to the custom window treatments industry that despite the economic concerns of some, so many professionals are willing and able to invest time, effort and dollars to building their businesses and creating their own futures by attending D&WC’s Designer & Workroom educational and networking events.
This spring’s event offered it all for more than 500 attendees with the help of 40 vendors, a faculty of 22 presenters and professional industry associations.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Before the first class was called into session, attendees at the Southern Designer & Workroom Conference met for the Get Acquainted Welcome Gathering Thursday morning. Draperies & Window Coverings Publisher Carolyn Silberman welcomed attendees and introduced everyone to this year’s seminar leaders.
Attendees then were given two assignments. The first was to sign their names to large sheets of paper headed with the names of their home states. It turns out Knoxville, TN, was a great location to draw from the entire region. Nearly two-thirds of the total attendance traveled from outside of Tennessee to attend with Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Missouri and Texas being among the best-represented states. Others traveled from as far as California, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Arizona and Colorado. And let’s not forget the group of five from British Columbia, Canada!
The next assignment was to learn five interesting facts about someone each had not known before attending the show. It ended with new friends and familiar faces the next time they met.
Later that day, lunch was presented with keynote speaker Karla Nielson, interior design instructor at Brigham Young University. Her detailed exploration of inventive draperies and window coverings was illustrated with a host of slides featuring eye-catching and inspiring designs both traditional and contemporary.
Following lunch and the keynote, attendees were invited to linger for five roundtable discussion groups. A handful of seminar instructors presented 10-minute question-and-answer sessions on topics including workrooms, marketing, technology and others. After each session attendees could switch to another roundtable group of their choosing.
GROWING SEMINAR SCHEDULE
A slate of 56 seminars were presented this year, with 23 new courses offered for the first time. Likewise, the faculty of instructors also included new faces, including recent D&WC cover story subjects Karen and Ramon Hardy, and featured the return of Karla Nielson, contributing writer of “Design Perspctives” for this magazine who also presented the keynote address.
Among the new seminar offerings, Donna Skufis offered three including “What Not to Do,” and “Specialty Shades.” Susan Schurz presented “Creative Drapery Heading Styles,” with many examples that had attendees’ cameras clicking away. Alicia Werner presented “Outrageous Bedding,” advising those in the class “to put the glitter where it shows.” By creating one-of-a-kind pillows and bed coverings, workrooms can sell “signature collections,” and may find, like she, that they can make more money selling bedding than selling draperies.
In another new seminar for this show, Debbie Green showed “How to Create Fabulous Portfolios.” From slide show to CD to hardbound book, a portfolio is an excellent marketing tool for designers. In her new seminar, “Pre-Qualifying the Client,” Karen Hardy explained that pre-qualifying should not be done to see if a client is worth your time, but to determine if you will close the sale. Customers want to know if you are interested in them, if you know what you are doing, and if are you honest, she said.
Other new seminars included “Finding Your Niche” (Jeanelle Dech), “Follow Up ’n’ Follow Through” (Sally Tucker), “Stop Selling Yourself Short” (Suzanne Cox-Hudson), “Working the Long Distance Relationship” (Terri Booser) and one likely to become a future favorite, “Don’t Be Afraid of Power Tools” by Allison Reid.
Courses were offered in tracks that could benefit designers, workrooms, installers, upholsterers and in many cases all of the above. Dech’s “Profit in Your Workroom, Profit in Your Design Business” offered sound business advice covering profit-and-loss statements and balance sheets. She advised that businesses should be planned to pay the owner and to make a profit. Jim Shinn’s “Closing High-end Sales” aimed to get decorators to that next level of business. “Being able to sell will get you in the door,” he said, “making the customer happy will keep you in their house.”
Arlene Fjellman showed that by adding creative edging, cording, shirring and specialty pillows was a great way to set yourself apart from other designers and workrooms in her seminar “Cording, Zippers, Pillows and Cushions.”
A COMPLETE MARKETPLACE
The D&WC show format, with seminars not held during the hours the exhibit hall is open, makes it easy for attendees to take the classes they wish, and then explore the resources offered by vendors. A complete marketplace of products, tools and experience was available on the exhibit hall floor in Knoxville, as evidenced by the accompanying photos.
Products to immediately help designers and workrooms increase business are the highlight of this show. Designers could find design and presentation tools, new lines of decorative drapery hardware including mix-and-match finials and a new online tool for designing decorative drapery rods, as well as fabric lines, pillows and accessories for any room. Workrooms could find a host of fabrication equipment from fabric rollers to steam irons and grommet tools, patterns, sewing machines, shade supplies, and fabric suppliers. Both designers and workrooms could gather new ideas for window treatments and how they are made to mutual benefit.
There was plenty offered to keep attendees in the exhibit hall all afternoon—most notably the Working Workroom™, but also vendor demonstrations held in a presentation space in the hall, a window design vignette contest which drew votes from attendees on their favorite design and two competitions—one on slipcovering, the other on designing and sketching window treatments.
All of this and more will be in the offering for window treatment professionals at the Eastern Designer & Workroom Conference scheduled for September 26 and 27, 2008, at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, MA.