Bead show planning: Tried and true tips

BeadButton Show 2016 Shoppers

The anticipation builds all year. Bead shows are where we see, touch, compare, and buy jewelry components. We sit down with experts to learn new techniques, polish our existing beading skills, and get encouragement on our talents and artistry. We meet old and new friends, as we feel part of a vibrant community. And most important, we get inspired.

 As you prep for your next bead show, consider these 21 planning tips.

Well before the big event, read through your show program and make a schedule.
Before The Show

• Schedule Your Time: Read the conference material well in advance. Set up a schedule chart, logging everything from arrival to departure. On the chart, add every major activity, plus anticipated special events. Most importantly, plan to deviate from the schedule, since shows have a way of taking you in directions you might not anticipate.

Bead show bags make great souvenirs from an event. But remember that most people at the show will have one, so it’s wise to personalize yours so it stands out in case you set it down.

• Prep: RSVP for private previews, meetings, and receptions. Fill out forms ahead of time, such as wholesale access forms. Have business cards or printed contact info, including tax ID info, if applicable. Buy special event tickets early.

• Plan What to See: Review exhibitor listings and highlight the booths and people you want to visit. Have short notes written to individuals you intend to contact. By doing this, all your points will be made in a personal way in case you don’t have time to talk.

• Acclimate: Don’t wait until you arrive at a new city to get your bearings. Get a general feel for where the conference center(s) are from the airport and other major landmarks.

• Shoes: Pack your most comfortable shoes and buy new insoles for them. You’ll appreciate the cushioned liners after being on your feet all day. If mobility is a concern, look into reserving a scooter, which are available at some shows.

• Clothing: Plan for the unexpected by dressing in layers. Your jewelry-making classroom might be kept cool while the show floor might be hot due to body heat. Layers will help balance the temperature changes.

• Jewelry: Plan to wear your masterpieces. There’s nothing like show-and-tell when you run into an old friend, mentor, or magazine editor. Who knows where an opportunity might lead.

• Show Bag: Bead shows often give away bags. These are great – good marketing for the show, and a nice memento for you – but everyone will have one. Plan to differentiate your show bag with a ribbon, pin, or other identifying item.

• Shopping Bag: Better than a show bag, your own bag with a shoulder pad makes more sense. Good options should be large and lightweight. It should have easy access to a zipper compartment for your wallet, a pouch for papers and contact info, and plenty of room for purchases. Lightweight backpacks are an option. Some people like rolling bags. Personally, I avoid bags on wheels, because the bending bothers my back, plus some shows do not allow them.

• Budget: Set a budget. You’ve already committed to going to a show. Make sure you do the math to consider all costs: tickets, transportation, lodging, meals, purchase allowance, special events, and incidentals. Be prepared, but give yourself room for unexpected expenses.

When searching for a unique item, bring a sample piece from your own stash so you can match it at the show.
• Stash: Review what you currently own in your jewelry supply stash. Don’t waste your purchase budget on items that you already have or don’t need. Key into things that are missing in your collection or those that require hard-to-find complementary components. Consider bringing pieces to the show for matching purposes.
At The Show

• Safe Shopping: Only take the money, credit cards, and other personal items you need for one day while at the bead show. This will help deter over-spending and limit the chance of losing important items. If something is stolen, find security immediately and report your suspicions.

• Hydrate: Sip water throughout the day. Bring your own bottled watered or the pricey water at the convention site. Bring a small supply of protein, fruit, and/or chocolate – whatever will get you to your next scheduled meal.

BeadButton notes
Keep a notebook handy while you walk through the bead show so you can jot down notes and scribble inspirations.

• Record it: Carry a camera/phone and notebook or sketchbook to record inspirations and interesting finds that you might not be able to purchase.

• Walk Through: This is one of the hardest tips to follow, at least for me. But it is very helpful to walk the show floor to gauge pricing before making purchases. I got a good tip from a friend who picks one item to price, such as a silver component, and checks all the booths’ prices for that item. The booth where she finds the best price for her control item becomes her go-to vendor at which to shop.

• Strategy: Once you’ve walked the floor, visit booths strategically. Visit vendors you intend to purchase items from first, in case stock is selling fast. Save booth visits with vendors you intend to chat with for later. But always be flexible. Sometimes once-in-a-lifetime opportunities arise, so be open.

• Talk it up: Ask vendors question if something doesn’t make sense, even when the booth appears busy. And don’t be intimidated by anyone.

• Check Receipts: Make sure you check receipts after purchases, since accidents can happen when vendors are busy. Also, have a system to keep receipts organized. You might like to keep your receipts with the items purchased, keep receipts all together with notes written on them, or whatever works for you.

• Mark it: Keep a pen or Sharpie handy for writing on plastic bags, holding your purchases. Write the item and vendor name on the baggie. This will help you stay organized during the entire show and after you arrive home.

• Take breaks: A big bead show can be overwhelming, so give yourself time to recharge. While you take a break, review your strategy and remind yourself of your goals for the show.

BeadButton Show 2016
After the show, visit your favorite vendors' website and give them feedback about the show.
Post Show
• Wrap up: After the show, make notes about preferred vendors, names of people you met, new contacts to follow up with, and design ideas that inspired you. And don’t forget to mark your calendar for the next show!
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