How to Prepare for CatCon 2017: An Interview With PDX Pet Design’s Tara O’Mara

Cat Con logo with close up of a cat paw

Making Sure You Get the Most Out of Presenting at Cat Con 2017

Going to your first trade show can be an exasperating experience — like the first time you go camping or on an overseas trip. No matter how many laundry lists you make to ensure you don’t leave something critical at home, you’re probably going to forget something. Or worse, you may not even realize that something as easily overlooked as daily snacks could be so crucial to having a positive experience.

We sit down with Tara O’Mara of PDX Pet Design to discuss the in’s and out’s of attending CatCon 2o17, covering what it’s like and what you should definitely keep in mind if this is your first time at the convention. Take it from someone who’s been there in the past, and don’t make the same mistakes!

Q1: For a first time participant / exhibitor at CatCon, what would you say are the five (10? 3?) most important things to know?
– If you’re having a booth, make sure you have some help so you can take a little break and wander the show floor yourself! You’re going to wish you attended just as a visitor so that you had maximum time to check out the amazing talks and the other exhibitors who have some of the most eclectic cat-themed things on display you’ll ever see, so make sure you carve out at least a little bit of time to check out the sights.

– Bring lots of business cards! Chances are you’re going to meet a lot of people you may want to collaborate with and you’ll want to easily get in touch with them. Another great way to do this is to immediately add them to your social connection (e.g., by adding them to your IG follow list, etc). Maybe have a CatCon group in your preferred social media channel, or work to quickly add these cool cats to your favorite feed or list asap.

CatCon 2017 tips for attendees

Q2: What would you have loved to know about before your first time that no one told you about?

– Relax and have fun. In general, vendors at conferences/trade shows can become fixated on sales and whether or not the conference was “worth their while” in terms of how much they spent on attending vs. how many sales they made (we’ve done this too!). You have to remember that conferences are a long-term investment in your brand awareness, and also give you an opportunity to learn from other influencers in the cat industry.

All that money you spent on your booth, your flights, your hotel, etc. is an investment in your future business, so try to refrain from calculating whether you “made back” all the money you put into it. You’ll walk away from CatCon feeling giddy, inspired, and connected to many loving and authentic people in the industry, and the value of that experience cannot be measured in pennies.

Q3: Is it wise to create a social media strategy before you go? How best to balance updating social media while there, and still being present to greet attendees?

– This really depends on how much extra help you have for your booth. I’d love to set up an Instagram feed and be able to wander the show taking cat-selfies and tagging all of the paw-some people we meet, but I tend to prioritize my in-person experiences with the people I meet there, because there’s nothing like an in-person connection.

If I had extra helpers, I’d task them with updating our social media with the latest goings-on. Even though the official CatCon feed does a wonderful job, there’s so much going on that it’s better to have multiple perspectives available on social!

Q4: What about basic stuff? Snack, eye drops, breath mints, hand outs — what’s on your check list of stuff not to forget?

– Oh geez, this is a good one. Snacks and breaks are CRITICAL at any trade show, and CatCon is no different. You can run on adrenaline for about 4 hours, max. We pack lots of snacks and like to rotate our breaks among people working in the PDX Pet Design booth.

For giveaways and “things-to-remember-us-by,” we love giving out stickers because attendees love stickers. These aren’t always allowed, however (this year, stickers are not allowed, btw). We’re getting creative with our giveaways, thinking of doing temporary tattoos or miniaturized versions of our products to maximize attendee fun and our memorability.

The other critical thing on our checklist is cat ears for everyone in the booth. ‘Cause it just makes life more fun.

CatCon 2017 tips for attendees

Q5: How much time do you spend with each person who comes to your booth? Are you careful to give equal attention, or do you have to make some “business” decisions about how/where to spend your time?

– Thankfully, we worked out a nice flow within our booth last year, and we’ll be using the concept again this year. We spend a few minutes chatting with each and every visitor to understand their kitty problems and their cat’s personality.

If they’re interested in learning more about a particular product or story we have, we typically refer that person to whomever the “expert” on that topic is in the booth. This helps us keep staff available at “the front lines,” and gets every visitor’s questions answered most efficiently.

For example, I might be at the front of the booth, engaging with visitors and handing out stickers or postcards and refer a visitor who’s interested in learning more about SHRU to Jason, who knows all the ins-and-outs of the engineering that’s inside each SHRU unit.

A general reminder — make sure to focus on your VIPs! There are some people that will come by your booth trying to sell to you or partner with you. While these can be valuable people to know as well, have a clear idea of why you have a booth and who you most want to connect with while you’re there. For us, that’s our customers and influencers!

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Thanks Tara for sitting down to talk. We hope this has been a helpful guide for anyone planning to attend their first tradeshow this year, at Cat Con 2017. Good luck to all the attendees!

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CatCon 2017 Vital Information and Links

Main CatCon Worldwide Information Portal: CatCon 2017 Info Included

CatCon 2017 Convention Schedule

CatCon 2017 Info: Tickets, Newsletter, News, Updates, Etc.

Buy Tickets to CatCon 2017 via Event Brite here

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