The first time is always memorable

Published on July 4, 2014

It was our first time.  We were excited, nervous, and self-conscious.  But we were ready.  And it was GREAT.

Our first convention!!!!!

VLA convention
Gil (right) and Joe Huberty (left) attend the VLA Conference in Williamsburg


Your first convention is a lot like getting your first apartment.  When you move into your first place, you realize how little furniture you have.  How expensive appliances are.  How few kitchen utensils you have (and how many you need!  Seriously, did you know they make a double sided spatula so you can make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without getting peanut butter in the jelly—or worse—vice versa? I NEED THIS.)  You’re starting almost from scratch.  Well, our first convention was like that.

Luckily, our awesome team partner, Engberg Anderson was an old hat at the vendor circuit, and was able to offer advice and more importantly, a booth!


I apologize for the poor quality of the photo. We were so tired, I thought the camera was in focus, and it was just my eyes that were blurry.


While Joe and Diane worked on new graphics for the booth, Gil and I got busy doing my favorite thing…finding swag to pass out.  We spent a lot of time vetting possible promotional items, and took many things into consideration.  We wanted items that people would actually use on a fairly regular basis, to help get our brand on the streets as much as possible.  Plus, it needed to be attractive, since we are advertising a design firm.  And on top of that, we felt we needed to offer something a little different, something that stood out from all the other baubles being passed out.

After days of searching, this is what we went with–followed by an explanation as to why:


swag bag
The bag


We know reusable bags are a bit overdone.  From public radio to pharmaceutical companies, everyone has their name on a bag.  But there is a reason why everyone uses bags to promote their business…people USE them!    And not  just for groceries.  I use them to carry all the junk that won’t fit in my purse—lunch, set of comfortable shoes, umbrella, notebooks, etc.  I use them when I travel and when I go to the farmer’s market.  But I had an issue with the tote bags I’ve picked up before…the handles are too small to casually throw the bag over my shoulder (totally necessary when you pack the bag full of anything heavy), and they’re not really attractive.    We figured if we could find an interesting looking bag, that functions well, people would be prone to use them, and thus, our brand would be more visible to more people on a daily basis.  We chose a large  bag with longer handles and an additional pocket for too keep small items separate.  I think our bags turned out to look pretty cool!  And based on how many we handed out, it appears the folks at the convention thought so, too.

We also passed out these:

The sunglasses


The thought behind the sunglasses:  They’re fun, very inexpensive, and different.  No one else at the trade show had them.  And they fit perfectly in the little exterior pocket on the tote bags.  I doubt anyone  is going to substitute our sunglasses for their Ray-bans, but they’re cute and when someone forgets they left their Ray-bans in the other car, our sunglasses will be there to save the day!

We also included a bunch of printed material including a look-book of our team’s libraries, a postcard (that really just acted as a huge business card), and CANDY!  Because who doesn’t like candy. I’ve heard there are people out there who don’t care for chocolate, and quite frankly, that makes me not care for them.

Of course, there’s more to exhibiting at a convention than just the swag.  There’s the conversation, the information, the people, the handshakes, the exchanging of business cards.  I don’t know if it’s the type of people that attend a library convention (librarians) or just our luck, but everyone was extremely nice and approachable.  We met folks with public libraries, academic libraries, private libraries, and MLS students.  And without fail, every single one of them was nice, easy to talk to. If they were not genuinely interested in us, did a great job of faking it.

We made some great contacts, and had a great time.  I’d have to say that our first time was a success!

image courtesy of Pierre Courtois of the Library of Virginia