The National Stationery Show 2013 (Part ONE)

Posted June 02 2013

I'm taking a short break from printing (ok, truth is I actually ran out of paper) so I wanted to dive into my coverage from NSS! I know many of you are wondering how it all went down so I decided to spread the knowledge and do a series of posts from my experience at the show. I've even given it a handy-dandy little tag so you can pull up all the posts at once when I am done. 

So here we go!

Part ONE will cover our arrival, some shots from around NYC, and our booth images, along with a few points on getting here and setting up. My goal is that I will be able to shed some light on our experience as first time exhibitors. You might hear me mention this a lot but without a doubt the Tradeshow Bootcamp courses were instrumental in our success at this show. I highly recommend signing up for their webinar series, which should roll around again in the Fall. If you are looking to get into tradeshows, I cannot recommend their services enough!

We arrived in NYC on a Wednesday before the show, which ran Sunday-Wednesday. This gave us plenty of time to get acclimated, explore the city with friends, and have some time to get all of our ducks in a row before the set up days. I've been to NYC a handful of times so I didn't take as many pictures of sights and scenes as I did in years past, but we always make it a point to visit Central Park. It is so breathtaking and feels like you are miles from the city, when in fact you are smack dab in the middle of it! This year the weather actually was on our side and we enjoyed California-like temps as we walked through the park.

We had been walking for a bit so we decided to stop and have a rest on a little grassy patch near the lake, it was so peaceful! I even managed to get somewhat close to a mama bird sitting on her nest in a nearby tree.

We literally just laid on the grass and I nearly fell asleep when we heard a bit of a commotion down by the water. Apparently, a couple that rented a row boat had flipped their's over and were just floating in the water!

The odd thing is they were in the water for what seemed like 20 minutes and weren't trying to get into other people's boats and no one was really trying to get them out. I assumed they were trying to recover their belongings from the lake? Well, then out of nowhere a cop in a boat came speeding toward them, full on row team style, and then a helicopter appeared, and ambulances and fire trucks was nuts! The funniest part was while the boat cop was rowing toward the scene another cop on land was suiting up in a full wetsuit tied to a line and he flew into the water and started speed swimming toward the people in the water. I honestly couldn't believe that these people who were just sitting there bobbing in the water for 20 minutes had caused such a commotion! Other boaters were paddling by and taking pics of them and they weren't yelling for help or anything like that. People who had just walked up were asking us what happened and really it was nothing! Or so we thought. We found out from someone a little later walking away from the lake area that the man they "rescued" was naked!? Weird. So there was that moment of peace and then the craziness of the city reminded us where we were! Ah...New York.

It was nice to enjoy a couple days of hanging out with friends in Brooklyn and Manhattan before setup day for the show, which was Friday for us. We chose not to have a crate or palette shipped, but instead we opted to ship a few boxes to our friend's place and then take advantage of our checked bags for free deal with Jet Blue. Since we went with pre-installed walls, we didn't really need to worry with freight, but wrangling all those boxes and suitcases and getting them to the Javits Center definitely took a bit of planning.

When you arrive, if you did not arrange to have walls installed by a third party company like we did above, you walk into a space outfitted with pipe and drape, that's it! It is up to you to build it out and decorate it as you see fit. So now you can see how much work goes into all those incredible booths! We opted to use a company called Manny Stone for our walls. They do all the foamcore and some of the hardwood walls for this show. Our walls were 1/2" thick flame resistant foam core walls in white that they installed for us. As you can see they were up when we arrived with our stuff. Done! As a first time exhibitor this felt like the right choice for us. They are not cheap, but it was one less thing for us to worry about. I definitely see the advantages of building your own hardwood walls that you can re-use, you just have to ship them, install them yourself, and be good with measuring as you are essentially putting a box inside of a box. Oh, and you must build them so you won't need power tools to install them at Javits, not an easy task. A note on installation at the Javits Center, they use union labor so the list of things you as a non-union worker are not allowed to do far out lists the number of tasks you are allowed do. We were not allowed to hammer, stand on ladders or chairs of any kind, and we could not use any power tools. They are crazy about enforcing this stuff so we took heed, although we did stand on a chair to clip on our lights and even this was risky! If they catch you they could invoice you for the work they would have done had you hired them. Yikes!


Once we pieced together our faux wood floors (from company Soft Tiles that were a savior on our feet from standing for 3.5 days) we started hanging our shelving. We had purchased them, cut them to size, clear coated them, and attached the brackets at home before we shipped them out to NY. Again, the more you can do ahead of time, especially when it involves power tools, the better. We had tested this shelving setup using a store-bought piece of 1/2" thick foamcore and a couple of shelves under different types of lighting environments (think heat from the lamps) so we knew what type of screws we'd need for them to be secure in our walls. We essentially screwed them into the foam and they stayed put! Keep in mind, we only had lightweight cards on them. Obviously heavier items may cause the shelves to be less stable. I created a diagram on the computer of how I wanted everything in the booth to look and where I wanted it to go, and then I forgot it! No one will know but you so you have to just press on.

It is also helpful to have help! Cesar and I greatly appreciated the assistance from our friend Mike. He also let us crash at his apartment for a few nights prior to the show, and offered to let us ship packages to his place in advance. Also, helpful...ship a box of tools and hardware. Our level came in quite handy when installing the shelves. Pack all types of adhesives and attachment hardware. One of our rails for our tea towels was so much heavier than we anticipated so we had to use copious amounts of velcro and adhesives to help it stay up! There is a Home Depot on 23rd, but each little trip takes time and cab fare so the more you plan in advance and have on you, the better. Also, your neighbors will probably be amazing folks like ours were (shout out to Parrott Design, Letter and Lark, and ThimblePress!) and they'll help you out with things you might have forgotten or lend a helping hand. It is an incredibly amazing community. In terms of lighting, we were under the "low ceiling area" so with the lights being closer to our booth we opted for clamp on lights that we outfitted with halogen flood bulbs. There are a plethora of lighting options out there and Javits offers many to rent for the show, but they come with a hefty price tag. It is up to you, your budget, and your design, but overall I'm pretty happy with how the lighting turned out and we didn't spend a ton. Again, being under the lower ceiling helped us in the lighting department. See Cesar putting together that Ikea cabinet? We put together a wish-list from Ikea and had the furniture we wanted for our booth bought and delivered to Javits for us. We got together with a few exhibitors prior to the show to organize the service, and we were all able to split the delivery fee saving time and money. Another bonus of Tradeshow Bootcamp, the private Facebook group where you can converse with other exhibitors!

So all in all, we spent the two full days allotted for setup getting our booth together and completed, and we needed every bit of that time to complete our booth vision. I thought we could finish in a day, but give yourself time as there will always be issues you didn't expect. One of our issues was that the laborers did not run our power cord behind our foam walls so it was just sticking out in our booth, not pretty. We had to have a separate outlet configured right behind the top mid section of our booth and since the walls were already up, we were stuck with that cord all during the show. You can see it in the photo below although we tried to conceal it as best we could, but what are you going to do? Some things are just out of your control. Main lesson learned on that note is be flexible and roll with it.

I leave you with some images of the finished booth with both our brands on display and all ready for visitors on day one of the show! We are pretty pleased with how it all turned out :)

I love that panorama shot Cesar got on his phone, mine's a 4 and is not that fancy ;)

Coming up in Part TWO of this series will be our experience at the actual show itself and more. Part THREE I will dive into the financial cost of the show and a breakdown of how our money was spent.

Thanks for following along thus far and if you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below!