Alexandria, VA, March 9, 2007--Coverings, the tile and stone trade exposition and conference is an effective catalyst for business--whether you’re an exhibitor or attendee.
This year’s edition, April 17-20, in Chicago at McCormick Place Convention Center, promises to be opportunistic as ever for the 1,200 exhibitors and more than 33,000 anticipated visitors. In fact, based on last year’s activity, approximately 90 percent of those who attend Coverings are expected to walk away having placed orders for a product or service, with the average purchase total around $180,000. Even if no deals are brokered on the spot, the value of adding new resources and contacts has its own eventual payoffs.
While success is very much in the wind for anyone who’s Coverings-bound, the experience always is far more rewarding when it is well mapped out ahead of time.
“If I were to offer just one piece of advice about Coverings,” said Tamara Christian, CEO of National Trade Productions, the show’s producer, “it would be to plan ahead. Before you even leave for Chicago, think about what it is you want to accomplish and work out a strategy for covering Coverings—the aisles of the show, the conferences and presentations that appeal to you, and even the after-hours networking events. Literally, sit down and work out your daily schedule—even if it’s a barebones outline.”
In addition to words of advice, Coverings also has an arsenal of tools available to make the show the best possible experience, and most of these aids can be easily accessed from your desktop and the Coverings Web site. To create a personal daily agenda, for instance, the convenience of www.coverings.com/my_agenda.html is a sure bet. With GPS-like precision, you can refer to the exhibit map onscreen and plot out your aisle-by-aisle exhibit visits for day-by-day scheduling. You can add in any individual appointments, plus selections from the seminar series and after-hours events.
Another powerful online tool for both exhibitor and attendee is Coverings Connect, www.coverings.com/connect. It is a search program developed especially to bring together buyer and seller. Use it before you even pack your bags for the show, and your entire trip is guaranteed to be more strategic, focused and efficient. Coverings Connect (a new and improved version of the former Matchmaking program) is a free service, and participants can search by Exhibitor Category, Product and Service. What’s more, via Coverings Connect meetings with exhibitors and vendors can even be set up before the show floor opens, another time saving consideration.
Eric Pate, owner of Old World Stone, in Pullayup, WA, has been going to Coverings since day one. He’s used Coverings Connect and also makes a list of “Must See” exhibitors that defines his days at the show.
“If you attend with someone,” he counseled, “try to split up in order to see as many booths as possible. If you’re pressed for time, be sure to take information from exhibitors that catch your eye, because you can always follow up with them after the show. And, be sure to bring an extra bag to carry home all the brochures and samples,” he added.
Although Pat Harkins, president of PHI Builders, Inc., Omaha, NE, is a Coverings freshman, having first attended last year’s show, he instinctively knew to plan ahead. “We knew which vendors we wanted to target so we contacted them prior to the show and made appointments to see them in advance.” He is planning to go to Chicago in April, pleased that it’s an easy trip to drive. “We are going to prioritize our list this year, and build in free time, as well, just to explore, because you never know what great resources you’ll come across.”
According to Adrianne Boyd, owner of Seven Lakes Tile, in Seven Lakes, NC, who will be making the trip to Chicago in April her sixth time at Coverings, it helps that the show is so well organized. “Even though there’s so much to see—from natural stone to porcelain to ceramic—we can find everything we are looking for. It’s very efficient to navigate the show. We find things we didn’t even know were available in the market which, in turn, gives us an edge over our competitors.” Boyd said she depends on Coverings to present the newest products and latest trends, and credits the show for discovering her best suppliers.
D.C. interior designer Mary Douglas Drysdale echoed Boyd’s claim on how smartly exhibit space is organized and how easy it is to navigate the show. “Last year was the first time I attended Coverings and it was one of the best 12 hours I’ve ever spent. The choices available in tile and stone today are amazing, and everything was conveniently located under one roof,” she remarked. “Not only is there an incredible representation of products, but they’re presented in inspirational, impressive settings. I liked that the booths were well-manned. I was able to ask lots of questions and take back samples with me. As trade shows go, it was a wonderful experience and I feel I accomplished my goal, which was to expand my resources for my high-end projects beyond the immediate D.C. area.”
At-Show and on the Aisles…
So many other details and visitor amenities help keep Coverings running like a well-oiled machine for the four-days so that business is conducted in the most time efficient—and pleasurable—manner possible.
A motorized “tram” service helps shuttle attendees around the 500,000+ net square feet of exhibit space. Sponsored by Ceramic Tiles of Italy and Tile of Spain, these multi-train carts continually operate during the day and make stops at the request of passengers.
A cluster of manufacturers from 11 different countries, including Spain, Italy, North America, Brazil, Germany, Turkey, Israel and China, to name a few, can be found in pavilions that are sponsored by each country’s respective tile or stone trade association. One can find scores of individual exhibitors grouped in these areas, helping to maximize time.
Internet Cafés are situated in the main lobbies just off the show floor and are an appreciated convenience for those who need to touch down and check emails while on the road.
One other convenience being offered and especially targeted to the interior design and architectural community of Chicago is a free shuttle bus service between the Chicago Merchandise Mart and McCormick Place. This free transportation is being offered Wednesday and Thursday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. and will depart from the South Entrance of the Merchandise Mart every hour on the hour. “We know that design professionals visit the Mart daily and it is a regional mecca of showrooms and resources,” explained Christian. “So, we felt that during Coverings it made perfect sense to connect the dots and make sure any designers at the Mart who wanted to get to Coverings had a simple way to do so.”
In A Nutshell…
For anyone getting ready for getting down to business at Coverings 2007, here’s a few final pieces of advice:
• Review the Coverings exhibitor list on the Web site and create a
hierarchy of those you want to visit and meet with. Take advantage
of Coverings Connect to connect schedule appointments in advance with exhibitors who are best suited to your needs. Utilize the My Agenda tool—like any checklist, it can keep you focused and on track.
• Study the floor plan, also posted on the Web, to help you chart
the most sensible “routing” for your coverage. It can help eliminate a lot
of the zigzag between aisles and exhibits.
• Highlight your favorite conference seesions and add them to your personal planner with My Agenda. The sessions are free, they net you CEU credits, and the caliber of experts who present is first-rate, which is why this is a component of Coverings that consistently earns praise.
• Many dealer or distributor buying groups who attend typically divide and conquer, a proven means to effectively cover the show. One team might be on a mission to seek out trends, another specifically to discover new sources, and another to see what an existing vendor is introducing. Even for these Coverings veterans, the online tools are beneficial.