Ah!  The best laid plans of mice and men… and artists exhibiting at trade shows!  Something is bound to go wrong!  Here is my story of what happened and how I overcame it…

On January 24, 2009 I arrived at the Anaheim Convention Center and went to booth #2624 in the License & Design section.  So far, so good.  I said hi to the artists who would be my neighbors for the next few days and proceeded to get everything out to put my booth together.

cha-emptybooth2This is the blank canvas I had to start with.  Each show is slightly different  – both because the show is trying to be unique in an effort to attract exhibitors and because each location has different equipment and options available, even if they are run by the same company.

CHA gave us hard wall booths (like Surtex & Licensing International), a skirted table, 2 chairs (we really need 3 but they have the feedback — we’ll see what happens!)  and 3 shelves to display product.  The nice man whose back you see came and moved my shelves twice — I’ve never had shelves before and got a little fickle about how I wanted to use them.

If you recall, I decided to have vinyl banners printed this year since I am doing 3 different trade shows and I had just used them at PrintSource in New York.  I unrolled my banners and started deciding how I wanted to hang them.  One for each section of the wall, and then one open section for sample products.  (That was where I was having shelf challenges.)

AND THEN IT HAPPENED… Sound the alarm!  The adrenaline began flowing and I started to panic!  I realized I was short one banner!  So I had 3 feet of wall space and nothing to put on it — what the heck was I going to do?

First, let me tell you how this came about. (My reason, not my excuse.  Remember the difference?  If not, click here, it’s a good distinction to understand.)  My booth at PrintSource was 7′ x 9′.  So 7 banners was perfect — 3 across the back and 2 on each side.  I didn’t need as many product samples for the show so now major space required.  January was so busy that I lost track on 1 detail in my plan… in my head I kept thinking I needed one more banner for Surtex in May, forgetting that *duh!*  I needed it for CHA as well.

Well, whatever the reason, the problem was very real.  Decision time — how was I going to handle it and how was I going fix the problem?

That was when I went into what I like to call “Wedding Day Mode”. (If you are a guy and weren’t very involved in the minutia of your wedding, think about football and having to punt.)  On your wedding day, something will inevitably not go the way you planned.  A bride can freak out and turn into a raging lunatic (not recommended) or they can go with the flow, realize that there may not be anything that can be done so just work through it calmly, have fun and do the best she can with what she has. (Channel Jackie O’ – she always seemed to rise to the occassion and be graceful under pressure.)

So I had a momentary freak out where I stuck my head in Priscilla Burris’ booth and told my sad story to her and her husband and then got to work figuring out a plan.

Thankfully, I always bring more product than I think I will need.  I also have a little supply kit with me, which includes some fishing line.  I ended up hanging an apron and potholders and some photo frames from the wall.  I moved my table back so the chairs for potential clients would be well inside my booth, and it looked like I planned to have my booth that way all along!


My booth is not the most amazing booth you will see at any show. I won’t win any awards.  But you know what — that’s ok.  My goal is to win clients and what is on the walls needs to attract their attention long enough for me to say a few words.  Then it’s dive into the portfolio time.  The rest is up to me.

So the next time you are heading to a show TRIPLE CHECK that you have everything you need before you leave.  (That way you won’t even need this strategy.)  And because things happen to the best of us, bring a little more than you think you need so you have something to work with just in case…

Here’s to your trade show success!

~ Tara

P.S.  Will you be at Surtex? I am going to be on a panel for a class about the licensor / licensee relationship on Tuesday, May 18, from 10 -11 am.  The 2009 conference program isn’t online yet so stay tuned for details!