Based on my personal experience - 17 years visiting Spielwarenmesse®, with only one missed due to leisure travel - this event is easily the most effective for conducting international toy business. So for those who haven’t yet worked out the places to go, and the way to maximise effectiveness of visiting the show, here are a few thoughts on how to get the most out of the show.
I find it all too easy to fill a diary with necessary meetings for days on end at the show, and usually fail to connect with a few people just because I can’t fit all the relevant meetings in. I believe my personal record is 52 meetings, a number which I know many exhibitors eclipse, however to achieve that 52 meetings, as a non-exhibiting visitor I have to walk considerable distances between exhibitor booths. My step counting gadget informs me that my record walking distance in one day is 16 miles, or roughly 26km! That is why I can especially recommend the first advice.
- Wear comfortable shoes!
If there is one piece of advice you take from this article, I would recommend this one. There are other (better) places to sacrifice comfort for fashion. I have conducted meetings with people wearing sports training shoes (sneakers), and thought nothing of it. The purpose of the show is to do business, and limping around in major discomfort is not going to enable you to focus on what needs to be done!
- Pre-book meetings
You can just drop onto exhibitor booths, and sometimes this can be an effective start point, but the key method of getting on in the toy industry is building a strong network of contacts. Why would you leave this to chance? When pre-booking, if you have to book meetings close to each other in your schedule, make sure they are also close in physical terms on the site – you wouldn’t be the first person to book a meeting for 30 minutes and then be nearly 30 minutes late getting there!
- Start as you mean to go on
Trade shows are not places where shy & timid people usually prosper, especially when trying to build a new business. Make sure to talk to the first person you see inside the doors, whether it is the person checking your badge, or another visitor, strike up a conversation, and get into the habit of talking to people you don’t know well in advance of when you hit the first sales pitch.
- Utilise online resources/database
The Spielwarenmesse® has a very user friendly & thorough exhibitor database on www.spielwarenmesse.de/en/online-catalogue which will allow you to search by exhibitor name or product group. This excellent database is available after the show also, allowing you to check back on companies you visited or saw, or to check for a phone number so you can follow up.
- Once the show closes for the day, the business begins!
This is not to suggest that business is not done at the show – in fact billions of € in business is conducted during show hours. However, the after-hours time can be just as important in terms of meeting new contacts, having informal discussions over a fine german beer or bumping into someone on the underground train. From a personal perspective, I can directly link some of my biggest commercial deals to conversations made out of show hours. It’s usually easier than it might appear to tap into the after-hours scene, for instance the UK toy trade people can often be found in two Irish bars in Nuremberg Aldstadt – O’ Shea’s & Finnegans.
Use the visitors services of the Spielwarenmesse® for a structured preparation of the toy fair. With the app and the online databases, you have the right tools to help you plan your trade fair visit.