9TH LETTER PRESS: Trade Show Lessons Learned from a Rookie Exhibitor

Hello, all. Today’s guest post consists of all the “ah ha!” moments Sheli and I had while exhibiting at the 2013 National Stationery Show. If you’re planning on exhibiting or are just curious in general, this post is for you. –Isabel of 9th Letter Press

9th Letter Press at the 2013 National Stationery Show by Oh So Beautiful Paper

The 9th Letter Press booth at the 2013 National Stationery Show

I tend to think in “lists” (which is the extent of my organization talents) so I thought I’d provide one for you all with the most important lessons worth sharing:

  1. Absolutely research, prep, and plan for the show. The best resources available come from Trade Show Bootcamp, Show Time and Pushing the Envelope. Grab a highlighter and take lots of notes. I can’t tell you how useful these resources were!
  2. Excited to fill out order forms at the show? Get equally excited about printing inventory before you leave. You’ll be so happy doing the legwork beforehand and not afterward. Make your best educated guesses of what your bestsellers might be and have those printed, packaged and ready to go for when you come back. If you letterpress print your products, I would suggest having twice as much of everything printed before hand, because you may be surprised what gets ordered. We were shocked by how much more we needed to print once we got home! We will certainly be printing more inventory ahead of time in the future!
  3. Make sure you have a good selection for the most popular card-giving occasions. Ex: birthday, thank you, sympathy, etc.
  4. Make sure to bring extras! By the end of the show your cards will not be in the pristine shape that you brought them in. It will give you peace of mind knowing you can switch out a card that has suffered from being dropped, stolen or gotten dirty in some way throughout the show.
  5. Ship and pack a set: we ended up shipping a set of our products directly to our hotel and also packing two carry ons full of our products. If something happened to either set, we figured we’d be covered. (We were).
  6. Don’t forget to decorate your booth! Adding little touches of your brand throughout your display will go a long way.
  7. No matter how cute they are, leave your wedges and heels at home. Your feet will thank you.
  8. Make sure to have something to send to your retailers before and after the show. The first should arrive somewhere between two to three weeks before the show. We opted to do a more elaborate mailer to a smaller group of retailers so that we could focus on stores that we knew were a good fit for us. I also liked the idea of the mailer being personal with lots of detail and an accurate representation of our brand. Doing a mass run can limit just how creative you can be.
  9. You might consider getting an app like Handshake that will consolidate orders, information and reports to help with turnaround time after the show.

Here are a few pictures of our booth building out in New York, which was an adventure in of itself:

Sheli posing with 9th letter press wrapped pallet

Meet Sheli, the left brain of 9th Letter Press. She’s the person who puts into motion my big ideas. Without her, I’m not sure how anything would have come together, let alone have gotten to New York. We packed up our booth on an 8 foot pallet, which we packed with lots of care in the studio parking lot. When the freight company came to pick up our wrapped up pallet, we said goodbye, and crossed our fingers it would arrive safely in New York — it did!

Isabel putting together 9th Letter Press sign

That’s me working on our signage! I wanted the booth to match the look of our studio in Winter Park, Florida, which has a very old New York meets the industrial revolution feel. In order to keep with that aesthetic, we built a super tall bar complete with purse hooks and a brass rail, added dark walnut shelves, and found foam “wood” floors.

9th letter press booth at NSS

And here’s the end result! Sheli and I were thrilled with how everything turned out. We did spend a few late nights at the convention center to get it done, but it was well worth it. I really hope all or at least part of that was helpful!

Our mailers were travel themed so we included an old fashioned train ticket, a packing list, gold foil pressed luggage tags, and a gold pen to write down their information on the tag. After the show, we followed up with sending sweet little cards with an illustrated lady liberty on them.

NSS booth mailer letterpress

letter press mailer

letter press mailer from NSS

Photo Credits: 9th Letter Press Team

  1. Very informative article, (and such a beautiful booth!) Will definitely keep these tips in mind next time I head to a trade show. Preparedness is certainly key!

  2. Wow – what a great looking booth! As a buyer, card booths are tough to shop because the items are inherently small. This is the sort of creative booth layout that would get me to stop!

  3. This was an amazing article! For a first time exhibitor, you guys definitely covered all of the stops. I wouldn’t have thought to have so many different options. Great read. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Such great information, thank you!
    I plan on attending the National Stationery Show for the first time next year so this was very helpful. 🙂

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