Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Trade Show Move-in: DONE!

So today was the move-in day for our booth at the American Made Show in Washington D.C. at the Convention Center. I am trying to wholesale my jewelry, so last year, while taking a workshop at an ABI (Arts Business Institute) sponsored local event, my friend Bodil Lund and I were talking with fellow Washington Guild of Goldsmith member Estelle Vernon, who suggested we may be able to have a guild booth at this show (Bodil is Treasurer and Estelle is also an active member). Along with Ann Carney, the 4 of us committed to spending many, many hours creating, planning, and selling at this trade show Jan. 14-19th. This follows a 6-week online class that Bodil and I took on wholesaling jewelry, called the Flourish & Thrive Academy, which was instrumental in helping us figure out how to enter into wholesale. Because we are a guild booth, we saved a lot of money on booth fees, which made doing the show do-able. In a future post I will outline the other (sometimes hidden) costs of doing a trade show, as well as the items we had to have.

Over the course of many meetings, the 4 of us decided on the above layout for our tables (in a 10'x20' space), lights, banners, etc... Each of us was to have a 2'x4' table, and a professional-looking banner with a sample of our work hanging behind our table. We also wanted great lighting and white displays. We asked many questions of the Rosen Group to make sure we knew what we were in for. 

We were instructed to arrive at RFK stadium, which was serving as a marshaling yard, at our appointed time. Signage was bad; we drove around the entire stadium before asking an attendant where to go. She gave us complicated directions and we got lost. Finally, coming from a different direction, we saw a lone sign directing us to an empty parking lot off the stadium. We drove around looking for more signs (silly us) and saw a small trailer which wound up being the place to check in. Bodil walked in and was greeted by a Hargrove staff member (the contracting company) who was complaining that everyone was complaining about getting lost and that it wasn't her fault.  We got a dashboard pass and were told to drive to the Convention center. The reason they do this is that the convention center, being a city location, does not have the room for a long line of cars waiting to unload. So, they have cars first go to this marshaling yard, and you wait in line until the people at the loading dock radio in to say there's room for a few more cars to wait in line. Then you drive over and wait some more...

20 minutes later we arrived at the Convention center without getting lost, and found the loading dock after asking one attendant. 

Entering the loading dock of the D.C. Convention Center was like entering the bowels of this enormous 3-block building- an amazing sight. Dozens and dozens of loading areas off a 1/4-mile long platform. We waited in line and were told to unload at Bay 30. The fumes were pretty strong from all the vehicles. We started off to the ramp several bays over with our hand-truck and other items we were hand-carrying, and a fellow exhibitor said, "Get a skid box- you'll be done in 5 minutes!" Fortunately an operator was nearby and when we asked her what a skid box was, she offered to come help us. She put a piece of cardboard and unfolded the walls of a heavy cardboard box on top of a pallet. It took us 4 minutes to load the entire contents of our van (3 of us were packed in) into this big box. I then parked the car and the operator used a small forklift vehicle to whip our stuff up the ramp and into Hall B, booth #1332. Within a few minutes it was all unpacked! NICE! Didn't need a hand-truck after all!

I found plenty of 2-hour spots right outside the convention center to park my car, and even downloaded the ParkMobile app to pay for my spot online! I was automatically texted when my time was almost up, and was even able to pay for 2 more hours right from my cell phone!! How cool is technology!!???

We had arranged to have the contracting company, Hargrove, install carpet for us, which was required. We then set to work... first off we grabbed an upright pole and 4 crossbars in order to attach our lights to. This took some fooling with but we finally got it feeling pretty stable. There is some give and flexibility with these metal systems and once we got the correct sized pieces it was not hard at all to create the configuration we wanted. We had 2 crossbars at the front for our table lighting, and 2 crossbars in the back to light our banners. All the bars are adjustable so we were able to get the specific lengths we needed. 

We then cable-tied all of our track lighting to the crossbars and attached the lights. It took a while to do this and make sure everything was working. We had plenty of extension cords and power strips. We also cable-tied all the cords neatly around the poles and down to the power sources on the floor behind us. We found that Estelle's MR16 bulbs were seemingly brighter and a more truer color than the track & light systems that Bodil and Ann bought- which were warmer in color. I went to to try to figure out the differences between the 2 bulbs- the first are the Solux that Estelle and I are using, and the second is what I'm guessing came in the kits (one 4' track and 4 lights for $45 from Lowe's) that Bodil and Ann bought: 

Solux: 3500 to 4700K;  35 or 50 watts (12 volts), 10, 17, 24, and 36 degree beam spread avail., 4000 hours of life, $8 each
Economy: 2800 K, 20-70 watts (12 v), 12-60 degree beam spread avail., 2000 hours of life, $1.50 each (for the 50w type)

It seemed the major difference between the 2 was the color of the light of the bulbs, which seemed brighter with the Solux bulbs. I believe both types of bulbs are 50 watts, but I will confirm that tomorrow!

We hung the banners from s-hooks, and arranged lights on them. We got them done by VistaPrint when they were having a sale so they were very reasonable- only $18 for a 2.5'x4' banner! We also had to buy poster hangers so they would be weighted and have something to hang from- found on Amazon for $18.00.

Next it was an easy job to put table covers (custom made 24x48x36 for $56 by and our display items on top. Tomorrow: jewelry!

As we walked around leaving, we noticed a huge variety of displays. Some were very expensive custom-made installations. Others were simple. For jewelry, it's nice to go even higher with tables at 42"- bar height. No bending over to see jewelry.

Here's the follow-up post on how things went and what I learned:


  1. Thanks for taking the time to post your experience! Very interesting and enlightening. Good luck!!

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