What to Pack and How to Prepare for the AFCI Creativation Show

The Creativation Show, put on by the Association for Creative Industries (AFCI), opens in Phoenix in 40 days and I can't wait! Creativation is an amazing 5-day event that takes place each January. It brings together manufacturers, buyers, designers, and everyone else in the craft industry for sales, education, and networking. (Sorry consumers - this is just for industry professionals.)

This will be my 7th time attending Creativation. Each time has been more valuable than the last as I've improved the focus of my business, taken risks, and built deeper connections within the industry. Exciting things happen at this show. 

I wrote a post about preparing for the show back in 2015 when it was called the Craft and Hobby Association (CHA) Mega Show, added a few more tips in 2016, then did another update before the January 2019 show. Now I'm bringing all of my advice into one post in Ask Cindy format. There are affiliate links in the post.

What should I wear to Creativation? 
Think comfortable business casual. In past years, it's been chilly at the Convention Center, but in 2019 it was warm. Wear layers. My show 'uniform' is a colorful blouse with a modest neckline, a light sweater, interesting jewelry, dark jeans, and super comfy black tennis shoes or boots. 

Jeans and tennis shoes?!
Dark jeans and clean tennis shoes, but yes. I'm a big believer in 'dressy on the top, comfy on the bottom'. Expect to walk at least 5 miles and up to 10 miles on a typical show day. Comfortable shoes are not an option; they are a must. I like jeans because they have plenty of pockets and are great for movement. Expect to frequently stoop and bend to look at products and perch on stools to do make-and-takes. Check out this post for pictures of me and others at the 2019 show.

Do I need business cards?
Yes. Absolutely. If you don't have some already, order them right now. 

How many cards do I need? 
I typically go through 100+ at a show. Do not be shy about exchanging business cards. I like to jot a note on the back of mine to remind the person where/how they met me. I do the same with cards I receive. And don't forget to reach out to everyone you met after the show! Follow their blog, check out their store, send thanks, email especially good photos you took of them, or simply say hi!

What else do I need at the show?
You'll get a tote when you register, but I strongly recommend a small rolling bag for the trade show floor.  You'll potentially receive a lot of samples and do multiple make-and-takes and your shoulders will thank you. My rolling bag is just wide enough for 12" x 12" paper, with plenty of pockets for snacks, a water bottle, Advil, Kleenex, business cards, ziplock bags (handy for protecting make-and-takes) and everything else I need. I also keep a 12" x 12" plastic envelope with a piece of 12" x 12" chipboard inside so that any paper samples or layout and card make-and-takes aren't ruined.

Snacks? Can't I just get food there?
Yes... maybe. There's a food court and concessions areas at the Phoenix Convention Center, as well as plenty of food options nearby, but they aren't all open all the time and the lines can get long. You may not have time to get a proper meal, particularly on the education days. I always carry nuts, dried fruit, and granola bars. I also carry hand sanitizer to use before I eat. 
Don't forget to hydrate. The climate in Phoenix is dry. Bring a refillable bottle (this one is awesome and perfect if you're flying); there are water stations outside the classrooms and drinking fountains at the restrooms. I recommend chapstick and lotion, too.

How's the wifi at the Convention Center?

I'm flying to and from Phoenix. What should I know?
You will return home with more than you are bringing, probably a lot more. When flying to Phoenix, check one large suitcase with a smaller suitcase inside. On the way home, check both.
Use the Metro to get from the airport to the Convention Center and/or your hotel. It's only $2 and 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 after the show, use SuperShuttle. It costs around $12. When I'm loaded down with an extra 50+ pounds of samples, make-and-takes, literature, and more, I can't deal with my luggage on public transportation. It's worth the extra $10 + tip to not have to manage that luggage on my own.
Know the prohibitions about flying with craft-related banned items before accepting samples. If you fly with certain craft materials, even in your checked luggage, TSA will confiscate your items and mail you a Nastygram. (Ask how I know!)

What's the area around the Convention Center like?
It's great! Clean, safe, and easy to navigate. I've seen a few homeless people nearby over the years, but none have been aggressive. I've felt safe walking alone, but if you don't, Phoenix has an awesome Ambassador program. You'll see people in orange "Ask me!" shirts who are there specifically to help with whatever you need. They'll walk you to your hotel, give you directions, recommend restaurants, help you buy a metro ticket, or anything else you need. Stop and talk with them! 
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

What else should I know?
Download the show app. 
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. Take as many classes as possible. 
Take notes about absolutely everything. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that you'll remember everyone you met, everything you saw, and everything you did because you won't. Photos help. Take lots of photos.
Attend the Annual Business Meeting and Town Hall. AFCI is a trade organization. It is in your best interest be informed about what is going on in the organization. Attend meetings. Ask questions. Learn more.
Talk to everyone.

This sounds exhausting.
And it's SO MUCH FUN. Creativation is amazing. Being surrounded by thousands of people who share your passion is incredible. Try new things. Meet new people. Experience and enjoy it all. Say yes to opportunities and be open to possibilities.

I have more questions. 
Ask me in the comments, or email me: cindy.mycreativelife at gmail.com. I'm happy to answer any questions you have!


  1. I love your idea of baggies, cardboard in 12x12, chapstick, and lotion. For some reason I feel less prepared for this years show and I have been once before.

    1. It's still over a month away. You'll panic-prepare in January, LOL.

  2. I second the shoes part! LOL!! In Anaheim one year, I wore CUTE, but HORRIBLE shoes, and I literally broke my foot because of it ... yep. I managed to break all the little bones on the top part of my foot, just from walking CHA!!! LOL!! :)

  3. I've always wanted to attend but the timing's really bad. Always the period near or during CNY. But these are great tips!

  4. Thank you for this post ~ I'm emailing you. First time for me so excited !!

  5. Hey I found this out about the wifi at the convention center, thought it was helpful..:The Phoenix Convention Center provides free Wi-Fi for attendees in the Metro Marche, West Atrium, and the South Building lobbies forthe Ballroom and Halls F and G. Additional internet services may be purchased through our exclusive event communications provider.


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