Going to a tradeshow can be exhilarating or exhausting, educational or a waste of time. For the positive experience, phone first, plan ahead, and break out those boots that are made for walking.

Every year, you can see the same scene reenacted at the big shoes. The doors open, thousands of dressed-to-the-nines cosmetologists push their way through the doors and rush the floor. They dart from booth to booth, shop until they drop looking for bargains, and end up slouched against a wall with four or five bags of merchandise scattered about, complaining about their back, their feet, and the fact that they saw nothing new this year.

The smaller shows are a bit different in that they end with numerous attendees claiming that they’ve seen everything already in 30 minutes. Usually, those attendees are the ones who have several pairs of earrings in their bags and not much more.

But even if you’re a serious seeker of knowledge, new products, and money-making ideas – shows don’t always make it easy for you to achieve your goals. That’s why you need a show system.


Show listings aren’t just to alert you to a date to mark on your calendar. Used properly, they can help you get off on the right foot – and save you money.

“When you see a show listed in a trade magazine, call for information and sign up in advance to save on the entrance fee,” says Jackie Randolph of Nail Expressions in Washington, D.C. “Often, it’s more expensive to pay at the door.

“Before you sign up, ask about the educational classes because that’s why you want to go in the first place. Shows provide you with the opportunity to get lots of education in a very short time.

“Often, there are free events but they’re limited in space, so you want to be certain to sign up early. This is also the time to sign up for competitions. I’ve run them in New York and you wouldn’t believe how many technicians call at the last minute. They didn’t read the instructions for the competition and don’t realize when it’s too late. You have to complete an application, get a model release, and take care of other details before the competition.

“It sounds silly, but calling the number for the show as early as possible is critical, as is requesting information and taking the time to read it,” says Randolph.

Phoning first has an additional advantage if you’re traveling. It gives you plenty of time to get information on the show and decide whether or not you want to attend. If you do, you can save substantially on airfare and hotels by booking in advance. And, you’ll avoid discovering that the hotels are all booked, or worse yet, discovering that you’ve paid a lot of money to travel to a competition that you didn’t sign up for in time.


Most shows will send you promotional materials or even programs with floor plans in advance. Smaller shows may not have these available, but they will give you information over the phone on classes, demonstrations, and exhibitors.

Use this information to make a list of what you must see.

“I definitely plan an itinerary in advance,” says Louis Christian, a co-owner of Christian.Wayne.Robert & Co. in Cherry Hill, N.J. “If the show has a program and floor layout, I map out where I want to go and check off booths on the floor plan.

“I send my stylists to the seminars of the most up-to-the-minute manufacturers, I check out the motivational seminars, and my nail technician goes to classes and the nail exhibits.”

At larger shows, nail products are often contained within a specific area, and Randolph advises starting there first.

“Get right to the nail area while you’re fresh and have energy,” she says. “Save the hair shows and the boutiques for later, when you’re cruising.”


Besides planning an itinerary set goals for the staff in advance of a show. Christian and his partners let each department in the salon vote on who will represent the salon at the show.

“We try to let them decide, but we give the final OK,” he explains. “The person has specific goals and after the show he or she reports to the department first, then to the entire salon at a group meeting.”

While the chosen one represents the entire department, Christian hastens to add that he pays for any nail technicians who wants to take educational classes at a show.

At Concept Elite salons in Brooklyn, N.Y., manicuring department manager Debi Greco divvies up duties at big shows to make it easier on everyone.

“I set goals for all the manicurists before they go,” she says. “One might be in charge of bringing me a new wrap idea, I’ll tell another to make a list of the spring nail colors from 10 major companies, and another may be asked to look for new products.

“All our technicians are required to attend four educational classes a year, and I like for them all to go to the same classes so they’re equally educated.”

Whether it’s best for all technicians to attend the same class or to go to different ones and share information later depends on the size and structure of your salon. But even if you’re on your own, setting goals and registering for classes in advance ensures you’ll come away with a valuable experience.


You have your advance tickets, itinerary, a list of must sees, and written goals – now you’re all reared up. What have you forgotten?

“Always bring a notebook with you,” says Randolph. “You aren’t going to remember everything you see unless you write it down. Also, I bring an envelope for all my receipts. If you want the tax deduction, you must have receipts. If you keep them all in one place, you’ll know what they were for and where they all are later on.”

Adds Luly Hernandez, owner of The Nail Shop in Miami, “I give my receipts to my accountant right away. If you don’t, be sure you’ve dated them all and keep all the receipts from each event together.”

Also, pack those comfortable clothes. “I wear tennis shoes,” says Rose Pechersky, owner of All that Glitters in Pikesville, Md. “In 14 years of attending the International Beauty Show, I learned that one of the most important things is to dress comfortably.”

While Pechersky puts function over fashion, this by no means implies that she looks unprofessional. For all those attendees who look at going to a show as their chance to walk down a fashion runway, keep in mind that there are fabulously stylish flat shoes and that tight clothes aren’t necessarily assign that you’re part of the high-fashion scene.

And while you’re planning your comfortable, professional wardrobe, consider your nails. “We, nail technicians are a funny bunch,” says Randolph. “We go to shows with our nails all done up, including nail art. I go with no nail polish so I can try whatever I’m interested in, such as new nail art. If you do this, you can have five or even 10 things demonstrated on you. Just remember that note pad or you’ll never be able to keep track of who did what to which nail and which manufacturer’s products were used on each.”




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