We survived our first major trade show. Technocraft has a booth at the Chicage Gift Show at McCormick Place. The show ran four-and-a-half days — Sunday through Thursday noon. It was a learning experience and awfully expensive. Our initial reaction is, however, that it will eventually have been worth the cost. We wrote orders and received many good leads. Since this was our first time out, we don't know if we had a "good" show since we have nothing to compare it to. But I believe we did.
We scrambled to put together a professional-looking booth before the show so that we had a fair idea of how we would come across as a company and how our products would look and sound. Comments from our sales reps and customers who visited us were favorable. The next show will be much easier.
Chicago and McCormick Place can be intimidating, but everything was very well organized. You spend a lot of time waiting to unload or breakdown and load, but it's understandable considering the number of exhibitors. If you haul your own setup and products (instead of shipping them), be sure you have refreshments and reading material in your vehicle. We spent an hour in line to unload and three hours in line to get our boxes from the booth area to the vehicle loading area.
The cost of the show was not too bad, but staying in Chicago is expensive. The show participants get special rates on hotels and free shuttle service between downtown and McCormick. The cost of food and drink at McCormick is high and many exhibitors bring their own lunch and refreshments to their booth.
The last morning seemed to be a waste of time. Few buyers were there and the main activity seemed to be exhibitors buying and selling samples. Less to carry back. We traded one of our products for a very nice set of music tapes, and another fellow bought two of our samples. This last sale allowed me to arrive home with a few bucks in my pocket!
I'm sure there are books written about doing trade shows and we have a lot to learn before we can maximize our impact. But it's pretty obvious that booth location is important. That's why corner booths get a premium. We had the "pleasure" of being across the aisle from a distributor of nature gifts including tongue drums and aboriginal didgeridoos. Quite often during the day, someone would play the drums or blow into the "didge". This definitely drew people to their booth and away from ours.
All in all, it was fun. We should see a decent return on our investment once we complete the all-important follow-up. And the next one will be a whole lot easier. It's another small step in our journey.