Impressions of a Design Fair: Virtox’s View

In this guest blog post, 3D designer extraordinaire and all around nice guy Virtox has been generous enough to share his experience manning the Shapeways stand at Dutch Design Week 2010.  Design fairs and trade shows can be an exhilarating experience, let’s get Virtox’s point of view. 

This year I had the opportunity to help out Shapeways at the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven.
One of the biggest Design events in the Netherlands! I was really excited about it, as I had the chance to show a lot of my work in the real world :-)
Wow! it was a truly awesome experience!
The Shapeways Stand was very, very popular, and it has been a mad nine days!
As I’m currently still recovering from it all, it seems like a good time to write down my learning experiences for others.


From a newbie’s perspective.
But let me start at how I got there;
Somewhere in August of 2010, I read something in one of the Shapeways blogs. It said; if community members would like to join forces with Shapeways at events, all they had to do was ask ;-)
So I immediately e-mailed them with a request to join them at Dutch Design Week, in the event they would have a stand there. I got a reply that they did not know yet, but, should they go, they would contact me then. Several months of quiet past and then I was contacted by Shapeways to see if I was still up for it :-D

Having no idea what I had gotten myself into, preparations started. Luckily it also meant I finally had a good excuse to visit Shapeways at the Eindhoven office :-)
So on a nice day during September/October, I hopped on the train and bus to the outskirts of Eindhoven and had a chance to meet most of the Shapeways team. Which was very cool, turns out they are all human ;-) They were very open and kind, told me all sorts of details on current state of affairs and things to come!

During the meeting I also learned, Michiel Cornelissen had joined the DDW team and designed the stand. Which was not the easiest task, with all the strict rules DDW applies to the stand set-up.
The set-up looked very nice, with the centerpiece, a varied display of Michiel’s wonderful pencil lamps and shapes.
But the coolest part (for me >:-) ), they more or less gave me free reign over one of the six display tables :-D
We made a selection of products to display, and Shapeways generously offered to arrange printing of several pieces!

I got briefed on general FAQ’s and responses and all kinds of event related stuff. I also had to write a short biography and get a decent picture of myself, for small poster.

Back home, I got to work on some display stands and arranging business cards, t-shirts and such.

The Event
I was scheduled to be at the stand six of the nine days. My first day was on opening Saturday :-S
After unpacking my stuff and admiring the stand and all the other 3d prints for real, I casually asked Denise, how many business cards one generally hands out on such an event.
(I had really done my best on the design and quality, so I had ordered 550 for the total of six days and thought it to be plenty)
To my question she replied; oh, about one hundred… per hour.. *yikes* :-S
Both Michiel and I learned quickly that this was no exaggeration, as the cards were going like crazy. So we both had to re-order them in time for the rest of the event.

The atmosphere at the event was excellent, visitors were nice and plenty interested in the possibilities of 3d printing :-D
Besides showing and promoting my own work, I was very busy explaining and promoting Shapeways in general, and the work of all the other great designs displayed at the stand.
I lost count how many times I wrote down “Baroba”, “Bulatov” and many others, also surprising I know most of you guys by name and work ;-)

But I must say, it’s very hard work, not much more than a five minute break every two hours. The rest is almost non-stop conversation with interested people!
Luckily, it’s also very cool to do! :-) Wonderful to see people’s first reaction to 3d printing and personalized fabrication.
Seeing them, trying to wrap their head around the whole concept. And the final big smile when they get it :-D

My biggest thanks to the Shapies for all the help, tips and this life-changing opportunity :-)
It was a lot of fun working next to designer Michiel Cornelissen and with Shapies Denise, Maartje, Arno, Peter, Robert and the others!

To conclude a list of tips for other event newbies:

1. Take plenty of time to prepare!
I had planned two weeks of preparation, but of course, plenty of other stuff tend to mess with plans.

2. Get plenty of event cards!
I had so done my best on glossy double sided gimmicky business cards. But this is a bit of a waste for such an event
You need event cards, meaning cheap and bulk, design does not matter much as long as the info is on there!
At the end I had handed out more than 1200 event cards.

3. Get event flyers, something with a nice picture of yourself, your products, a small biography and some catchy text.
Many visitors are interested in background info on the products and designers. Also helps them to better remember *you* after coming home with bags full of other promotional material.

4. Get a t-shirt or banner with your logo, make sure you have a consistent style and visual link between your products and your promotional materials.
After all this trouble to be at an event, make sure they don’t get a chance to forget you ;-)

5. Be patient and kind.
75% of visitors at this event had only a vague notion of 3d-printing. So take your time to explain the concepts, show the possibilities through examples and products.
Also don’t expect immediate increases in traffic or sales, event visitors take their time, so effects might start to show, days, weeks or months later.

6. Be open and smile.
Against personal expectation, this was kinda easy ;-)
When people are amazed by the products, it’s hard not to smile. And anything you say is a conversation starter, opening the way for them to ask questions.

7. Promote looking with the hands.
Encourage people to touch and pick-up the models! Depending on the event, they are not allowed to touch anything at the other stands, so this makes you more special.
Also, on first sight, people think most the materials are really delicate and fragile, so now they are pleasantly surprised to find out it’s not.

A big thanks to Virtox for sharing his experience with the DDW event and Shapeways.  If you have a story or experience you would like to share on the Shapeways blog please contact duann(at)shapeways.com

6 comments

  1. Arnoud van der Velden

    It was great to have you at the DDW! You did really well, it was really fun with you at our stand. You’re a great designer and a fun guy to hang out with. I hope this will contribute to your sales and your development as a 3D designer.

    cheers

    Arnoud

  2. T. Shawn Johnson

    Virtox! Great write up! :)

    I’m really glad you had this experience. It’s really a great feeling when you get see the look of amazement on people’s faces, and when you know that they honestly appreciate your work. I hope you get lots of business from it!

    -Whystler

  3. Michiel Cornelissen

    Hey Stijn,

    Thanks for taking the time to write about DDW in such detail! It was really nice to meet you and the SW crew. I personally am still in recovery mode, but very grateful for the opportunity given by Shapeways. I can’t wait to see how and when the next Shapeways pop up will be.

    Groetjes, Michiel

  4. Dimitri Kobzar

    great report, thank you Stijn! I’ve enjoyed reading. Hope to get myself someday in some event like this.
    By the way, I’ve noticed that both at the London’s 100% Design show and at the DDW the Shapeway’s stand looked very.. simple. Is it because of the organizer’s harsh requirements or it’s the Shapeways approach like “our products speak for themselves”?

  5. Stijn / Virtox

    Thanks all, for the kind words :-)

    @dimitri: The minimalist stand design at DDW was because of the harsh rules.
    Everything had to be build out of simple white boards (which in actuality were unfinished doors with a rough white base coating)
    Tape on the ground defined where tables were allowed to be positioned within a predefined grid.
    No diagonal placement and not one bit was allowed to cross the lines.

  6. Shapeways Blog

    Shapeways joined thousands of design enthusiasts experiencing stimulus overload yesterday and kicked off Dutch Design Week 2011, unveiling 3D printing awesomeness to the well-heeled masses. Located in the Klokgebouw Building, Stand #53 (Klokgebouw

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