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Archive for the ‘School Equipment’ Category

By Jeff Pett, Fleetwood Group

As a manufacturer in the school furniture market, the NSSEA School Equipment Show is our biggest show each year.  We talk all year about what our plans are and what we are hoping to get out of it.  We have had a good show this year.

I think most people who are here would agree that the show seems to be smaller than last year’s show. It felt like the traffic in the aisles was way down, and the booth “footprint” felt smaller.  If you came here hoping to set up your booth and draw in new prospects, this had to have been a disappointing year.  None of that, of course, is not a good thing.  However, as a manufacturer of furniture that is too big and heavy to drag around the country showing off to your dealer-partners, we use this week to show new ideas and products while training new dealer sales people.  And this year was a bonus for us since we recently added two new sales team members, so they got to meet many of their key contacts this week.

Our top 30 dealers account for over 90 percent of our sales and most of them were here this year.  If you wandered by our booth you saw a very busy place most of the first two days.  Relationships were renewed or created, there was some “surprise and delight” new product ideas, and generally we had a great week.

One more thing that I found interesting was the number of people in the show hall “before hours.”  I don’t remember seeing so many groups taking advantage of that time for dedicated group meetings in their booths before.  And while there is some extra cost involved, it is a great way to have uninterrupted quality time with bigger groups of customers.

Hope you were in Phoenix this year, too, and that you had a great week, too!

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The School Equipment Show, which is less than a week away, is the place to be for suppliers, distributors, school planners and architects in the educational furniture, fixtures and equipment market! This year’s show, held November 17-19 at the Phoenix Convention Center, will include innovative products, engaging workshops and worthwhile networking opportunities. It is a show that can’t be missed. Will we see you in Phoenix next week?

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By Jim Kolettis, Mahar Manufacturing

I thought it might be a good idea to share with our members, both dealers and suppliers some “what’s and why’s”.

As the global economy begins to snap back, we are starting to travel once again. Where will we be going? One place that we all should plan on spending some time will be at NSSEA’s School Equipment Show in Phoenix, Arizona this November 17-19 (pause for collective groan). Some of you may feel that it is not the most enjoyable thing to go to just to hand out your business card; however, maybe you feel this way because nobody ever told you how to get the most out a tradeshow. One of the biggest advantages is the number of customers and potential customers; vendors and potential vendors that you can interact with in one trip and in such a short period of time.

It’s All About Having Goals

In all of my years of attending, exhibiting, and producing countless tradeshows, I created goals for what I want to accomplish while I’m there. As simple as this may sound, there’s actually a trick to doing it right.

The goals that you set need to consist of creating a specific business purpose that has an associated objective that is quantifiable. It can be very easy to get caught up in the show (the ton of pre-show material that you get can help to build the hype), but in the end identifying who you want to talk with and what you want to learn will make sure that your time is well spent.

For the exhibitor it means the dealers, end users, and specifiers. Interacting with people from all these segments will help you to understand other points of view for future product evolutions, new designs, and to validate if your marketing message has been effective. Will they be using the competition or just not using a product(s) in your line? It’s a great place to check out the competition to see first hand what features, advantages and benefits they are promoting. This is valuable input into your product roadmap (both for what to include and what to avoid – or how to sell it differently). Also, it’s the perfect time to reinforce the key benefits of a product with your sales team and to better understand the sales objections that are being raised. Oddly, tradeshows are the ideal arena in which to interact with your own sales team to ensure that your products are being represented properly and to gather and process feedback from the field.

For the attendee it means visiting with the exhibitors, attending the sessions, taking part in business conversations in any roundtable or networking events and learning how to increase sales with new product lines.

Time Management Counts

You wouldn’t show up for work without having a plan (would you?) so you need to have a plan in place BEFORE you arrive. You can create your plan by taking the time to read the promotional material, going over the meeting agendas and using the SES Online Planner.

You should spend time studying the layout of the show floor so that you know what vendor booths you want to visit and in which order you are going to want to visit them. Before the show, take an hour and surf the web sites of the firms that you are thinking about visiting and make a final decision as to if you want to spend the time with them.

It’s All About Appointments

To get the most out of any show, the best way to maximize your time is to schedule appointments with customers and vendors before the show. Now you are not the only one to realize this and so you’ll have to set up your appointments well before the show date in order to get on everyone’s calendar.

Too Much Really Is Too Much

The School Equipment Show is a dynamic event – you might think that you know what is going to happen before the show, but things can change either before or during show. This means that you don’t want to fully book your day – leave open times. This “free time” will become valuable as you meet new people and exhibitors at the show that you want to have discussions with. Having a list of back-up people and booths that you’d be willing to visit with is always a good idea. If an appointment cancels on you or if a scheduled vendor doesn’t show up, you’ll need to have a plan to fill in your sudden free time.

Work With Non-Competing Exhibitors

Look, any tradeshow is probably too much for you to handle by yourself. Even if other people from your company are going, you could still quickly end up being overloaded. One way to deal with this situation is to enlist help from people at other firms.

This might sound a little weird to you, but here’s how it goes. You reach out to your network of people who work for non-competing companies and find out who will be attending the same show. You call them up and find out what they are going to be highlighting at the show. Likewise, you tell them what you’ll be promoting. Finally, you offer to send any prospects that you run into their way if they’ll do the same for you. This can be a great way to reach out to potential customers that you might not otherwise be able to contact.

What All Of This Means For You

In addition to much of the tradeshow behavior already discussed – I like to eavesdrop. What’s the buzz at the tradeshow? What are people talking about when they’re not specifically talking to me? What off-hand comments are being made about a product or feature? I have found just keeping my ears open between meetings provides a lot of opportunity, and often makes me a better advocate for my customers.

A tradeshow can easily appear to be a big waste of time – if you are not prepared in advance for it. However, if you take the time to plan out what you’ll be doing, it can turn into a big success for you. The key is to take the time before the show to sit down and identify what you really want to accomplish, who you want to meet with, and how you can get your message out to the most people who will be at the show.

Time is the one thing that none of us ever seem to have enough of. Trade shows in general can be an enormous waste of time and expense if you don’t plan for them. However, by doing some planning before the show, you can transform this potential waste of time into a big boost for your business.

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NSSEA is partnering with the Kids In Need Foundation (KINF) for the 2010 School Equipment Show next month in Phoenix, AZ. The Kids in Need Foundation supports a national network of 25 Resource Centers that benefit needy students by allowing teachers from low-income schools to “shop” for school supplies free of charge. Resource Center merchandise is provided by monetary and in-kind donations from generous businesses and individuals.

This year, the School Equipment Show donation will benefit Treasures 4 Teachers, located in Tempe, AZ. In July of 2010, a storm hit Tempe, AZ and left the center without a building or the supplies needed to continue its mission.

To participate, complete a Donation Form and email or fax it to Lesley Walton at 937.296.1215 by Friday, November 12.

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By Jeff Pett, Fleetwood Group

We are beginning to do the last-minute, mad-dash preparations for this year’s NSSEA School Equipment Show in Phoenix.  The planning for this event actually began for us the month after last year’s show.  We met with our whole sales team and talked through the 2009 show in terms of what we thought went well, what products showed well, and what we thought we should do differently the following year.

At that time we decided to commit to the same amount of floor space as we have for the past several years, and made some early decisions as to what we might want to show again in 2010 and what kinds of new products we might want to highlight.  Then we set that whole planning process aside for a few months.

In midsummer, we pulled out those early plans, dusted them off and started laying out our prospective booth and placing furniture in it.  In early September, I thought we were solid with the furniture we would show.  Then, when our sales team met later in September, we made some changes to show some new and different products.  The plan actually changed quite a bit!

The result is that this year, in addition to showing some old standby products that will have a “freshened” look, we will be showing several products we have never shown before.  We will even show a product category that we have been building for a few schools that people would not normally associate with Fleetwood Group furniture.

And that is part of the fun of this show!  Since over 30 percent of what we build each year falls into the category of “specials”, we are always creating ways to meet unique needs of our customers, so we always have something new to show.  All the manufacturers will be doing the same kinds of things, trying to show what they are capable of, and what kinds of creative solutions they have brought to market or are about to.  And, of course, relationships are renewed with old industry friends, and new ones are forged… a dynamic that is more important in this business than in any other I have been a part of.

Rumor has it that a number of manufacturers are sitting out the show this year, and many dealers are attending with fewer of their team members.  We are hopeful that people will rally around this show and make it a worthwhile event for all.  The event needs a certain critical mass to be viable, and even in tough times an event like this one is a kind of crossroads where commerce is centered, and being there is important in and of itself.  Like so many other things in life, this show is probably a “use it or lose it” event.  Let’s support it!

See you in Phoenix!

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In a Minnesota classroom, sixth grade teacher Abby Brown conducts class as usual, mindful of one little difference: stand-up desks. Students in Ms. Brown’s classroom don’t have to sit in chairs and be still for hours on end—though they can if they like. Ms. Brown designed stand-up desks to give students the flexibility to stand or sit—or a little bit of both—while they work.

 

Ms. Brown noticed that some students prefer to stand more often than not at the adjustable-height desks. Others feel more comfortable engaging in a bit of movement while standing, for instance wiggling from side to side or shifting weight from one foot to another.

 

The stand-up desks are a wonderful addition to the classroom, and more schools should introduce them. It’s not always practical to expect children to stay glued to a chair for hours at a time without fidgeting, becoming distracted or restless. Children need movement, and these desks allow them to do that in a calm, productive way. View the NYT article on stand-up desks.

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Jeff Pett, VP Sales & Marketing

Fleetwood Group, Inc.

 

It’s the day after a fairly long week of travel to two significant shows in our world.  We had our whole sales team along with our CEO in Baltimore for the NSSEA show last week, then we went straight to Las Vegas (do not pass “Go”, do not collect $200) for a corporate show put on by our biggest customer.  We were gone from the “home base” exactly one week, and across 3 time zones.  It’s good to get back home again, but, oy, the emails!

 

NSSEA was good overall.  We were busy in our booth all of Thursday and most of Friday.  Saturday was pretty dead.  (A lot of the dealers we work with from around the country had to make a choice this year since most could not afford to attend 2 shows in one year.)  For our part we could have had the show itself in two days and still have met with everyone we needed to.  Even two and a half days, if the half day was Friday, would probably have been good.  (Rumor has it that we may have that schedule in Phoenix.  Yes!) 

 

I do have to sympathize with the NSSEA show planners, though.  Before coming to Fleetwood I was a school administrator (business manager), and it seemed like every vacation start and stop date was a painful decision, too.  No matter when you start the vacation, some families are going to pull their kids early, and no matter when you end the vacation some families will keep their kids out a day or two longer.  Teachers get upset, tests have to be taken later, and home work gets ignored.  So, I am guessing that the leadership at NSSEA goes through a similar painful process.  We’re like all those school kids… no matter when the show ends many of us will be anxious to leave early.  For the record, my sales team would vote for full afternoons for the exhibit hall on Wednesday and Thursday, with 9 to noon on Friday.

 

One more thing that I’ve seen at a couple of other shows that NSSEA may want to consider:

1)     When major group meetings or break out sessions are scheduled, close the exhibit hall.  That way no one is tempted to miss their meetings, and exhibitors get a planned break.

2)     Instead of the half day on Friday, plan an “opening” the first night, say from 5 to 7.  Have all the booths open and have people roaming around with hors d’oeuvores.  It might be a fun way to kick off the show.

 

I know; everyone’s a critic!  Expectations are high for a great show in Phoenix, and it should be a well attended event.  And the decision to move the School Equipment Show to the fall will play out to have been a great decision in the long run!  Thank you to whoever made that happen!!

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