SHOW BUSINESS: It’s September. It’s time… to shop. If you need to be reminded, just check your overflowing mailbox for all those fall catalogs or your equally overflowing inbox for special offers. It’s also show time… for the optical world. With a myriad of products from frames, sunglasses and accessories to lenses and technology, just thinking about trade shows can be a daunting and exhausting task. To help you devise a trade show strategy that will be a little less tiring and a lot more productive, try these 20/20 Basics.

Plan Ahead: Do your homework. Before you even attend the show, look at the list of exhibitors and select those you definitely want to see. Contact your reps to determine who will be there. Make appointments. And check your inventory before you leave home to see what you need.

Just Browsin’: But with a little structure. Use a portion of your floor time to familiarize yourself with products of unfamiliar vendors. Be selective, though. You can’t possibly see everyone so spend a few hours the first day with your show directory just walking and making notes on any product that catches your eye. Make appointments as you walk the floor.

Be Open-Minded: Don’t go into appointments, especially in the Gallerias, deciding you need metal rectangles or men’s tortoise styles, and nothing else. Keep in mind these are the people who set the trends that everyone else will be following by the next show. Let them show you what’s new and what’s next. They can also give you tips on how to sell high-end, boutique-style product.

To Rep or not to Rep: Check out vendors that don’t have reps in your area. It makes your time worthwhile because you are not likely to see this company until the next show. And even more important you might find product your competition does not carry.

Explore Niches: Look at some product categories you don’t carry and haven’t seriously thought about carrying—sunglasses, sport glasses, children’s frames, a value collection.

Think Outside the Box: Choose a handful of exhibitors you aren’t currently working with who are showing in the Galleria, the Suites, the Underground, the Village at Silmo, the Trends Hall at Mido. Make appointments.

Beyond Essentials: Visit at least one (preferably several) accessory vendors. Accessories can add flair to displays and profits to your bottom line. And Most Important: Both on and off the show floor, spend time observing current fashion and eyewear trends.

—Gloria Nicola

Illustrations by IRIS JOHNSON