My adventures with the MSA Conference started with Terry Tarnow (Dennos Museum Center) inviting me to be her roommate at the Renaissance. Terry and I have worked together several times before. We had never before broken bread. Our glue? We both were raised in Detroit and had previously discovered people and places we love in common. Now I can say Terry is a true friend and an easy roommate. We've even discussed returning to Washington DC (without a conference) to focus on the many museums and their gift shops.
Ari Lowenstein (Vendor Member Advisor) gave me some terrific advice before attending MSA Forward. And, I'm sharing it here with you. He said if you are taking the time to participate in this conference, make sure to join in on the educational tours and seminars. Make a point of meeting other attendees. This was sage advice. I along with a bus-full of others enjoyed a tour to Hillwood Estates and Tudor Place and their gift shops! Whenever I could, I introduced myself to those I didn't know. I attended seminars when I could. At luncheons I consciously sat with people I didn't know. I joined the Western Chapter for their group pizza dinner. Sometimes it's tough to mingle with people you're not acquainted with. It may seem awkward. Do your best and try it, always with a smile. (Turns out many of those people I met stopped by my expo booth. And some wrote orders. I'm certain had I not dined with them, this might not have happened.)
I was one of the lucky ones. I was able to set up my booth starting Friday morning, and not after dinner as many others. Even with using most of Friday for creating my attractive display (which I absentmindedly forgot to photograph), I was able to attend a couple of seminars. I really had no idea what to expect when I attended Neal Cohen and Jeremy Richardson's session "Year in Review, Your Annual Business Check Up." These guys are smart and they're very savvy when it comes to issues of product safety, copyright and trademarks. Some of these very BIG issues can actually have impact on small businesses like ours. My view? Even if most of what is said doesn't apply to you, if you take away one valuable point at a seminar, it was worth being there. I am better off for having attended their presentation.
And finally! Yes, the main clincher for why I attended MSA Forward. I wanted Dunitz & Company to be seen at the Expo. As my colleagues had promised, the Expo was a terrific way to get our jewelry in front of the faces of many museum buyers I'd never previously met. And do you remember my mentioning all those people I nervously sat with at lunches? Several came by my booth. Some ordered. Many left their business cards for follow up. (Next blog post will be about the new Laser Cut collection we launched at MSA Forward. Earrings that can be customized for any type of institution or exhibition. Butterfly teaser photo here!) And yes, I did see several buyers I already knew, which accounted for reorders. Yeah!
Other feedback from me? Order the lights for your booth. I was told that the ballroom and exhibition spaces were well lit and extra lighting was not needed. My booth was dark. Thankfully most everyone's booth was dark. With a small show and a captive audience, it seemed most buyers looked everywhere. My gut is if I'd had a few spotlights, my booth would have garnered a few more pauses.
The jury is no longer out. Attending MSA Forward 2018 was a success for so many reasons. I enjoyed DC. I made new friends. I wrote business and I was able to pitch our fair trade jewelry line to those who didn't previously know Dunitz & Company. And guess what? Next year MSA will be hosting it's annual event in San Diego. (And may the hotel there have food as edible/delicious as the Renaissance Downtown DC.) I can even drive to San Diego! Will you attend? - ND