I attend trade shows as part of my job. The two I go to are the International Housewares Association Show (IHA) once a year in Chicago and the New York International Gift Fair (NYIGF) twice a year in (you guessed it) New York. Shows are great for getting to see my media contacts in person, show them the new line, and see what they’re up to. They also require a lot of work, standing up for hours on end, and being away from M for a week.
I didn’t attend IHA last month due to prior obligations, so the last show I attended was NYIGF in January. I’d only ever been in New York in the spring or summer – NY gets cold as balls. It was also super windy and alternated between snowing and raining. Luckily I brought warm clothes and my Hunter boots to trudge through the city streets when I was going to and from the convention center.
The first day you’re there is all about set up. If you have a small booth, this isn’t a big deal and shouldn’t take too long. If you have a large, end-cap with walls and tables and loads of product, like ours, it takes longer. We got to the convention center at 10 in the morning and went straight to work. First you must unpack the crates, pallets, and then all the smaller boxes inside the crates and pallets. Then you put down the floor (the floor in the convention center is cement, and sometimes people just use the cement floor, but we put down large carpeted tiles), vacuum the floor, then put up the walls. The walls are made of an internal hard-plastic kind of bones structure that retracts and expands. We lock it into place when it is fully expanded, and put a large fabric over it with the company’s name and design on it. It’s pretty nifty, but takes at least three people. These two things alone take about 90 minutes to 2 hours. Then we unpack the tables, put them together, and then put on the custom-designed and custom-fitted tablecloths. This isn’t too bad and takes about an hour. Then comes the unpacking of product. This takes awhile, because we inevitably have too much product and have to decide what we want to display, what we want to keep in the crates, and what we want to hide under the tables in case people ask about specific items. This takes about 2 hours. Then comes the arranging of product, which is as simple as it sounds, but you want everything to look just right, so it can take a while – usually 2 – 3 hours. After all this is done, you put the boxes back in their crates or pallets, vacuum again, and you’re good to go. All in all, the day can take anywhere from 6 – 8 hours, factoring in bathroom breaks, taking a minute to shove a Luna bar down your throat for lunch, and schmoozing with the Italian union workers who flirt with you and bring you coffee. It’s hard work and leaves you exhausted and sort of dirty. You go back to your hotel, take a shower, order room service, and fall into bed.
The following days of the actual show go something like this (for me):
5:30 AM – Alarm goes off. Lay in bed for a minute remembering where I am/cursing the early hour.
5:35 AM – Get out of bed. Go work out in the hotel gym.
6:35 AM – Shower, get ready, eat breakfast.
8:00 AM – Meet work colleagues and boss(es) down in hotel lobby.
8:15 AM – Walk to the convention center.
8:30 AM – Arrive at convention center.
9:00 AM – Show officially starts. Mornings are usually a little slow, as no one typically gets there right at the opening, but things pick up and progress throughout the day.
10:00 AM – 1:00 PM – Stand in booth, welcome people to booth, answer questions about products, write orders, show media contacts the new line, talk to fellow boothers, etc.
1:00 PM – 1:30 PM – Lunch! I have the option of eating another Luna bar and calling it lunch or standing in one of the stupidly long lines in the food court. I alternate, and will typically get a salad from the salad bar or some bibimbap. Because bibimbap is THE BEST. I also will eat my lunch in the booth in case someone I need to talk to comes by.
1:30 PM – 6:00 PM – More standing in the booth, welcoming, etc. My feet start to hurt. Good thing I brought a change of (flat) shoes.
6:00 PM – Get the hell out of there. Seriously, at the end of a show day, you are so happy to leave.
6:15 PM – Back in the hotel room. Lounge on the bed and watch TV for a while, read, or nap.
8:30 PM – Meet work colleagues and boss(es) down in the hotel lobby. Go wherever for dinner. (My boss’ husband, the COO, is Italian, and likes to have dinner later than usual – like 9:00 PM).
9:00 PM – Have dinner. I always enjoy having dinner with my colleagues and boss(es). NY is pretty amazing for food. One of my favorite places is Trattoria Dell’Arte. The thin crust pizza there is AMAZEBALLS and there are painting of noses all over the place for some reason.
On the last day, the show ends early. As soon as the clock strikes 1:00 PM, the main lights go off, and people start packing up. It is basically the same as Day 1 in reverse. For some reason the packing up process takes less time, though, about 3 hours. The worst part of the last day is waiting for the crates and pallets to come back. The way the union workers put them away is by putting crates in first, then pallets, then boxes. There are literally thousands of exhibitors at the show, each with a combination of crates, pallets, and boxes. Since we only have crates and pallets, ours came out last. This means we have to wait around for them to come out for hours. One time we were waiting until 1:00 AM. This time what we do is pack up, sweet talk the Italian union workers to text our COO when our crates and pallets are back, and go back to the hotel. We napped, worked out, read, watched TV, or did whatever, then met for dinner in the meantime. While at dinner the Italians texted us to let us know our boxes are back – this was around 10:00 PM. We made our way back to the convention center, packed up (which takes about an hour since everything is already in boxes), and then we’re DONE. Yay! We all went back to our hotel rooms, where I promptly showered and collapsed into bed.
During this last trip I got extremely sick right smack dab in the middle of it. Coughing, wheezing, stomach-aches, migraines, the whole bit. It took a lot of medication during the day to just stand myself up straight, and a lot of Nyquil at night to sleep, but I did it, and the sickness only lasted a few days. And when I got back to Seattle, I promptly got sick all over again for overdoing it! Yay!
The next day our plane back to Seattle didn’t leave until 6:00 PM, so we had a free day to do whatever we wanted… But that is for another post.