Exhibitors Share Tips for Toronto Boat Show

Exhibitors are eagerly anticipating the Toronto International Boat Show, which opens next week on January 8. Many of them prepare months in advance for the nine-day event that features more than 500 exhibitors and is easily Canada's largest attended boat show, drawing a reported 75,000 visitors last year.

Exhibiting at the show involves a significant commitment in time and resources, and a few experienced exhibitors shared some helpful tips on how to make life at the show a little easier.

“We've learned some lessons from working previous shows,” says Chris Larocque, Sales Manager for C&L Boatworks in Fort Erie, ON. This year will be the fourth time Larocque has attended the show. He typically brings four boats to his exhibit space. “I suggest using a large tote with wheels to transport your paperwork. Something you can store out of sight is ideal. It's also easy to find something if it's all in one place. We store all our marketing items in there like brochures and ballots for draws, pens, paper, cleaning supplies and a candy dish. You may find that brochures for your customers are better protected in a tote rather than somewhere on one of your boats where pages can get bent.”

Larocque also suggests bringing extra items used for setting up your booth or displays. “You never know when you might need to tie a sign back a little bit, or if your neighbour needs something for their booth. It's always nice to extend a helping hand, especially during setup because it can be stressful.”

Eating out every night during the nine-day show can become expensive quickly. Larocque says he brings a cooler full of food to his hotel room. “Toronto's a nice place but it's not the cheapest. Bring cases of water too, because you can only buy so many $3.00 bottles.”

Ed Marshall, a Financial Representative for Lakefield Financial Services in Newmarket, ON, believes bringing your own lunch can have sales benefits as well. “I pack a lunch everyday and bring extra water. You have to go into the show prepared so you can stay in your booth. You can't afford to be out buying something and wasting an hour at the food stand. Have a good meal at supper. Also, if you have a customer, you can offer them water. Leads are the big thing. You need them and you need to follow up with them. Also, remember to get emails. Phone numbers aren't as important anymore. Email addresses are the most important thing you can ask for.”

Moving into the show can also involve a lot of logistics. Mike Blackburn, in sales for DockinaBox in Innisfil, ON, shared one tip his company uses for move-in. “We create a detailed drawing of what our booth is going to look like and then distribute it to all of our staff that will be at the show,” says Blackburn. “That way, regardless of where our staff is working, they know where everything is going once it comes off the truck. It saves us a lot of time. Last year we allotted two days for move in, but it only took us one. It's also a good idea to bring extra extension cords, because power isn't always where you need it to be.”

Many of the show's exhibitors travel from outside Ontario. And if local exhibitors need to take time to plan ahead, traveling exhibitors really need to be organized since there are no quick runs back to the office to pick up a forgotten item.

Rekord Marine's President, Steven Barthel travels from Vancouver each year to exhibit at the show. “First thing, don't forget your business cards,” says Barthel as he laughed. “Another useful item to bring is a vacuum for clean ups.”

Barthel explains that Rekord used to ship its booth to multiple shows in other parts of Canada. “At one point we we're paying close to $16,000 a year in shipping fees,” says Barthel. “Now we use local storage companies to hold our booth year round, which only costs a couple of thousand dollars annually.”

He shared one final tip. “If you have dealers or clients in the areas where you're exhibiting, why not see if they can help you store some of your booth items?”