Quilt Market Do's and Don'ts: Lessons Learned

Sunday, November 2, 2014

I tend to be an anxious planner when it comes to big events. I try to learn as much as I can about the situation in order to prepare for maximum awesomeness. That's a very technical goal, obviously. I worry a lot about stupid, preventable crap that may go wrong, so I've found that over-planning is the way to go.

Quilt Market was naturally like my Mt. Everest in terms of planning-for-awesomeness. I grilled every Quilt Market veteran I knew beforehand about every little detail. I even asked one person if they remembered the temperature of the convention center so I knew if I should waste space in my purse on a sweater. That's just nutty, but it felt like a very important question at the time!

Over-planning yielded some good results, but you can't plan for everything. I wanted to share the the positive fruits of my anxiety-fueled madness along with things I learned along the way. That way, you can over-plan using my over-planning experience!

1. DO: Make comfort your number one goal. A lot of my research mentioned wearing comfortable shoes, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. You want to be as comfortable as possible, period.

That means choosing a bag you can carry all day without setting your shoulder on fire. It also means not wearing the super-cute handmade dress if it chafes even the slightest bit. Any tiny annoyance will be magnified x10 over the course of the day.

2. DO: Wear handmade items if they are comfy. I wore handmade outfits all three days I attended market, and they were great conversation starters. A few people even stopped me and asked for photos. If you want to meet new people, network, and get your name out there, this is an easy way to start.

3. DO: Bring lots of business cards. They're like Pokemon cards and you gotta catch 'em all! Trade with everyone you can. If you actively use Instagram, PUT YOUR INSTAGRAM NAME ON THE CARD!! I was surprise more people didn't do this, and so many of them commented that they wish they had.

4. DON'T: Use the free plastic badge holder. Sew up your own! It's another way to set yourself apart, plus you can stash more crap in it with extra pockets (I used mine for business cards and some cash). Patty made a great tutorial on how she made hers.

5. DO: Bring a printed exhibitor list and map. If you're trying to hit up giveaways, demos, or generally want to know your way around, it's worth it to print out the list of booths and a map. I brought mine on Saturday, but forgot it on Sunday. It's loss was felt.

6. DON'T: Expect to get free books without some planning. Publishers will give away a limited number of books (including a book signing) at a set time and place. With C&T, you show up 10-15 minutes early to get a ticket and place in line for the book. At Lucky Spool, you can show up 30 minutes early, grab a ticket, and return at the scheduled time without having to worry about getting a spot in a line.

Sometimes there are a really limited number of books (I recall overhearing there were only 15 copies of one book), so you have to know where to be and when. I wouldn't have gotten a single free book if it wasn't for Stephanie and her amazing scheduling skills.

7. DON'T: Try to take all your booth photos on Saturday. Saturday is the busiest day of market and the first day exhibits are open, making it hard to get good photos of the booths without random people walking in the way. Next time, I'll probably walk through all the booths I like, make notes of what I want to come back and photograph, and do so later on Saturday or on Sunday when there are fewer people around.

8. DON'T: Be afraid to talk to those quilt celebrities. I initially had jitters about speaking to the "stars" of the industry, but after attending Fabric 2.0, it was easy to see how down to earth everyone is. By day two, I was able to chat up Amy Butler, Tula Pink, Carolyn Friedlander, Alison Glass, and the whole AGF crew without any nervousness. They're just people, so talk to them like you would anyone else...and maybe ask to take a selfie with them.

9. DON'T: Drop cuss words in front of the conservative crowd. I did it on accident. It went over like a lead balloon.

10. DO: Ask before taking a large catalog or handout. Getting larger items like these printed are pricier than a simple brochure, and exhibitors may have limited amounts. If you're not placing an order, don't grab the giant 20 page catalog without asking a representative if you may do so. Some will say no, they only give them to retailers. In that case, thank them for letting  you look at there booth, and let them get back to business.

11. DO: Eat at the food court. It's seriously the most convenient option. The food is good, served quickly, and there are lots of options. It's not as cheap as going to a fast food place (expect to pay around $10 for a meal), but it will save you the time and hassle of leaving the show to get food.

12. DO: Periodically drop off purchases and goodies in your car or hotel room. Your shoulder will thank you. After snagging six free books on Sunday, my tote bag was really digging into my shoulder and slowing me down. Next time, I'll probably take a pit stop when it starts getting heavy.

13. DO: Consider a rolling bag. I always thought the rolling backpacks were the ultimate sign of dorkiness, and I am a self-proclaimed dork saying this. However, if there was ever a time to sign away your street cred and getting a rolling bag, Market is one of them. Lugging heavy shoulder bags and backpacks around gets exhausting, so I'm considering getting myself a dorky rolling bag.

14. DO: Add your new friends on Instagram as you meet them. Not everyone puts their IG name on their card, so ask them what their handle is, and add them before you part. That way, you can be sure to find them, and you'll be able to quickly tag them in a photos.

Are there any things you are glad you did or didn't do at quilt market? Would you do anything differently?

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