As I mentioned before, the first thing that you need to do once you’re registered for a show is to read over every bit of information that the show provides. You don’t just need to know that the convention is being held at the convention center downtown, you also need to know what wing of the center the show is being held in. Some convention centers are huge with multiple buildings, and going to the wrong one can cause you a lot of stress, physically and mentally. Some shows put this information on their website, some put it in your exhibitor packet. Find the info and read it. You need to show up prepared.
Once you know where you’re going, you can figure out where you’re staying. There are always going to be many options. If you’re adventurous, you can try Couchsurfing or Dwellable to find yourself a place to stay, but since this is business, I recommend keeping it simple and predictable. For some conventions, you can find affordable lodging right next to the convention center. This depends on the hosting city. For example, Informa holds two shows in Irving, Tx every year, in the Las Colinas area. There are at least a dozen hotels within minutes of the Irving Convention Center that offer free shuttle service to the convention center, and most of them are about $100 or less per night. One of those hotels is even in walking distance of the convention center. For this show, staying in close proximity to the convention center is affordable and convenient. However, some shows, like those in downtown Phoenix, land you next to some pretty expensive hotels,so you need to be more creative.
I do as much research as possible before visiting a city. I don’t just work at the convention when I’m in town. Every night I have to go back to my room and work on commissions, so I need a comfortable, quiet place to work. I also need to be able to get back and forth to the convention with ease. These are my top priorities when choosing lodging. Here is an example of one of my yearly trips where I got creative to give myself the best experience possible.
I attend the Rose City Comic Con in Portland yearly, and I’ve got a pretty good system worked out for it. The first year that I went to Portland, I stayed downtown, near the convention center. Most of the hotels in the area were very expensive, so I chose an inexpensive option. My room was less than $100 per night, but it was not a very pleasant stay. The area was loud, seemed a little unsafe, and the hotel was not very comfortable. I was also stuck finding food downtown every day, which was not cheap. Once I had learned my lesson, I did a lot more research for my next trip out there. For my next appearance at the show, I found a Residence Inn ( a wonderful hotel for the price) at a place called Cascade Station. Portland has a really nice train system called the Max Light Rail. It runs all over the city, and there is a station at the airport. The train is also only $2.50 for one trip, or $5.00 for a whole day. The Residence Inn I found was the first or second stop out of the airport, which was a huge plus, and the train station was basically in the hotel parking lot. The hotel was $120.00 per night, so not much more than the hotel I had gotten the year before. From the hotel, I was able to ride the train straight downtown, with a stop directly in front of the convention center. It was really nice being next to the Cascades shopping center, which had a Target and a lot of different dining options.
So with just a little bit of research, I was able to turn a bad trip to a good show into a good trip to a good show. Proper planning makes everything more reasonable, and increases your chances of success wherever you go. If you’re just starting out, you’re going to be mostly driving to shows within your area, but once you start venturing out to shows you’ll need to fly to, you have to know what you’re getting yourself in to. Trains and buses aren’t the most fun form of transportation, but saving money is of the utmost importance in your early ventures. Trying to make money in cities like New York and Chicago will be nearly impossible, but trying to make money at those shows while finding creative ways to get around really changes things. Give yourself a chance. Don’t put a financial roadblock in front of yourself that you can’t overcome.
As always, if you have any questions about any of this, I’m easy to get a hold of. If you found this article randomly, and want to read the rest of the series, click here.