trade tales | May 10, 2024 |
How do you make the most of trade shows?

From High Point Market in North Carolina to Salone in Milan, springtime means it’s trade show season. This week, we asked 10 designers—Hillary Cohen, Jessica Davis, Amy Elbaum, Amanda Gunawan, Amber Guyton, Keri Lainas, Laetitia Laurent, Lindsay Lucas, Rachel Moriarty and Karen Wolf—what tips they have to enjoy these major industry events to the fullest.

How do you make the most of trade shows?
Rachel MoriartyCourtesy of Rachel Moriarty

The Full Package
“Trade shows offer a wealth of inspiration and new products. I continuously seek out emerging color trends, innovative materials and unique products to integrate into my design projects. Whether sourcing for specific projects or discovering new artisans, these shows are integral to staying ahead in the industry. They also offer incredible networking opportunities with fellow designers, industry experts and vendors, and provide a platform for forging product design partnerships. Direct discussions with manufacturers enable customization possibilities, resulting in bespoke pieces that align with our design ethos. Attending educational sessions at trade shows is also essential for professional growth. I prioritize programming focused on design innovations, technology, sustainability, business strategies and advocacy opportunities (I’m proud to be one of the founding members of High Point Market’s Diversity Advocacy Alliance). These sessions enrich our knowledge base and keep us on top of industry trends, enhancing our credibility as design leaders.” —Rachel Moriarty, Rachel Moriarty Interiors, San Diego

How do you make the most of trade shows?
Keri LainasCourtesy of Keri Lainas

Map It Out
“Prior to attending a trade show, I typically review the vendor list and create a road map of those I want to see and connect with, plus the seminars I plan to attend. Trade shows are a huge learning experience, but they can be overwhelming. I always tell myself if I get to take in 10 percent of what’s offered, it’s worth it. Reaching out and networking with fellow designers or reps who will also be in attendance is a great way to help relationships blossom.” —Keri Lainas, Keri Michelle Interiors, San Diego

How do you make the most of trade shows?
Karen WolfCourtesy of Karen Wolf

All Hands on Deck
“To maximize the potential of trade shows, I employ several strategies. First, I ensure that team members alternate, allowing for fresh perspectives and increased coverage of the event. Making appointments beforehand is crucial, but I limit them to the early morning, as the rest of the day tends to be more spontaneous. I use video to capture as much as possible and photograph each tag after capturing the main item, ensuring we document our favorites. Additionally, I focus on specific areas of interest during each visit, such as exploring art resources or discovering new upholstery lines. Delegating sample follow-ups to a design assistant streamlines the process. Lastly, I attend as many relevant events as possible, as even discovering just a few new resources can be highly beneficial.” —Karen Wolf, K+Co. Living, Short Hills, New Jersey

How do you make the most of trade shows?
Amanda GunawanJoel Wong

Prior Research
“I am already looking at the list of vendors and researching them in advance to see whose products I’m interested in and who I want to make connections with. Usually, I choose things that my clients would need or like, products I would like to learn more about, and new and innovative products whose technology I’m interested in. I like to overachieve in this department, and then categorize them according to priority. Chances are, on the day itself, you won’t have enough time to get to them all because conversations with reps will end up longer than you’d expect. From there I just try to connect and network with as many people as possible. I treat trade shows like a chance to learn about the newest products and meet as many new people in the industry as possible.” Amanda Gunawan, OWIU Design, Los Angeles

How do you make the most of trade shows?
Laetitia LaurentGilles Trillard Photo

Reach Your Goals
“This topic is top of mind as I just returned from High Point, where I took my whole team. It’s a blessing to be able to do that, but it is certainly an investment. I wanted to make sure we were intentional about our visit and got the most out of it. When attending a trade show, I always have the following goals in mind: First, see the pieces I have been drawn to and want to propose to clients, making sure to touch the furnishings, sit on the sofas, and vet all the finishes in person. Next, make note of new trends—I might not incorporate all of them, but knowing what is popular certainly allows me to stay current. Also, discover new lines—while I have my tried-and-true suppliers, I always love bumping into a new manufacturer at a trade show and expanding my design offerings with new vendors. Finally, meet with our reps, because as the principal, I seldom see them when they pop into the studio. It’s nice to have some face time and nurture those relationships.” —Laetitia Laurent, Laure Nell Interiors, Boca Raton, Florida

How do you make the most of trade shows?
Amber GuytonCourtesy of Amber Guyton

Time management
“Large conferences and trade shows can feel overwhelming, so I approach it like a job fair: Make a list of the top 10 booths you want to visit and prepare for each visit, and know who you want to see and what you want to get out of it. Once those prioritized booths, showrooms and representatives are visited, the rest of my time is spent with an exploration and networking mindset. Discovering new things, products and brands; getting educated; being inspired; and meeting new people and building relationships are just as important, so you want to organize your time so you have space for those goals too.” Amber Guyton, Blessed Little Bungalow, Atlanta

How do you make the most of trade shows?
Lindsay LucasCourtesy of Lindsay Lucas

Two Sides of the Same Coin
“I attend shows with two totally opposite approaches and split time between each approach. We dedicate a few days to Market, and however we go after it, we need to get the job done. One approach is to stay open to everything new and visit showrooms we have not seen before. I am very decisive, so this approach works well because instantly I discern whether or not a vendor is a fit for our brand. The other is a full-blown mission approach. We leverage technology as we design by 3D modeling the new spaces we propose for our clients. This approach allows us to create lists per project, per space, including dimensions. It is critical not to lose focus and to keep front and center in our minds why we are there. We attend Market to hunt down interesting, high-value, beautiful pieces that fit our brand and serve our clients well.” —Lindsay Lucas, Lindsay Laine Interiors, Pittsford, NY

How do you make the most of trade shows?
Hillary CohenCourtesy of Hillary Cohen

Packing List
“Trade shows can be super overwhelming because there are so many great products and companies to see. I like to go in with a shopping list of pieces I’m looking for for existing clients and things I’d love to add to our inventory. I also take a look at our sourcing list to see if there are any holes—for example, if we need new lighting vendors or better-upholstered goods. This way, I have a focus when I’m at the show, which helps me feel like I’ve made the best use of my time to make the trip feel worthwhile. My next tip is fashion-related but super helpful: I wear comfortable shoes and a cross-body bag so I’m hands-free all day; not being worried about my feet or fussing with a bag just makes the day go easier.” —Hillary Cohen, HCO Interiors, Basking Ridge, New Jersey

How do you make the most of trade shows?
Amy ElbaumCourtesy of Amy Elbaum

“Trade shows are where we preview new products and test out the quality and comfort of the pieces we recommend to our clients. A show like Las Vegas Market is super easy to do in a one-day trip from the West Coast. The show is twice a year, and has some great medium-price-point vendors that work for so many clients. High Point Market is similar, but on a much bigger scale. There is some overlap of the two vendor lists, but High Point is where you can really see it all—but it takes at least two to three days to cover. Round Top is something I haven’t made it to yet, but I hear it is great for scoring some amazing antiques!” —Amy Elbaum, AE Design, Los Angeles

How do you make the most of trade shows?
Jessica DavisCourtesy of Jessica Davis

Immersion Travel
“When I travel for a trade show, I make it a point to visit as many local sources as possible. Finding local showrooms, art galleries and markets is always inspiring and enjoyable. I also love attending panels and talks. Additionally, exploring local restaurants and places known for their great food and design is a fun aspect of visiting new places during a trade show.” —Jessica Davis, Atelier Davis, Atlanta and South Orange, New Jersey

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