Welcome to the Jungle?

Don’t get me wrong – I am an adventurous traveler. In fact, I almost felt guilty that I was actually looking forward to sipping a fruity rum drink while considering my next dip in the Caribbean gulf. But the fourth quarter didn’t disappoint in the outdoor market sales cycle – it was an all-out sprint to get to the Christmas break. And, well, I needed that fruity rum drink moment.

But as it always does, life served a different experience for my husband Chris and I on our Belize vacation.

DSCN1125After traveling 36 hours by plane, bus, and taxi my husband Chris and I arrived in Belize at the Chaya Maya Lodge. We instantly loved the eco-hotel, equipped with thatched roofs, solar lights, outdoor showers, and compositing toilets. I was sure they wouldn’t accept Marriott points here.

The lodge was on the bank of the Belize river which was lined with towering lush trees, howling monkeys, and sounds of birds that I didn’t even know existed. It was straight of the jungle book. Chris and I we were going to stay here for two days before heading to San Pedro to visit family.

As harsh as staying in an endless selection of beige, cookie cutter hotels for sales meetings is, it doesn’t prepare one to settle in and stay in the jungle.

I now know that the spirit of the jungle lives in aggressive, viscous, blood sucking mosquitos. In the time it took us to walk to our eco-hut from the river – my legs were the site for a five course meal for these vultures. Thankfully our wonderful hostess at the lodge had the essential Belize welcome package for us in the common area, comprising rum, sunscreen, citronella candles, and Deet. Check! The daily routine was to put three types of sunscreen on and lather up in Deet. Only then were we prepared for the jungle.

We ended up having a great time, after adjusting our expectations and learning a new routine. Isn’t that always the case in life and in business?

In fact, I’ve noticed some similarities between the Belizan jungle and the upcoming trade show season.

IMG_7261The jungle is filled wild animals. Alligators, anaconda snakes, monkeys, tucans, and even hawks. Do I go so far to say that we have all types of people running through the halls of a tradeshow – absolutely. Most everyone has a different agenda when attending the trade show, mine – have top to top meetings, meet with clients, do line presentations, and connect with industry colleagues. But each attendee has a personal agenda, schedules, and here we are – all in place co-mingling.

With the trade show organizers pushing the OR two weeks ahead to years past, it’s a little bit of crunch time for manufacturers, retailers, and attendees.

Here are a few tips from my decade of experience from attending the industry’s trade shows that has helped be organized and have a great show.

  • Do: Listen to any upcoming podcast or webinars that NPD hosts before the show. It is here that you will have industry insiders share data, trends, and anecdotal that is being seen at retail. Specifically, I will be discussing insights and industry trends this week on a webinar hosted by the OIWC and NPD. You can RSVP here for the event.
  • Don’t: Set appointments in Outlook. With attendees coming from all over the world for these shows, there always seems to be a conflict and glitch when booking. I recommend, the good old fashion way – put it down on paper.
  • Do: Create an agenda’s for key meetings. Please do this. If you are the one running point at the meetings, it is important that we are all on track. We are limited on the time we have with these individuals and it is imperative that we are making best use of the meeting. Also, it shows leadership on taking the initiative and your clients will appreciate this.
  • Don’t: Bad mouth other brands. True story, I was at a tradeshow and a retailer who thought I still worked for Black Diamond told me how she was not looking forward to seeing the new Spring collection for Marmot. Eek, that was a little embarrassing!
  • Do: Find your old colleagues and industry friends. I would go so far to make appointment with these individuals, just to have the time blocked. This is important, these are the people that have been apart of your fan club and how often do you see them? Never! So if you have 1/2 hour to spare in between meetings – I’d make it a point to block out time and put these folks on your calendar.

The last thing on my mind while I was in applying Deet and itching mosquito bites was thinking of things I do to prepare for a trade show. But in all seriousness, it can be a jungle out there and getting a head start on navigating the show early can ultimately lead to a better use of your most valuable commodity at the show, time.

See you on tour!

– Ladyhawk


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