Florida


I wrestled with a high-impact but lightweight and portable design for the booth we’ll take to upcoming trade shows, until I realized that each of the expos we’ll attend this year are drive-to events.

So I don’t have to worry about squeezing items into an overhead bin, or lowering my shipping costs.  Since I’ll be driving to each convention, I can carry as much with me as I can cram into a vehicle.

And while that doesn’t mean we’ll be crafting ironwork for our setup – it still needs to be easy to carry and setup – I’m not as concerned about breaking everything down to 24″ pieces.

When I first started sketching this new, unrestricted design, I produced some pretty wild drawings that I’m embarrassed to share here.

So I took a break and wrote down my actual requirements.  Here’s what our booth needed:

– Highlight on fabric choices
– Signage describing our three model choices (BASIC, DELUXE, ULTRA)
– Cot or cot-like device to demonstrate product
– Storage space for sample covers
– Hidden storage place for empty boxes, supplies, etc.
– Room to invite visitors into the booth

But I also need to figure out what’s worked before, so I went back to pictures of our last two booths and evaluated them to see if anything we’ve already done would work again.

This is the booth from the IFDF Convention last June:

The display for covers is okay, but the fabrics don’t work together and the framework is not “strong” enough, visually, to provide an appropriate backdrop.  Also, I should have covered their carpet here, as it’s a bit distracting.

Here’s the booth for the national convention:

Once again, the framework isn’t strong enough, visually.  But the pictures are a nice touch, if only they were bigger.  Still no description of the different models and the covers are draped on a table or piled on the floor.  And since I couldn’t take a cot with me (wouldn’t fit in the overhead compartment) I made a cot-shaped table out of PVC pipe.

The first booth really showcased the fabrics well and the second featured a nice big sign announcing the product and pictures which “demonstrated” the product.  The PVC “cot” is also a good design.

So I need signage that readily identifies the product.  If I combine the utilitarian storage needed for sample covers with a display of fabrics, I can eliminate one requirement.

What I need are signs and shelves.

And while I could build PVC shelves that can be broken down to very small units for easy shipping, I’ve got the luxury of driving to these next conventions.

I’m considering these shelves:

18 In. 5-Shelf Storage Organizer

I need signs, so I’m getting some printed, in nice big letters with simple photos of our covers on cots. 

Here’s a preliminary design:

The two large white boxes at the front will be made from PVC and covered with fabric.  I can store empty boxes and other supplies under them.  They’ll be used to demonstrate the covers, so they’ll stand in for cots.  Or I’ll make one like this a bring an actual cot with me.  I haven’t decided yet.

The two purchased shelving units will be surrounded by signage to help explain the product.  The top signage will have the product name and some pictures.

But this design still has one major drawback:  there’s little room for a lot of guests.

So while it will work for the IFDF convention and the Kentucky convention, we’ll need more space for the NFDA in October.

To solve this, I contacted Julie Stanhope at NFDA to discuss option.  I was hoping to get a corner booth on the main aisle, but those have already sold out.  Luckily, Julie had a solution.

For just $300 more than a corner, I can get a penninsula booth, which gives us access on three sides.  It would look like this:

This would let us stand in the middle and gather folks around both demonstration tables.  Twice as many people, a better location and more chances to sell product.

Even better, the 2008 NFDA Convention will feature a new general session location.  To further integrate the Expo, the organizers have put the general session in the middle of the expo floor.  A large open space, with a stage in the middle, surrounded by chairs (called “Theatre-in-the-round”) will fill the center of the expo.  Our booth, which I’ve already reserved, is on the permiter of this general session area, the big gray area on the left in this drawing:

The large space in front of our booth is DORIC Products.  On the right side of the booth is a big aisle, with rows and rows of booths going off of it.

I’ll upload a finished 3D schematic of the entire convention floor later, but in the meantime, check out the interactive expo map provided by the NFDA.

I’ve also decided on a slightly different design for the booth, which I’ll share tomorrow.

I might have confused some readers when I wrote that Matt Roloff was the keynote speaker at the IFDF Convention but that I didn’t get a picture with him.  (IFDF Convention Roundup)

I did NOT, in fact, get to pose with him.  But I DID get a picture as he flew by on his scooter.

Matt Roloff at IFDF 2007

All of the attendees seemed to enjoy his presentation.  And while I’d have enjoyed meeting him, he was running late for the airport to get home to see his family.

So here’s your picture, mom.  Sorry he was turned the wrong way!

I was taking pictures of my local firefighters knocking down a blaze that had engulfed a local house.

Eustis, Florida House Fire June 2007
Chief Roy Tremain supervises overhaul of the structure.

At roughly 9:00 pm on June 12, 2007, the Eustis Fire Department responded to a call for a “structure fire, residential.  Fully involved.”

To be fair, fully involved is subjective, since the person making the initial call might describe a small kitchen fire as “the house is burning down!” and a hot fire that has spread to the attic might only show as some smoke and a few glowing windows from the outside.

But when our guys rolled up on this one, it was cooking!  Fire poured out from the front door.  The back of the house was lit up like Cape Canaveral during a night launch.  Vinyl siding was melting off the house like… well, like melting vinyl siding.  The tree closest to the house was lit up as well. 

The lieutenant wisely called for defensive positions. 

And then they heard the explosion. 

A fire ball burst through the front door and one firefighter let out a shout of excitement.  These guys live for that kinda junk.

Todd Martin
Firefighter Todd Martin, elated after extinguishing the blaze.

They couldn’t save the contents of the house, but they halted the fire in short order.  By the time I got there (just 10 minutes after the call went out) our guys were coming out and their counterparts from the county fire department were starting overhaul.  ‘Overhaul’ is when they clean up and make sure any fires in the walls or ceiling are completely out.

Keith Broccolo
Firefighter Keith Broccolo after a job “well-done.”

I like my firefighters.  They continue to do great work.

 

I promised that I would share my experiences from the convention, so here goes.

I arrived at the exhibit hall on Thursday, June 7.  After scouting out the space and the loading dock, I met my dad at a local restaurant for lunch and to discuss our sales pitch.

While I haven’t shared my business plan with all my readers, some of you will know that my dad is the second part-time employee I hired (we’re up to four now!).

We arrived at the hall after 2:00 pm.  The exhibit space was set to open at 5:30 pm.

We carried over 30 quilted cot covers with us, enough to display, along with additional units in case anyone chose to purchase at the convention.

I really like the design of the IFDF Convention, since the exhibit hall does not compete with other sessions and dinner on day 1 and lunch on day 2 is served in the expo area.

Standing cocktail tables were set up in the aisles between the booths for attendees to eat their buffet-style meals.

Attendance was estimated at 300 – 400 guests.  And while some of those were wives, husbands and children, I’d say we got to speak to seventy or eighty funeral directors during our two days.

Day 2 saw the doors open at 12:00 pm for lunch.  I brought along Matt Coughlin from Central Florida First Call (407-425-3323), a removal service that is an old customer.  I figured a little “testimonial” action wouldn’t hurt anyone, and he definitely helped give new perspective to those to whom we presented.

Little People, Big World family photo.png
Above: Matt Roloff and family

Matt Roloff, star of the reality TV show “Little People, Big World,” was the keynote speaker for the event.  Rushing to catch an early plane, he wheeled through the expo hall on his scooter.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to speak with him or get a photo with him (sorry, Mom!).

Day 2 was sales day!  I had set an ambitious goal for the convention (10 sales) and decided that we would not attend the national convention (in Las Vegas in October) unless we were able to meet the goal.  And while I knew the goal was excessive, I also know that the national convention will cost in excess of $4000.

We met the goal with thirty minutes to spare. 

When all the other exhibitors started packing up, I walked the hall and handed out fliers announcing our blog and the “Meet Your Maker” series.  I figured that a few of the other exhibitors might want to have their products and services featured here.

Having worked for a member of the IFDF, I know that their organization works hard to provide an interesting convention experience and value. 

And we got value, as our spot at the expo cost less than $400 and created over $2000 in sales.

Not a bad start for the month of June.

georgia_tmo_a2007128_lrg.jpg

Here’s a cool picture of the fires currently burning up my home state of Florida.  Lot’s of smoke in the air around here.

I do a lot of work with the local fire department and the folks there have been on high alert.  A small brush fire just 500 yards from my house (YIKES!) was extinguished in a few short minutes by my guys. 

Conditions are quite dry (although we do have rain in the forecast) and we’re hoping that it doesn’t touch off like in did in 1998, when 100,000 acres burned in 39 Florida counties in less than a month.

Unfortunately, forecasters and fire experts tell that we’re in much worse shape that we were at the beginning of the 1998 fires. 

 Keep your fingers crossed!