From the Other Side of the Table
Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at the conferences? What happens in the exhibit hall before you rush in to see the latest and the greatest? As a long-time conference exhibitor, I’ll give you a glimpse of how we vendors view conferences and how we prepare and manage things before the crowds arrive.
Most exhibitors prepare months in advance for a convention -often several conventions at once! Vendors must do everything from securing booth space to ordering tables and carpet and deciding on what supplies to order that need to be shipped to the site.
When applying for exhibit space, companies vie for the best possible location by turning in their applications as quickly as possible.In some cases, seniority and how many booths are contracted for counts heavily toward where a booth is located.
Shipments to the site usually take place at least a month in advance of the show. The staff and the supplies we take depends upon the size of the conference, whether we can sell onsite or not, and who the audience is. We always try to bring our most current publications, and those that fit the needs and interest of the particular audience, as well as the appropriate flyers and catalogs. Book publishers usually send too many books, but as a customer, that’s to your advantage.The books are usually sold at a discount, and the last day most are sold at half price or less. Bargains galore!
Once we get to the conference, the real fun begins. We reconnect with our friends in the library community, our loyal customers. We look forward to meeting new customers, showing them our products and telling them about our company.Vendors also comb the exhibit floor to learn about other vendors and products.
When you walk up to a booth, don’t be afraid to ask the vendors about what’s new, what’s popular. Don’t hesitate to ask tough questions; put us on the spot. For a book vendor, ask us about the binding, what the conference discount is at the show and after it, what's the fill rate, who supplies the MARC records, whether you can order online, and what makes our company better than the competitors. And don’t be afraid to suggest new product ideas. We value your feedback - it helps us grow!
As a vendor, I know that what can go wrong, will go wrong when attending a show.I’ve arrived in a city without a hotel room.I’ve arrived on the convention floor without any tables or suppliesor important books that just didn’t make it. But as you know, the show must go on, and we do whatever is necessary to look as though everything is fine.
Vendors are actors, teachers, salespeople, problem-solvers. We’re savvy, shrewd and sympathetic. We’re friendly, flexible, and fun. At conferences, vendors balance all of those characteristics, and play all of those roles, but only after careful preparation to meet the needs of our customers.
Hey, waitÃ¯Â¿Â½librarians do, too! No wonder I look forward to each library conference. I always come home filled with new ideas and feeling that I’ve talked to somegreat people.
Debby LaBoon is currently Author Support and Workshop Manager for Libraries Unlimited (a member of the Greenwood Publishing Group). She has exhibited and supported authors at library and educational conferences for more than 20 years.