Sketch out your detailed AWFS game plan ASAP

todmug_newWhere else can you see a $6,000 toilet besides Las Vegas? Kohler introduced its mighty throne — which requires the use of a remote control — at the 2011 Kitchen & Bath Industry Show. I didn’t get to try it, but I was assured that hands-free operation is possible.

KBIS took place April 26-28 at the Las Vegas Convention Center and is billed as the world’s largest international trade event focused exclusively on all aspects of kitchens and baths serving kitchen and bath dealers, designers, architects, remodelers, wholesalers and custom builders.

I spent the better part of two days canvassing the show, with no real game plan other than learning about design trends and paying particular attention to the hardware displays. As a veteran trade show attendee, the thought occurred to me that I wasn’t practicing what I should be preaching. A proper game plan is paramount to getting the most from your show experience.

So if you’re planning on attending the AWFS fair in July, also in Las Vegas, here are some tips:

• You’ll get more out of any show by first making a short list of what you want to accomplish. For example, buy an edgebander, find a veneer supplier and look into outsourcing options. Then decide if it’s practical to accomplish everything on your list. The AWFS isn’t as big as the IWF in Atlanta, but about 600 exhibitors are expected, spread over two large halls. It could very well take you two days to explore each hall, and there will be inevitable side trips to view the Fresh Wood student design competition, new-product and first-time exhibitor displays, belt sander races and 46 educational seminars.

• Once you’ve made your list, do some preshow research. The fair’s website — www.awfsfair.org — is an excellent place to start. You’ll find a list of exhibitors, searchable by categories, and a floor plan. You can know in advance which exhibitors offer edgebanders and where their booths will be. You’ll also find links to their websites, which in most cases will provide information on models, features, prices, etc.

• The next step is to schedule appointments with the exhibitors with which you’re most interested. Appointments are not a necessity — more than likely you’ll be greeted by an eager sales representative as soon as you walk into a booth, especially in this economy — but they’re recommended to make the best use of your time. I’d suggest making a couple of appointments in the morning and two or three more in the afternoon. It will give your day some structure and guarantee you 15 minutes or so of one-on-one attention. But don’t over-schedule yourself; you’ll be rushing to and from appointments, and your attention will most certainly wane.

• Make sure to bring plenty of business cards. Exhibitors will be able to scan your show badge, which will have a barcode containing your contact information, but trading business cards is still a big part of a woodworking show experience. It’s a networking event as much as anything else, so be prepared.

I won’t make specific hotel recommendations, but the Hilton is connected to the convention center. Hotels on the Strip are connected by a very convenient monorail. Every hotel wants your business, so shop around. Again, the AWFS site is a good resource.

Hope to see you in Vegas.

This article originally appeared in the June 2011 issue.