Friday, June 14, 2013

TNNA-ing like a Champ

It's that magical time of year again- TNNA time! Though I exhibited last year, this year I am still not 100% sure that I'll get to stop by at all (I'm going to try, but who knows)... so to soothe my frownies I figured I'd get around to a long over-due advice post- just a few things I've picked up in my couple of times as a designer there.

Going to shows like this is a great way to take a look at the new yarns coming onto the marketplace and to make connections with yarn companies, publishers, and other designers. These tips will mostly apply to any show, but TNNA is kind of unique in that it's not open to consumers, only to industry folks- you'll have to get a badge either by joining TNNA as an associate member, or by going with a member (like a pattern distributor or a yarn store.)


1. Remember that you're not the target audience

The people displaying at this show are primarily interested in taking orders from yarn stores. This is why they've paid the big bucks to be there, and in most cases they NEED these orders for the business to survive. Most companies do also want to talk to designers (though I've heard tell of people taking one look at the designer badge and turning the other way) but you need to be constantly conscious of the fact that you are not the first priority and do not cock-block the exhibitors. Try to approach booths when they're empty (which means Sunday and Monday are better days, usually, and you can probably give up on talking to Madelinetosh right now, 'cause you aren't likely to find an opening. That booth be cray.) Keep your conversations short unless the other person is pushing to continue it- try to just introduce yourself, compliment the lovely yarn, and take a business cards (some people leave their own cards... I'm really bad at that though.) Some people like to try and set up yarn support then and there... personally I'd rather just say hello, make the personal connection, and then email them later to talk about a project that I have in mind. There's just so much going on at the show- it'd be easy to forget what you talked about.

2. Take notes

The whole show experience is super overwhelming and it's SO easy to forget who you talked to what about, what you yarns you saw and loved, etc etc. Take a little notebook and jot things down as soon as you can. Bring a sharpie to write right on business cards, too.

3. Wear your name tag (and your Ravelry button!) 

Oh please please please, wear your name tag and make sure it's visible at all times! Some of us really suck at names and faces. I am pretty sure I'm not face-blind but I'm definitely not face 20/20, either- I once had an entire conversation with someone who I had clearly met and who definitely knew me...and I still don't know who it was because her name tag was flipped and I was too embarrassed to ask. Also, keep an eye out for those Ravelry "My name is" buttons- you write your Ravelry ID on there, and then everyone goes "OHHHHH, that's who you are!!" It's so hard to connect people you know online to their in-real-life faces- those buttons really make things amazingly easier. You can buy them here but I know Ravelry also gives them out at the shows they take part in (or at least they used to.) Update: MH has confirmed that they WILL be there this year and they WILL have buttons so GO GET ONE. Booth 1250

4. Arrange meet-ups ahead of time

If this is your first time going, it can feel really isolating, especially if you go in without really knowing anyone. Try to arrange some lunch/drink/dinner/ice cream dates with internet acquaintances (/people you'd love to meet!) beforehand. Even if you do know people, it's easy to end up on your own at mealtimes if you don't make an effort to coordinate (though usually if you wander over to the North Market you'll find some knitters on the porch.)

5. Share a room...and book early

This advice is probably coming too late for this year, but hey. I really, really recommend staying at one of the Convention hotels (Red Roof is the cheapest- Hyatt has the big lobby where everyone meets up to knit in the evenings, but you can go even if you're not staying there.) You can cut costs by finding a roommate or two or three (depending on how cozy you want to get with your roomies.) Most people do split rooms, so it's usually not too hard- post a notice on Twitter or on the Ravelry boards and you're likely to find another singleton to pair up with. Having a roomie gives you an automatic "here's a person I know!" which is nice, too.

6. Wear good shoes and layers

You're going to do a looottt of walking. And the Convention Center veers wildly from over-airconditioned-indoor-Antarctica to too-many-people-in-here-stuffy. Outside the temperature is usually somewhere between "baking" and "thunderstorm" but obviously, it's the midwest, you never know.

7. Remember to eat real meals and stay hydrated

I'm not great about this, I tend to snack snack snack and skip actual meals, but you will feel so much better if you get real, hot, healthy food in you.  Making lunch dates is a good way to commit yourself to going to get actual food. Make peace with the idea of eating alone, though- it's really not that bad, and it's not a good excuse not to get real food. You can always get take out and bring it home to eat in the hotel room while you relax. Also if you've got a mini fridge in your room (and better yet, a microwave,) you can order a pizza one night and eat it for the next few days. Not entirely healthy, but nice and cheap.  Also, carry water everywhere. Duh. Just because you're indoors and potentially freezing doesn't mean you're not dehydrated from all that walking around.

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8. Wear/bring your samples 

For three reasons: A) If a company gave you yarn support, you can show them! B) Layering! and C) It turns you into a walking portfolio, which is good because it's a little tacky to actually be whipping out your portfolio right and left. I actually haven't gotten much use out of my portfolio at these things, though it's nice to have one in case you're asked (pictures on an iPad or even an iPhone probably would be fine. Make a special album so you don't accidentally flash awkward mirror shots at anyone.)  If you have a really stunning statement piece, wear that- I couldn't even tell you how many people stop Sarah when she's walking around the show in one of her crazy/awesome jumpsuits. 

9. Don't forget to go to Jeni's

Last I heard, this was the last year that TNNA was going to be in Columbus... which means it's your last year to get in on a Columbus-TNNA tradition and get some mega-tasty Jeni's ice cream. (If you're lucky, you might even see weird unspeakable things involving pants, like we did last year.)


Jeni's


{Secret self-promotional 10: Go to the Cooperative Press booth and peek at Doomsday Knits! }



I'm not going to really talk about exhibiting, because I only did it once and I wasn't actually taking orders in my booth so it wasn't a very typical experience (though it was pretty awesome hanging out with Tiny Owl all weekend.) But I will say this: having seating in your booth will definitely draw people in, even if it's just other designers with tired feet!

  designated resting area...(Picture courtesy of Lee Meredith- that'd be the orange-haired one!) 

Like this post? You might enjoy my (chock-fulla-designering-tips) ebook!

1 comment:

  1. great advice, filing it away for "someday," when i hopefully get to go to TNNA!

    ReplyDelete

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