Last week I was in Chicago for the Summer Craft and Hobby Association (CHA) trade show. CHA has two trade shows each year, one typically in January and one in July. The company I work with, Melissa Frances, exhibits at both of them. I wanted to share a little bit about our CHA process here as I often get asked what the shows are like.
Typically, Melissa, Brian and I fly in 2-3 days before the show starts in order to put our booth together. When we get to the show, our space is nothing but an empty shell with a concrete floor and fabric curtains partitioning one booth from the next. First, we unpack our containers and find our foam floor pieces and Melissa and I lay them down while Brian gets the walls unpacked, then he and I erect our slat walls. We have a method, and we can usually get it done in 2 hours or less.
Once the walls are up we attach our lights to them and connect everything to make sure that the electric works. Next, it's time for our signs, products and samples to go up on the walls. It's always a difficult balance as you don't want the product too low, or too high as it can affect sales, yet you also only have a limited amount of wall and a large product line to fit! While I work on the walls, Melissa typically works on staging a vignette or two for the front of the booth. This part of set-up typically takes us hours - longer of course in the winter show when we display nearly our entire product line.
Finally, we check to make sure that all product is priced and has a barcode as we use hand scanners when we take the orders.If items are missing their price stickers, we print them out so that we can slap them onto the products.
Once the show itself starts it is time to talk, talk, talk! We walk purchasers through the product lines, write up orders and take appointments with sales reps, distributors, editors, and event hosts. If we're lucky, we also try to take a brief walk about to meet friends who work in the industry and see what's new. This will typically only happen on the last day of the show, once most of the buyers have headed home.
As the clock winds down on the show, all that's left is tear-down. It takes us about 2-4 hours to carefully dismantle everything that took us 1-2 days to put together a few days before. Then, it's one last dinner to debrief before heading home the following morning.
So that's CHA for you. Short, intense and hard work. But I love it.