Making The Most of your CHA DESIGNER Experience
How To Make The Most of Your CHA Experience
The Craft and Hobby Association (CHA) Trade Show is held semi-annually, is the largest entity of it's nature in the craft industry and could be the most valuable opportunity for a Designer. This is true for Designers in the paper crafts industry as well as Designers specializing in other craft mediums. CHA offers opportunities for education, training, networking and marketing that is invaluable to all of it's members but is especially valuable to Designers because it is unprecedented. A volunteer task-force has been making great strides to create a Designer support program that will educate and connect Editors, Publishers and Manufacturers (EPMs) with qualified Designers that can be invaluable to the success of their businesses.
Become A Member. Membership entitles you to pre-show perks including the inside scoop, Showcase Opportunities, Group Support, Press Kit guidance, and lots more! There are prerequisites to obtaining membership which can be challenging for new designers, but hang in there, CHA is aware that this is an obstacle for new Designers and they are working on a compromise. If you can't get membership as a Designer, it is still beneficial to attend the show. If you are on a Design Team for a Manufacturer, Retailer, Service Provider (NSA!) or Publication that has membership, you can wear a guest badge under their membership.
Plan Ahead Create a list of people and companies with whom you would like to meet. Research the appropriate department head and then contact them in advance to set up appointments. Set goals in regards to what you want to accomplish at the show and stay focused. Participate. Take advantage of as many opportunities as you can to attend training sessions and display your work. You need people to what you can do and if it's a CHA sponsored display or event, then CHA will also promote it for you. Be careful not to obligate yourself more than you can handle. It's better to do one display three marginal displays. Inventory your time and resources before you commit. A highlight of the Summer 07 CHA Show was the Designer TableScape Displays. There was substantial promotion and press attention and it was displayed in a prominent area in the center of one of the halls! It was very exciting. I was thrilled to hear so many people talking about viewing the TableScapes and how fabulous they were.
Plan Ahead Create a list of people and companies with whom you would like to meet. Research the appropriate department head and then contact them in advance to set up appointments. Set goals in regards to what you want to accomplish at the show and stay focused.
Participate. Take advantage of as many opportunities as you can to attend training sessions and display your work. You need people to what you can do and if it's a CHA sponsored display or event, then CHA will also promote it for you. Be careful not to obligate yourself more than you can handle. It's better to do one display three marginal displays. Inventory your time and resources before you commit.
A highlight of the Summer 07 CHA Show was the Designer TableScape Displays. There was substantial promotion and press attention and it was displayed in a prominent area in the center of one of the halls! It was very exciting. I was thrilled to hear so many people talking about viewing the TableScapes and how fabulous they were.
Press Kits. Always provide a press kit. A press kit can be an elaborate collection to promote your arrival in the Designing CHA world, or as simple as a brochure or business card. Provide an attractive container to hold multiple kits so you will have a neat display. You need to get your contact information into as many hands as possible and the Press Room is the first stop, there's an award for the best Designer Kit, so be competitive!
My press kit for the CHA Summer 07 Show was hand crafted, because that's what I do and that is the message I wanted to send. It had many parts. I also used my Designer Showcase Display. I created a poster using my background paper design and had it professionally printed, then displayed it in a frame on an easel. The containers were white gable boxes that I decorated and embellished with a photo on the front that matched the poster. Inside the container was a bound mini-book of 12 pages with thought provoking messages for manufacturers to see along-side samples of my work that coincided with the message. Other items in the boxes were: a DVD of my HGTV episode of “That's Clever”, a short ½ page bio with a partial resume which was embellished with a real photo and a fabric flower attached with a button and piercing tool, an over-sized business card that matched the poster and containers and last, but not least, a small sweet treat; chocolate bars wrapped with my paper designs decorated with ribbon.
Designer Showcase. There was a nominal fee to participate in the Showcase Event, but it was well worth it. I shipped boxes of albums and art to my hotel for my display. The showcase was held on the last day of the show in a private room. Designers receive one 2' x 6' table to create their display and CHA provides the promotion, press, appointment schedules and monitors to watch the area to keep the displays safe. Set up was from 7 am – 8:30 am. After set up, Designers must leave to allow the Editors, Publishers, and Manufacturers (EPMs) to view the showcase without interruptions. This format was initiated because the EPMs have limited time to be off the selling floor and many want to look, but don't have time to chat it up. I put some of those sweet treats (candy bars wrapped in my paper designs and decorated with ribbon) in a planter on my table in hopes of getting viewers to stop and take a closer look.
Volunteer. CHA is a not-for-profit organization and many of the programs require volunteers to help out. This is also another opportunity to be seen. The Press Room needs volunteers to straighten and maintain the displays. The Showcase area needed volunteers to help monitor. These are more opportunities to be in the middle of all of the excitement and meet people that are attending or viewing the displays. In addition, you get to be a part of the ground-breaking strides that are happening within CHA for Designers. Always conduct yourself as a professional, you never know who might be sitting at your “round table” discussion or listening over your shoulder. Dress appropriately. If you are looking for work, then consider it a job interview and dress accordingly. There is no second chance at a first impression. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes, you will be doing lots of walking. If you are attending the CHA Show as a guest or Design Team Member for a Manufacturer, Retailer, or Service Provider then you need to be aware that other CHA members will look to your ID Badge in earnest. Some Manufacturers do not allow other Manufacturers to attend their product classes offered at CHA, these special seats are reserved for Retailers that are paying for the class to learn more about how to promote and sell the products in their stores. This is one example of how you may need to adjust your behavior or participation in the educational events to match the badge you are wearing. When you are walking the display floor; I refer to this area as the “sales floor” because this is where manufacturers have paid for booths to display their new release items and are waiting for buyers, you must be mindful that “sales” is the top priority for those displayers. It is not wise to be pushy or try to monopolize a manufacturer's booth with a designer pitch. I do NOT recommend carrying a portfolio around to pull out to show them in their booths. They cannot take time away from sales to find new designers, this is why CHA is working hard on new programs to bring designers and EPMs together in a productive way for all parties. A more appropriate approach might be to introduce yourself, explain that you are a designer and will be brief. Direct them to your Designer Showcase display and leave your business card. Often, if your business card contains your cell phone number, they may call you while you are still at the show and request an interview.
Follow Up. Everytime you give someone your business card, you ask for theirs. Write notes on the back of cards to remember why you contacted this person or what they need from you. When you get back to business after the show, be sure to send an email or call within the first week following CHA. Don't be discouraged if things seem to move slowly, many companies are busy filling their orders and tying up loose ends. Follow up with a phone call about 2 weeks after CHA to see if they are still interested in discussing business with you.
Do you remember the thrill of adrenaline when you walked into a new scrapbook store for the very first time? CHA is “just like that” except multiply it by over 3000 times the intensity because that's how many displayers will be there with HOT, NEW product releases!! Have fun and SMILE.