The National Stationery Show, for those of you who are new to the industry, is THE show for all things paper. Every May the stationery community descends upon Manhattan to make the Javits Center its temporary home for 4 days of total stationery bliss. And while most of us will spend months in preparation for just a few days of excitement, I think most stationers would agree that it is definitely worth all the blood, sweat and tears that go into making a show like this possible!
But that's not the entire story...
There is a lot that goes on at NSS that you might not be prepared for if this is your first go-around. That's right, I'm talking about the nitty-gritty, behind-the-scenes secrets of the stationery world. What?! You thought stationery was all just sunshine, lollipops and rainbows? While yes, I will admit there are some rainbows, and dare I say unicorns, that make the world of paper oh so magical, there are also a lot of other things you should probably know about before heading to New York. Dirty pigeons being one of them.
So here is my PSA for all you budding stationers out there. I have compiled a list of what I think are the top 5 things that always seem to get left out of the National Stationery Show itinerary packets. Hopefully this will help you avoid some of the mistakes and misteps we all seem to make, no matter how much we plan.
1 | Count on sweating big time during set-up. That's right, you read that correctly. Prepare to sweat, sweat, and sweat some more! During the set-up days the Javits does not turn the AC on. So while it may be the most beautiful time of the year outside on the streets of New York, inside the Javits it's like setting up inside of a giant sauna. On the bright side, you'll probably lose about 5 lbs of water weight before the show begins.
2 | They don't call them dirty birds for nothing! Pigeons. The street cleaners of NYC. They may seem all cute and friendly when you are feeding them in the park, but all that changes once you are in the Javits. During set-up, giant freight doors are open along the entire back of the building, and while the extra breeze might help keep us all from dying of heat stroke, it is also the reason your booth may be bombed by pigeon poop. Yep, these dirty birds fly in during set-up only to get trapped inside for the next 4 days, pooping with wild abandon. It gets on the walls, your flooring, your stationery. You name it, they'll bomb it. This, among other less gross reasons, is why you should always bring backups of all your products. Oh and don't forget a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. They're super handy for all sorts of touch-ups, and at the very least you can take care of any gifts the pigeons leave behind.
3 | The Food Court hours in the Javits are as unpredictable as a moody teenager. The food court and the snack kiosks are not open during set-up. It's super annoying. Imagine if you will spending hours building out your booth, no breaks for water or food, and you are so far behind schedule that you start to wonder if anyone has ever just walked away in the middle of building a booth and never returned. Anyway, you're in desperate need of a break, so you think to yourself, "I know what will help, I'll go get a soda and snack to boost my energy and spirits." You walk out into the beautiful open vista of the Javits Center's atrium only to discover that the one place open is the Starbucks on the upper level. And while that Starbucks sign might seem like a shining beacon of hope at first, you quickly come to realize that they have sold out of all their pastries except for one sad lonely cake pop... Pretty scary, huh? But wait, it gets worse...
Now it's show day. You're lucky enough to have been so busy that you haven't had a second to leave your booth all day. Finally after hours and hours of selling and schmoozing there comes a merciful lull. You ask your lovely booth neighbor to watch over things so you can run downstairs and grab some food. This is a sound plan, but...think again! The food court closes early. You may be stuck at the Javits till 6pm, but food services isn't. They close at 4; or is it 3, or 3:30? Who knows? They tend to close when they run out of food or when traffic dies down (and they don't even bother opening on the final half day.) Basically you're entering the Hunger Games every time you get hungry (or, by a certain point, "hangry," the perfect synthesis of angry and hungry) and try to go grab some grub.
But there is no reason to suffer, my friends! The answer, of course, is simple and you're probably saying, "no duh, dummy," but this was something I just didn't really think about the first time we exhibited there. Just bring some snacks with you. That's it. Just remember to bring snacks. Put it on your to do list when you're packing for the show. That may seem obvious, but trust me when I say that food will probably be the last thing on your mind when you are in full NSS prep mode.
4 | Not all bathrooms are created equal. There are many different bathroom options at the Javits. The ones on the showroom floor are ALWAYS busy. No surprise there. But if you take 5 seconds to walk downstairs to the main level you will find a clean bathroom that is hardly ever used. There is never a line. Honestly, I'm not sure why I'm telling you this. You'll find it next to the FedEx office...or will you?
5 | Not everyone gets an invite to the Paper Party. The Oh So Beautiful Paper Party is a NSS highlight for many stationers. It's full of all the things we all love: paper, friends, good drinks, photo booths and AMAZING swag bags. Now, if I had made this list last year this most likely would not have made the list. But this year I came across many first time exhibitors who asked me about the paper party, wanting to know when, where, and how to get in. I made it to the party my first year because a dear friend of ours was sweet enough to get us tickets. Leading into this NSS, we wanted to secure our own tickets, and we did, but I'm still not sure exactly how! I know that you can email Nole and request tickets, and that's what we did this year, but I'm not entirely certain if that's how we got in. I know she's super busy and can't get back to everyone, but we never received an email response to let us know we got the tickets. What I can tell you for sure is that it is not an open party for all exhibitors, but any exhibitor can request tickets.
If you do manage to get a ticket, or perhaps find a more creative way in, do not pass it up. It is the most magical experience. It feels like a real right of passage for budding stationers. Nole definitely knows how to throw a party. We had an amazing time again this year. Try to get in, you won't regret it. But even if you can't, there are always new parties and events going on at NSS. The best way to hear about them is through the #NSS on Instagram and just general word of mouth. Stay engaged on social media during the show and just talk to the people around you. Get to know your booth neighbors. You never know where that conversation will take you, literally!
Are you a budding stationery business? Have any insight from your experience at NSS? Just love paper? Comment below! I would love to hear from you!
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