A Noob’s Guide to Outdoor Retailer
I stepped out onto the showroom floor, on Day 1, with a sense of awe of the bright and bustling world I entered in to. I started following a map I drew to my next appointment, safe to say I had no idea how the floor plan worked. I finally arrived at the booth just on time, but my colleague was nowhere to be seen, so I stepped out of my comfort zone and started chatting with one of the reps. After a few connections, I got pulled into our meeting and had to stumble my way through something I was not prepared for. My colleague swooped in 10 minutes later to save the day. A rough start to the week, but thankfully I wasn’t fazed. It set the tone for the rest of the show, environment, preparedness, and discomfort. From someone who failed right off the bat at OR here are several tips so you can have a better first day than I did.
“Wear comfy shoes, and stay hydrated”
This was one of the first things I read about OR and they weren’t wrong. I chose these Sketchers for their memory foam soles and it paid off quite nicely only resulting in leg fatigue at the end of the first day.
Environmental sustainability was THE leading theme at OR and for good reason. Plastic in the ocean is expected to outweigh all fish by 2050 (Source)! Bring a water bottle to fill up at water stations and some other gear to make meals less wasteful and avoid judging eyes:
· Water Bottle: Nalgene w/ Narrow Neck
· Coffee Mug: (I forgot mine and wish I had it) Campy Coffee Mug
· Utensils: Collapsible Vargo Spork
People are late at this show, and it’s pretty much unavoidable. YOU don’t have to be though, arrive on time and be willing to wait and mingle until your contact is ready to chat.
Registration takes up to an Hour
We were late to our first meeting because we hadn’t gotten our badges yet, and on Tuesday morning at 9 am the looping line took an hour to get through.
The show floor is BIG
It can take up to 20 minutes to find and navigate to a booth, and it’s pretty easy to get lost, well for me at least. Make sure you have breathing space between meetings, we found that a meeting an hour worked out well. Meetings are often under 30mins but with that breathing room, you can invest more time if you are hitting it off, or finally get a chance to go to the bathroom.
SCHEDULING • PREPARATION • HANDOUTS • FOLLOW UP
Scheduling: Stepping foot into a booth without a scheduled meeting is disliked by brands. Do whatever you can to plan meetings in advance, digging up contacts for each company.
Prepare: Do your research about the company you are meeting with: What is their heritage? Who’s their market? What are their Values? I found I didn’t know quite enough about some of these companies before I set foot in their booth.
Material: Prepping material is key at OR, people will forget about you unless you place something memorable in their hands. It also allows the brand to recall the contents of the meeting and next steps. This leads us to:
Follow Up: Make note of any to-do items from each meeting and reach out a few days after the show to continue the conversation. Keep in mind many brands don’t get back into the office for almost a week sometimes.
People are Awkward.
People are awkward at this show, it’s not only you. The CEO of a major outdoor company, yep him too. You will feel awkward and know that is how it feels for most anyone. If you are intentionally engaging, listening, and creating a comfortable environment you will be miles ahead of lots of attendees.
Look for Common Interests
At a place like OR, this is a lot easier, since everyone has one thing in common, the great outdoors. Many of the relationships my colleague had at the show were forged over the love for fly-fishing, and it was a fast way to push past a business relationship into a friendship.
Cell Service Sucks – Cell service is nigh impossible to get inside the conference center (I’m on AT&T) so it’s important to get connected to Wi-Fi if you can find it. Pelican Wi-Fi #FTW
Don’t Go Gear Crazy – There’s lots of free stuff, but do you really need more stuff? Will you use it? If not, pay attention to the brands and not the stuff they are giving away.
E-Scooters – Denver’s electric scooters are incredibly convenient, and if you are in a real pinch I can confirm that two 6ft tall guys can successfully ride the same scooter. Possible but not recommended.
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