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I recently had the chance to spend a day at America's Beauty Show on behalf of MiladyPro. I'll admit it was my first time at the show in six years. Somehow it always ended up I'd be traveling or teaching some class during the three days it sets up in my hometown of Chicago, IL. Being on the education side of the business puts me at a lot of shows, but I'm usually working behind the scenes or up on a stage. So I was anxious and excited to experience a show again as an attendee. At first, I was incredibly overwhelmed by the madness of it all. With so much to see it was difficult for me to know where to begin. I started dead center and worked my way to the outside of the show floor, making several rounds throughout the day, breaking to eat, catch up with friends I'd bump into, and to pop into a few classes here and there. I had a small list of things I wanted to see and buy so I took extra care to stop when I came across what I was looking for. By the end of the day, I remembered why It meant so much to be able to experience the show without the responsibility of making sure my model looked flawless or I didn't miss my cue. If you've never been to one before, here are 5 things to expect at a trade show:
1. Education. I spent most of my time scanning the floor Looking for micro-bursts of honest knowledge and experience. Observing the interactions between people and educators on why this tool, technique or product will work allowed me to make a more objective decision on whether or not it was for me. But inside the scheduled classes was where the really good stuff was. There were a few classes on the business side of the business, giving me an idea of where I am and where I should aspire to be. I picked up a few cool ideas for cutting and styling curly hair that I've since used and had a lot of great feedback on from my clients. I also got to see a few collections I was excited about and inspired by! Almost every booth had something to engage you. I was able to test run a few scissors and tools I had my eye on and was able to get some answers from someone who really worked with them closely. This is service you don't always get the luxury of having at a supply store, so soak it up!
2. Shopping. And lots of it! I advise most people to load up during trade shows. Many product companies and manufacturers are looking to move a lot of inventory so the prices are supreme and, in almost every case, you are able to get your hands on whatever it is you're buying for a test run. I brought an empty weekender bag to hold my swag in that was full by the time I left. I noticed this year a massive turn out from barbering and men's grooming products so I picked up a few bits and pieces to keep me current. I was most excited to test run the new Dyson blow dryer. Despite wanting to take everything home with me I managed to keep composure, opting to hold out til later to splurge. Make sure to prep a "wants" and a "needs" list before you go to a show, this way you don't forget to pick up a product or compare tools when you're there.
3. Networking. I ran into a load of friends I've picked up along my journey. It was great catching up, swapping future goals and stories on where we'd been. It was even sweeter running into past students of mine and celebrating everything they'd accomplished since I saw them last. Almost every night after the show there were several after parties. Even if you're not necessarily into the spectacle of it all, the networking alone can open up doors that might not be available otherwise. I couldn't begin to tell you how many classes, job offerings, and opportunities I heard being offered between people. It gave a lot of validity to the saying, "half of success in life is showing up!"
4. Entertainment. The whole show is one massive production. Every booth wants to entice you into spending just a few more minutes with them, so naturally there's a lot to entertain you. A great deal of work is put into model prep, show flow, and marketing to seduce you into doing business. Some of the work was salon realistic, and the work that wasn't gave an idea into the limits you can push your creativity, which is important when feeling stagnant and uninspired in your work. Remember to live in the moment and enjoy your time at the show- having fun should be on your to-do list!
5. Freebies. By the end of it I picked up more than I bought from people just looking to get their new product into my hands. A couple styling products, some clay-based lighteners and a few memberships were more than enough to keep me busy for the week after. It helped me get a good idea of what's available to me and how I can keep the salon current and my clients fulfilled in their needs. As our salon has changed in the past we've always prepared a list of things our salon is "shopping for." Trade shows have always been a great place to compare and contrast in a short amount of time while having access to real people with real answers. Again, make your list before the show, this way you're fully prepared.
By the end of it I felt completely and utterly exhausted, yet enthusiastic about next year's show. Even if trade shows are not your scene, your clientele might get a kick out of hearing about how you're staying clued into the industry. Experimenting with new things keeps the relationship with our clients from becoming too comfortable & seeing what other industry leaders are doing helps our work stay fresh. If you want to expand your product, skill, and industry knowledge, checking out a show is a perfect way to learn. Are you a trade show fanatic? Drop into the comments below and share some of your favorite things about going to trade shows!
Photo: Courtesy of the author
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Proud hairdresser. Passionate educator. Follow me on insta - Christianawesome