Hello again everyone, I thought I would write some off topic somewhat work related blog entries. I typed several up on my flight out to San Diego and on my way back to Indianapolis and this is one of them. This one is about trade shows, which I have been to many and planned for many more.
I have been doing trade shows since 2001 but in 2002 was my first ever show I went too, which was the ITA World Expo that took place every year in Nashville, TN at the Opryland Hotel (still is, just not always by the ITA). Being my first trade show, it was the first time I traveled out of state alone. As I hurried down to the show (was told last minute to go) to display and show off a camera system that I had compiled and made up for tanning salons to use (properly… not for voyeurism reasons for you dirty minded individuals). Eight years later I can now drive to Nashville without even worrying about getting lost even if they mess up the roads and there are effed up detours. I have been all over Nashville, lost a few times and now don’t worry about it, which is a benefit of driving there every year.
For those who are curious, we only showed it that year and we kind of abandoned the idea of the camera system just because of things that happened in the company. Which had me switching to the operations manager position and have a lot more responsibilities and giving up on this entirely. But despite us giving up on it, the next year we went there and some other company took up the idea and is still selling the camera systems at the shows currently. I won’t say I started the concept and they stole it cause who knows but I do know we were the first to display it, which is always the case in some realms. I still know a lot about camera systems and have recently revamped our current office system (yes it took me 8 years to do so, no sense changing our current one till it was no longer usable).
This was my first trade show as stated, first time out of state alone and as well first time at the Opryland Hotel. I was merely 22 years of age and my eyes were opened to a whole new world of partying and related that is at these shows. Being my first show and being that I was very shy and backward kid from a small town in the country it was really outside my element and comfort zone. The one thing these trade shows did was bring me nearly all the way out of my shyness, even if it took a couple of trade shows for this to happen. I give credit to the great fellow workers, distributors, customers and tanning friends I have made over the years. Back in 2002 at the ITA Trade Show, it was probably one of the best shows I have been to for parties, my old co-worker John Peek and I ventured out to every single party that was available and some that were not but we got in anyways.
The lovely lady with me in the photo above is a great and dear friend of mine who’s beauty is only shadowed by her kindness and general awesomeness. When she is around you cannot help but smile and want to talk to her, there is no way you can resist Denaye, pretty sure she wouldn’t allow you to anyways. I have enjoyed having her and Rachel as friends from Fiji (which is no longer around). They have introduced me to many new people over the past couple of years and that along with those who I meet by just in general being around has been a wonderful treat to me.
So back to my first year at the trade show in Nashville, after getting settled in to the suite (meeting room) where I had a pull down bed where I had to clean up after myself and put all my stuff away in the closet for when we had a suite party and guests in for meetings (pretty much a drifter). I got myself acclimated with the hotel which is VERY large and you can get lost very easily your first time going (my mom still does). The experience of the show was great, in the first couple days of the show I learned a lot about daily maintenance that goes into the show before the show starts as for clean up, prepping brochure and information to give out and etc. It was also my first experience in doing a tear down or dis-assembly of a show to bring the equipment back to our office. After the first year of trade shows, I have become a major contributor into trade show planning and everything, even if I didn’t go to a couple of the shows cause I had to stay back and make sure the office functioned while everyone at the show.
Every since my first show, I laugh at those who say “Oh your lucky your going to a trade show that is like a vacation”, because yes it is getting out of the office but it means longer and harder hours than just sitting around doing your normal job at the office. The first couple of days away is usually setup in which you spent more than 8 hrs (for 2-3 days) setting up your equipment and making it all presentable to have the best presence you can for the show. Now sometimes the sales staff for the show (well most of the time) doesn’t show up till the show starts, but me starting as the Parts guy, then the Operations Manager and then now the General Manager I have always been there for the start of setup and left when tear down was complete. So after you do the setup and make everything look good, you still get there several hours before the show starts each day to put our brochures and clean up things where rudely guests have checked over your equipment or swiped information, food, drinks or whatever else was easily able to be taken from your booth.
These days of standing on concrete talking to customers and hoping to drum up future business and customers are usually long and end with a nice dinner with either customers, distributors or with fellow employees which is always a welcomed end to a long day. Tear down is the final stage of the trade show and by this point no one really wants to do it and rather just go home but it is a necessary step if you want your equipment back and usually only get one day to disassemble everything and ship it back to your office. You literally get 3x times the amount of time to setup than tearing it all down but you would be surprised how this actually works just fine. It may be a long day of dis-assembly but always ends up just being one day that is needed especially if you have convinced more staff or distributors to stick around to help before they had home themselves.
I have been to several shows in Nashville, TN, been to a show in Cologne, Germany, a couple in San Diego and San Fransisco, CA and a few other places like Las Vegas. In all these places, I enjoy the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, TN but there is a limited selection of places to eat or things to entertain customers with, without going to get a cab and going downtown. The show we just recently went to (March 2010) was in San Diego, California and took place at the San Diego Convention Center which is located near downtown San Diego. This place is absolutely breath taking, the people for the most part are a pleasure to deal with and talk too. The price of staying there and eating there is a little over priced coming from someone who is use to cheaper cost of living and etc here in Indiana but we all know that going into it and going to the show there or anywhere.
Germany was a great experience with a lot of great friends and colleagues, and the Ultrasun booth was massive and very well designed. The Europeans do a lot of different things than us Americans and most of them are great to be able to experience. Ultrasun International had myself and several of our distributors and large customers over to experience the Solaria Show which was a great treat. I got to spend a lot of time with my distributors and customers and fellow European colleagues. The experience and that time spent with them cannot be valued and I cannot be any happier than being given that opportunity to experience that whole trip. While I had to come back to the office to get back to my desk, a lot of the distributors made the trip to the factory after the show to see the Ultrasun Headquarters which is a great experience in itself that I have been welcomed to twice thus far.
The welcome party or general show party that was thrown by Ultrasun and Megasun did me in by the end of the show because I was not use to that kind of partying with all of those great new friends. The photo below of me in my suit is after a very rough night which in itself has it’s own story that since no one was there besides a hand full of friends I am not going to go into. Will just say that my shyness was GONE by the end of the night and apparently I can and like to dance?!
Over the years of these shows we have had many sizes of booths, every changing equipment and booth assembly. Last March (2009) I dislocated my arm lifting a tanning bed to put skirting under the bed and over our ugly wooden skids and so one of the things we changed for the next shows was to build metal skid platforms. I had one of my many brain farts or as Marc would say “your need to build something” and we set out to use old rack materials that we have had sitting outside in our yard for about 8+ years and we built very sturdy metal platforms. I came up with the idea of dressing up the metal platforms with an acrylic cover that will make them more appealing to the eye and will give us much customization and ease of use when it comes to shipping and moving the platforms around with the heavy equipment on them. I have a blog about this that I am working on that once I get done I will link to this somehow, but for now that is all I will say about it for the time being.
Also for 2010 we started doing something we had not been either able to do prior too or just never decided to go ahead and do; and that is allow customers to try out the machines. In Nashville at the Smart Tan Show (replaced the ITA show, same time and place generally) we had our latest equipment line purchased (Dr. Muller) and had the Sungate bed allowed to be tested and used by customers of the show. We also our the Ultrasun i8 Stand up available for tanners to try out as well so that they could get a lay down and stand up and feel the difference our beds make as for tan-ability. We continued this in San Diego for the IHRSA Fitness show by having our Ultrasun i8 setup.
This is a very nice thing to be able to do and Brock and my dad made a game out of it to see how many each of them could get customers to test out the equipment. I think dad won by a long shot because well he is older and as my uncle john would say “I am old, fragile and I cannot hurt any body so you can trust me”. Dad has been to more of the trade shows than I have because since I started with the company he has become a big part of Ultrasun and even can help customers by answering some questions at these shows. He is a very valuable asset for the company not just because he is my dad and he keeps me out of trouble. He has become very skilled and proficient at setting up and tearing down our booth and is the only one besides myself (even though he is better) that knows how to assembly and dis-assemble the new metal platforms. Dad and I have done a lot together for the company, built a lot of things, remodeled a lot of our building and in general been the general contractors and labor work for Ultrasun USA, Inc. since 2002.
Since about 2003 I have been the project planner, organizer and in general the go to guy for these shows as for setting up booth design, contacting the organization putting on the show, freeman (the union workers), and piecing it all together. I am slowly relying more on my best friend and operations manager Brock to do more and more as time goes along because I want to become more lazy and fit into a GM role which is to sit back and bark commands and really do no work. It is a goal I know I will never reach but it is a goal damn it. I really do enjoy being in the middle of it and having some control, not that I doubt anyone else can do it, but because after all the planning is done and the setup is done I can stand there looking at our booth and how it all went together perfectly or … as close as possible and think “yeah we did a good job” and know I was apart of it.
For the past couple of years we have somewhat loosely relied on my booth design layouts but have also said on numerous occasions “we have something to go off but may make changes once we do setup”. We say that only because once we get there and see where we are located and how the other booths are going to be assembled or who we are near we may make small alterations to our booth to have a better presentation. I think the toughest part of all of this is figuring out where we are going to have electrical power dropped because unless it is coming from the ceiling (only found at the Opryland Hotel) you have to have your electrical cables ran under the carpet and it is pretty much permanent on where you put it. So if your a half a foot off or more than you have to make adjustments to your booth setup or sometimes revamp everything entirely, and this could be whoever put down the electrical cords fault and not yours as the layout maker. I will gladly take fault if I miss calculated something but probably more than 70% of the time it is not my fault because they forgot to do something or didn’t properly read my markings on the drawings.
Trade Shows are usually always a large expense and for tanning bed manufacturers not always the best marketing/business decision but for the most part it is something you have to do and it is always good to catch up with colleagues and customers who in general don’t get to see you or your product all that often if they don’t already have them or live close by. I have met a lot of life long friends through going to trade shows and some I only get to see once a year at these shows but enjoy every time I get to catch up with them. Life experiences make us who we are and these trade shows for one has made me less of a shy person and more of an outgoing person at times. I still claim the shy person role but others call B.S. on that nearly every day.
Till the next blog entry, stay classy internet.