Laura Bielecki’s tips on how to survive a major design show (plus etiquette)

July 2012-Laura Bielecki

There is a top lineup of design shows to see in the region and beyond in the next few months. As the UAE has a long list of exciting and world class projects coming up, designers are scrambling to design and construct in record time. Well curated design shows with diverse products, tend to be a standard go to for interior designers to absorb the latest industry trends and new products without needing a constant stream of suppliers running through their offices.

The key is to treat a design show as another form of education. In school and at the office it can be difficult to keep up with trends, innovations and what the design world is up to. Going in to a show as a student and keeping your eyes open will spark an array of creativity and solutions that you had never imagined.

Here are my top tips for making the most of a large scale design show:

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  1. Dress smart. While your wardrobe should be professional your shoes really need to be 100% comfort, it’s not uncommon to see suits with coordinated sneakers at design shows. Wearing heels will be the end of your visit after only a few hours, guaranteed. With sometimes up to seven days of show to see, your feet need to be top priority. In addition, conference halls tend to have a hard time controlling temperature so make sure you dress in layers. My advice, would be to wear designer sneakers with crisp jeans, a lightweight top and a blazer – professional and comfortable.
  2. Avoid paperwork. Most stands have catalogs, brochures, and pamphlets to help you remember their products. Resist the urge and do not pick up any of them. Your best bet is to exchange business cards and have them send you information by email or courier. Take a small notebook with you to jot down brand names and any important information you may need about them to reference in the future. A small Moleskin notebook is my go to!
  3. Plan Ahead. Most design shows have a list of events and talks. Be sure to read the list before you attend to determine if there are any features you do not want to miss. Oftentimes design shows are so large that you could never get through them by jumping from stand to stand, so prioritize your visit. Talks and special events at shows are also a great way to have a seat and relax your feet for a few hours.
  4. Take your camera. We are a visual industry. Likely notes, brochures and business cards are not what you are really after. Keep in mind, a picture is worth a thousand words. My trick is to always take a photo of the booth name or number first and then photos of any products, contact details or even stand design that inspire you. At a later date you can always categorize the photos by type for easy reference.
  5. Don’t forget your cards. Without business cards you couldn’t win any draws, ensure contact from a great supplier or even make a good impression on a possible client you may bump into. Your business card is key, make sure it is memorable – having a photo of yourself, QR code, mobile and email address are your keys to success. A bold logo, bright color or unique texture never hurt either.
  6. Partnering. Chances are you are thinking of attending the show with a few colleagues or friends. Avoid attending the show in anything more than a group of 2. Everyone has a different eye, taste and time frame to visit each booth. Divide and conquer, pick an isle or even building, separate from your colleagues. You will be surprised what items you picked out separate from your colleagues when you compare notes at the end.
  7. Parking. If there is one thing I have learned it is that people always show up and leave from exhibitions at the same time. Avoid the parking rage, dented doors, parking fees and extra time. Take a taxi or public transport, problem solved!

 Design Show Etiquette:

  1. Suitcases. Don’t be the ‘jerk with the suitcase’ – towing it behind you and taking out stands and people in your wake. All shows have a coat check of some kind, please leave your heavy equipment behind and travel light, it will save everyone’s nerves.
  2. Lingering. Design shows are meant to be a quick introduction for you to meet a brand and make contact for potential business. If you are taking more than 5-10 minutes to meet with a person at the booth you probably need them to come in to your office to talk shop. Let others meet with the representatives to ask their quick questions.
  3. Never eat alone. It is not just a book, when it is time for lunch or dinner and you are still stuck on the grounds invite an interesting exhibitor, bump into someone, make a new friend and chat over a quick bite. Casual conversation often leads to the most memorable information or friendships from a design show, especially with an international array of visitors and exhibitors.

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