When the NRF EXPO Hall opens Sunday morning, it will mark my 26th consecutive year exhibiting at Retail’s Big Show. I have been attending this show so long, I can remember when the show was hosted in several disconnected and disjointed ballrooms at the New York Hilton on 6th Avenue.
This year’s NRF at the Javits Center is a far cry from those days, but one thing remains the same: making the most out of your time in the EXPO Hall can be a daunting challenge. There will be 35,000 people at the show this year, and NRF tells us that there will be over 600 vendors pitching their wares. Making your time productive requires careful floor plan mapping as well as a clear strategy once you arrive in one of those 600 booths.
As a veteran of 25 NRF EXPO Hall marathons, here are three tips that can help you develop a winning strategy for making the most of your booth meetings:
1. Schedule Your NRF Meetings in Advance
I know how annoying it can be when all seemingly 600+ NRF vendors email and call you at once, trying to lure you into an appointment during the show. And I get how terrifying it can be to respond, fearing even the smallest sign of interest will unleash a relentless torrent of follow-up messages and calls. And with some vendors, your fears are probably legit (but never Aptos, of course!!)
Setting an advance appointment with Aptos – or any vendor – gives the meeting host a chance to design an experience that is specifically tailored to your needs. Once we understand your areas of interest, we will schedule the right experts to ensure the meeting accomplishes your goals – the entire reason you agreed to a meeting in the first place!
Sure, as vendors, we love walk-ups – booth traffic, like store traffic, is always a good thing – but when people arrive unannounced, it can be difficult to find the right people and the right resources to optimize the meeting – and your time.
2. Limit Your Time in Any One Booth
Information overload is a significant risk at a show like NRF. Believe me, we vendors LOVE to talk. (If we’ve met before, you know this to be true.)We love to show you all the great things we can do to help you succeed. And if you let us, we will happily monopolize your time and do our best to keep you away from our competitors lurking down the aisle.
But that isn’t good for you or the value you derive from NRF. Limit the time you commit to each meeting and keep that commitment. Know what you want to learn from each vendor before you step into their booth, and then make your escape and explore. And, if you happen to make your way back to the Aptos booth because you’ve missed our winning personalities, or more likely, your tired feet craved our booth’s triple padded carpet, we’ll welcome you back with open arms.
3. Take Charge of the Meeting
The reason we are at NRF is to meet with you. Yes, you, Mr. or Mrs. Retailer. And when you step into our booth, it’s still all about you. For this reason, we welcome you to take charge of the meeting. Prioritize your questions in advance and ensure every one of those minutes you spend in each booth address everything you were after. While our main goal is to make this time as beneficial to you as possible, despite our best efforts, we’re not mind readers. Help us, help you. Keep us aligned with your priorities, and re-focus us if the conversation ever drifts too far afield. It will help prevent information overload and help you optimize your vendor evaluations.
You might think that after 25 NRF experiences I would have more to say, but in keeping with my own advice to be brief, I will leave it here. I hope these tips from a grizzled and gray veteran vendor will help you make the most of your time at NRF.
And I definitely hope to see you there, taking charge of our meeting.