This will be my sixth show. In 2015, I posted a packing guide for the show (then called the CHA Mega Show) and I added a few more tips in 2016, but it's time for a major update. Now that the show has a new home in Phoenix, I want to share everything I've learned (through trial and error) so that show newbies can have the best possible experience the first time around. So here goes!!
*If you have a choice between driving and flying, choose driving.
For many, there isn't a choice. But if you are close enough to Phoenix to drive, that is the better option. You'll potentially have to pay for parking depending on where you are staying, but you'll appreciate not having to deal with limits on your luggage. You'll be able to accept samples that are bulky, prone to leaking, or otherwise unsuitable for air travel. (More than once, I've gotten a TSA Nastygram about flying with banned paints or other craft materials.) You can bring back piles of literature with no concern about paying extra for the weight. You can do all the make-and-takes without worrying about how things would fit in your suitcase. There's nothing more sad that having to give away samples and other cool stuff to anyone you can find who is driving instead of flying. (I've been on both the giving and receiving ends of that.)
*If you are flying, pack a suitcase in your suitcase.
You WILL come home with more than you are bringing. Probably a lot more. When heading to Phoenix, check one large suitcase with a smaller suitcase inside. On the way home, you can check both and hopefully have enough room.
*Use the Metro to get from the airport to the Convention Center and/or your hotel.
If your hotel has a free shuttle, obviously you can use that. Otherwise, your best bet is $2.50 for the Metro. It is super easy, safe, and convenient. When you leave baggage claim, follow the sign to the Sky Train. Then buy a Metro ticket on Level 2 at the kiosk. Get on the westbound train. Get off at the Washington/3rd Station, about a 15 minute trip. It puts you on the south side of the Convention Center, an easy walk to the nearby hotels. To get back to the airport, cross the street, then reverse the steps. Buy a ticket at the Washington/3rd Station and get on the eastbound train. Get off at the airport and take the Sky Train to the terminal.
You don't want to turn down make-and-takes or samples because you have no way to carry them, nor do you want to be in pain from lugging around 30 pounds of stuff all day long. This is my rolling bag:
*Pack snacks and water:
The Convention Center has concession stands and there are plenty of food options nearby, but that doesn't do you any good if you're in a class and need a bite to eat. I carry healthy snacks, like nuts, dried fruit, and granola bars, plus a bottle of water so that I can have a quick snack when I need one. I also carry hand sanitizer that I always use before I eat. No Convention Crud for me!
*Dress nicely on top and comfortably on the bottom.
My show 'uniform' consists of a colorful blouse with a modest neckline, a light sweater, and interesting jewelry, with dark jeans and super comfy black tennis shoes or boots. Expect to walk at least 5 miles and as many as 10 miles on a typical show day. Comfortable shoes are not an option; they are a must. Jeans are nice because they have plenty of pockets for holding business cards (one pocket for the cards I'm giving out and one for cards I receive). They are also great for movement. Expect lots of stooping to look at products, bending to photograph samples, and perching on stools to do make-and-takes. To me, that means no short or tight skirts, no heels, and no low-cut blouses. Follow these tips and you'll look relatively put-together in photos and the vast majority of attendees will be dressed similarly.
*Carry business cards:
Don't just carry them. Hand them out. Don't be shy about exchanging business cards with anyone at all. I like to jot a note on the back of mine to remind the person where/how they met me ("wearing the Marsala shirt," for example) if I'm able. I also like to jot a note when I receive a card. (After the show is over, use the business cards you took to reach out to everyone you met. Follow their blog, check out their store, send thanks, email especially good photos you took of them, or simply say hi!)
*Download the show app:
The app makes everything easier. I love having easy access to the map, my schedule, and everything else I need to know.
*Make a plan:
Know what your priorities are for the show and plan accordingly. Make appointments with people you need to see, create route maps to hit your most crucial booths, and conduct business the first time you have the chance. Check out booth special events.
*Take as many classes as you can:
I always load up my schedule with as many classes as I can possibly fit. I'm not going to pass up the opportunity to learn from an expert in the craft industry, whether it's a hands-on workshop, a business seminar, or a special event. Of course, there is always so much going on that you need to know your priorities and stick to them.
*Do as many make-and-takes as you can:
Try new things. Learn about new products. Explore things outside of your crafty comfort zone; you might learn something that will enhance your business. But make sure you allow plenty of drying time for anything you're making; don't make a project with a cool new type of paint right before you're headed to the airport.
*Attend the Annual Business Meeting and Town Hall:
The Association for Creative Industries is a trade organization. It is in your best interest to keep yourself informed with what is going on in the organization. Attend meetings. Ask questions. Learn more.
*Take notes about everything. Everything.
Don't fall into the trap of thinking that you'll remember everyone you met, everything you saw, and everything you did. You won't. Instead, you'll remember bits and pieces, which may or may not get jumbled into a big confusing mess. Photos help, too. Take lots of photos.
Phoenix is a GREAT city. There is so much to do around the Convention Center. Read all about my favorite things to do and places to eat in Phoenix.
*Have the time of your life:
Creativation is amazing. There is something absolutely magical about being surrounded by thousands of people who share your passion and who get you. Try new things and meet new people. Experience and enjoy it all. Say yes to opportunities and be open to possibilities.
*Mark your calendar for next year's show:
Start planning now. The dates for upcoming Creativation shows are available through 2022 and nothing will keep me away!