The PGA Merchandise Show is coming up in a few days. I’ve been to many shows and I developed my own way of doing things at the show through my years of attending. I’m going to milk some thoughts out of my cranium which I hope will help you at the show whether you’re there as an attendee, media or exhibitor.
GENERAL SUGGESTIONS AND TIPS FOR ANYONE
Stay close to the Convention Center and don’t bring your car
Get a hotel or condo right next to the convention center. Stay close enough to walk or take a shuttle. It is nice to be able to walk to the show and go back to your hotel room if you need to dump some schwag off or take a break. There are shuttles which pick up and drop off up and down International Drive all the time, so even if you have a long walk, you can probably catch a shuttle.
Another great reason to be close is not having to drive a car to the show. Parking for me at the show has been a joke. Traffic on International Drive can be a zoo and parking can be worse. I remember waiting almost an hour to get into the parking lot to pay $10-20 for parking, only to walk farther to the show than if I’d gotten a hotel nearby. An hour in “show time” is a huge loss and waste of time. Oh, did I mention it was pouring rain? I was soaked by the time I got to the show.
Don’t stay at the Days Inn Convention Center
Don’t stay at the Days Inn Convention Center in Orlando. It sucks. Last year I booked this place on the phone and was quoted a rate of $54.00/night. As a golf blogger I can’t quite stay at the Ritz Carlton… My flight landed at 11pm or so and I got to the hotel at midnight. The unfriendly guy behind bullet proof glass (hint) checked me in. When he gave me my receipt, under the bullet proof glass I noticed he booked the rate at $80+ per night. I told him I’d reserved it for $54 and he just shrugged his shoulders and said, “that is the rate. You can try to find another hotel but they’re all sold out.” What am I going to do at midnight without a rental car and two large bags? I took the room and vowed to let people know about this bait and switch bulls**t.
The story doesn’t end there. When I got to the room it was awful. It smelled like mold, mildew and the stinky feet of thousands of kids who’d stayed in the room previously on their trips to Disneyworld. Blech.
Stock up on bottled water. Orlando is a swamp.
I’ll admit it. I’m not a fan of Orlando. The place is a stinky swamp. I know that smell. Every year I get grossed out by it and I can’t wait to get home to the fresh air. The tap water smells like swamp water too. I don’t even use it to brush my teeth. I pack plenty of bottled water to drink and to brush my teeth with.
Pack a laxative, just in case
My digestive system shuts down in Orlando too. It is either the swamp or the air pressure or perhaps both. If I don’t pack some sort of laxative to keep me regular, I can go the entire length of the show without taking care of business. Let me tell you, that is not fun, especially when you’re eating huge dinners every night with clients or pals or whoever. I don’t like that math at all.
Eye drops too
While we’re at it, I’d pack some eye drops. The Orlando swamp air kills my eyes. In the mornings especially my eyes are insanely bloodshot. When I’m in Orlando my eyes look like I’ve been in a smoky casino in vegas gambing 24/7 for a week straight. Last year my pal from PGA.com John and I had to make a special trip to a store just to get me eye drops after dinner one night. I was hurting.
Have a plan for walking the show
There are hundreds of booths at the show. It is almost impossible to stop by each one, say hello and check out what they have. The first show I went to years ago I literally wandered from booth to booth, distracted by the shiny gear, wild people, and of course all the local strippers classy ladies hired by booths to attract visitors.
Go to the PGA Show web site and check out the exhibitor list. There’s also a map of where they are. Make a checklist of the booths you want to visit, then map out a logical path to take. Budget your time for each day and follow your map of booths to visit.
Speaking of walking, wear good walking shoes
Two years ago I wore some nice dress shoes. These were good shoes for weddings or funerals and all the sitting involved. But these were not good walking shoes. By the end of the 2nd day I was limping with aching bones in my knees and had terrible blisters on my feet. Bring good walking shoes.
Make appointments, especially with the big guys
Booths like the Titleist booth can be jammed with visitors. If there’s someone specific you are there to see, make sure you have an appointment or you may never see them.
TIPS FOR PRESS AND BLOGGERS
The first year I attended the show as media I missed out on some things which nobody told me about. I didn’t know there was an internet connection in the press room. I ended up paying an insane amount of money for some commercial wireless connection to post my blogs. At the end of the show I complained about it, and was then told that there was a free connection for press members. DOH! It is usually an ethernet cable or two you have to find. Some press guys horde the thing so just go yank it out of their laptops if they’re not there. They’ll yank it out of yours.
Get to the press room as early as possible at the show to claim a locker! Did you press guys or bloggers know there are press lockers? This comes in VERY handy. Bring a lock (or you can check one out for free if you are one of the first few there) and claim a locker the first day you are there. The lockers go fast. Having a locker is great for storing your backpack and all the shwag you get at the show.
Don’t steal all the shwag press guys!
At last year’s show a footwear company had put a bunch of samples of ladies sandals in one of the cubbies in the press room. I went over to grab a pair for my lady. I watched a greedy press guy shove about 10 pairs of these things into his jacket. Wow what a loser. Come on man. Show some class.
TIPS FOR EXHIBITORS
You’ve just spent $20K on a booth at the biggest show in golf. This is your big chance. What do you do now? Here’s an idea or two to help you.
There are many exhibitors from other countries at the show. But this show is in America and we speak English here. I can’t tell you how many booths I’ve visited where the person behind the booth spoke Chinese or Japanese or French or whatever, and I couldn’t communicate with them. I would ask for someone who spoke English, but surprisingly many didn’t have an English speaking person on staff! Eventually I’ll just move on to another booth. You can’t sell your damn product if you can’t communicate with your buyers! DOH!
Pay attention to your booth’s visitors!
I’ve got photos from shows past where I went to visit a booth, only to find a person sitting in a chair with his back to the public. He’s got his laptop in his lap and he’s updating is Facebook page or Twittering. Hello? Knock knock!?!?! Is anyone home?
You just spent tens of thousands of dollars to get a booth at the biggest golf show in the world and you staff it with a guy who is surfing the internet with his back to all your potential customers? DUH!!!!
I don’t need a golf lesson
Last year I was in a hurry to get to an appointment. This guy from a horribly put together booth, which had no lights, dragged me to his booth. He wanted to show me his new golf glove. I told him I had a minute or two. He then proceeds to throw his glove on me, put a club in my hand, and have me start taking practice swings in the isle. His booth was blocked off all around so he could only talk to his customers and have them demo his stuff in the isle. I almost killed five people swinging a club in out in the middle of the foot traffic.
Then he proceeds to tell me how he can take strokes off my game. He’s trying to give me golf tips, adjust my grip, my stance, my swing plane. “You look like you are about an 18 handicap.” I didn’t respond because I didn’t want to tell him that I was actually a ONE handicap in front of his friends and other visitors… Geez, get me out of here.
Pack it up after the show is over
Starting at about noon on Saturday, some people just can’t wait to pack up their booth. The show isn’t even over and they’re already getting ready to leave. It amazes me that companies spend so much dough to be there, so they can ignore their visitors and then pack up to leave early.
You’re at a golf show displaying your equipment in front of 50,000 people. The goal is to get publlicity, sell your product, increase awareness and make lots of money. Right? Yet you don’t want press people taking pictures? Hello? Do you not want us press guys to write about your stuff either?
That’s it for now. I’m sure I’ll think of some other tips in the next few days. Check back.