National Stationery Show Prep: Making a List and Checking It Twice

January 07, 2013

All of a sudden it's 2013, which means the National Stationery Show is mere months away. I'm beyond excited to be heading back to New York in May for my second NSS. While I've heard your first year is often your toughest (for all of the obvious reasons), I'm anticipating year two will take just as much grit, creativity, energy, etc. etc. if not more. I'll be sharing some of the lessons I learned from my first NSS experience here on the blog as well as general tips and info. When I was prepping to do the show for the first time I learned so much from other designers wiling to share their experiences and hope to help new exhibitors in the same way here. 

So my first really big tip is to get organized and make a to-do list. 

Buy a very large binder (mine from 2012 is above) and make sure to keep any and all Stationery Show-related documents here. In my binder, I include everything from contracts and official show documents to brainstorms I have and inspirational pictures and ideas. Start printing out important emails and put them in the binder. Trust me, this will save you time come April and May when you realize you need to bring hard copies of your important emails like correspondence with the show managers and travel confirmations with you to New York. 

I use a large color-coded spreadsheet to track my to-do list. I prefer to create spreadsheets on Google Docs so I can access them from anywhere. For my to-do list, I make it pretty simple and uncomplicated. There are only five columns: 1) task, 2) due date, 3) actual date completed, 4) notes, and 5) any related URL to the task. 

But with so many things to think about, where to begin?!

I start by adding in all concrete deadlines to my to-do list. This includes things like payment deadlines to various vendors, ordering deadlines for items like lighting and walls, and editorial deadlines set by print and online editors/bloggers. 

Then, I break it down by major categories: Product, Marketing, Booth Design, Branding, Travel Plans. I work backwards and think of all of the sub-categories for these bigger ones. For example, with Branding, sub-categories may include items like business cards, website development and maintenance, and product photography. 

I then go through and set tentative due dates for specific tasks. For example, I may set a due date of May 1 to have my new business cards ready in hand. Then working backwards, I'll set dates like April 1 to have brainstorming done, April 8 to have design prototype completed, and April 10 to have price quotes from different vendors done. I need to include room for printing and other factors, too. I break each task down like this. Yes, it leads to a super long and detailed to-do list, but my goals are to make sure I'm not forgetting steps and to reduce surprises.

With the spreadsheet, I make sure to enter the date the task was completed. This obviously ensures I know the task was completed, but it also makes me feel good when I get a task done ahead of the actual due date! 

I tend to visit my to-do list multiple times a day (okay, sometimes even hourly) as I plan and prepare. I'm just getting started on the 2013 to-do list and it's already filling up! Feel free to share your organizational tips below!

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