Sunday, February 15, 2015

How To Survive A Trade Show

Agenda Long Beach, 2014

Last July, I was fortunate enough to attend the Agenda Trade Show in Long Beach. I had never been to anything like it before, and it was the perfect opportunity to network and get my name out there. It inspired me even more to be a part of that world. There were all different kinds of people there, and everyone was dressed in the latest So Cal summer trends. I felt like the tiniest fish in the ocean surrounded by the most creative and artistic people in the fashion industry, but I had to act like it was just as important that I was there as it was for the creator of Volcom.

Agenda show is a traveling trade show for action sports, streetwear and lifestyle brands. Brands big and small are invited to attend in three different locations: Las Vegas, Long Beach and New York City. It is an opportunity for designers to show off their creativity to other professionals in the industry. It stood out to me as an insane PR and networking opportunity for all kinds of companies.

Creators attend to collaborate and show off, buyers come to see the latest trends, and up and coming businesses attempt to work their way into the industry and be seen by big name buyers and important labels. It is top ten on's list of best trade shows to attend in 2015.

This particular show had a strong emphasis on surf and beachwear. Each company had a booth, and they were arranged alphabetically by product. Bigger companies like Converse and Nike had entire walls and corners of the room, and you had to schedule a private appointment to see their products. 

It was so inspiring to see such an array of talent levels in the same room. Everyone was friendly and eager to learn about your story and what brought you there. Here are five tips for young people trying to break their way into the industry, and how they can make the most of a trade show such as Agenda:

1. It's all about who you know. Get on a list. Most trade shows are invite only, and they are pretty strict on letting people in. Contact anyone and everyone you know in the industry ahead of time to see if they can get you in as a member of their team. People will be more willing to help than you think.

2. Wear the right clothes. It's a compliment fair, and conversations are started left and right based on outfit decisions. You never know what kind of connection you can make by having someone come up to you and say, "Cute romper; who makes it?" They're all about the labels, so choose wisely and wear pieces that will make interesting conversation starters (i.e. wear a top that a local, startup boutique designed vs. one from Forever 21 or Urban Outfitters).

3. Bring business cards. Whether you are attending the show in search of a job or to promote a brand you currently work for, network with everyone that you come into contact with. Leave your card with anyone you have a strong conversation with.

4. Have your elevator pitch perfected and ready. People will ask you your story: what you are doing there, why you want to be there, what the most creative thing you've seen all day is. Be ready to impress people with your drive and knowledge of the industry. 

5. Be a sponge. Take it all in. Visit booths of brands you've never heard of and get to know as much about them as you can. Even if you can't make a connection with them, knowing their story and what they stand for can benefit you in the future as you make your way into the industry.

Take advantage of these opportunities. It is easier to get involved than you might think.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a cool experience! It sounds like you learned a lot from your experience there.