Check out Certified Master Groomer Melissa Verplank’s discussion on the value of trade shows as a source of professional development and networking. A self-professed “trade show junkie,” Melissa will be one of the guest speakers at the Atlanta Pet Fair slated for Thursday, March 7th through March 10th.
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Melissa: And I’m going to tell you, when I attended my first trade show, which happened to be in Chicago, it was the All American Grooming Show, it absolutely opened my eyes to what the industry had to offer. And from that time, and this was way back … Oh gosh. I’m going to really date myself. I want to say it was the very early 80s, if not the late 70s, when I attended my first trade show. And so every since then, I’ve kind of been a junkie on this kind of information because one of the things that’s so cool about our industry is that you can never know it all.
Melissa: And so if you’re going to attend a seminar or a trade show, which I certainly encourage you to do, you need to go in with a really, really open mind. Now when you’re a newbie, when you haven’t been out to one of these events, there is so much information. It’s almost like you’re a dry sponge, and you expand your knowledge base and by the time you get done with your first trade show, generally when I talk to folks, they are so almost overwhelmed by the amount of information that they’ve just learned.
Melissa: And what I want to remind you is that when you’re brand new, everything is new, and you do have a lot of information to absorb and gather and take home and apply. But once you get your core skills down, once you start working through the entire process of grooming on a professional level and becoming efficient and being able to be proud of the work that you are being able to do and knowing the difference between a good job and a bad job, then you start attending the trade shows and instead of just being this super dry sponge, and absorbing everything, you’re going to be going in and you are going to be targeting certain aspects.
Melissa: You’re going to be able to go in and look at the speakers and look at the programs that are being offered. And to be selective about what you want to learn next. And everybody’s gotta staircase their career, and you’re not going to be ready to hear some of what the speakers have to say, or it might not apply to you, and other things are going to be more elementary. You’ve already got that down. You don’t necessarily need to attend that one, so you can start to kind of cherry pick those particular golden nuggets that you really need. But whenever you walk in, always know there is not black and white in professional dog grooming.
Melissa: There’s lots of shades of gray. There’s lots of opinions. And so that’s one of the cool things is that we get to pick and choose and the more information and the more speakers and the more folks that you can listen to and gather information from, the better you’re going to be able to go back and provide a better service for your customers, and that’s what makes it so fun. So, go in with a really open mind and be selective. When you do go into a trade show, make the most of your time. Have a game plan going in, because again, it can be really overwhelming and there’s a lot of different programs that are going on. A lot of these trade shows will have grooming competitions also going on. And I’m going to tell you what, if you sit over on a division or the open division side of the ring, oh man, can you learn a lot just by observing what is going on in the competition ring.
Melissa: Really great education, just to sit ring side and watch what those competitors are doing. And not only watch their techniques, but watch the products and the tools that they’re using to get this gorgeous finish on these dogs. So be … Look at the classes that you want to take. Know who you want to see. When, what time those classes are. And plan ahead, so that you can go in and make the most of your time and you can not only get to the classes you want to get to, watch the grooming competition go on, get around to all the vendors. Man, I’ll tell you what, if you want to get an idea of what is available for our industry and literally get your hands on the products, no better place than a trade show to do that.
Melissa: Because there are clippers, and shears, and bows, and dryers and you name it. If it has anything to do with professional pet grooming, more than likely there’s going to be a vendor at that show that you can actually talk to and you can test out the equipment. And you’re going to see a lot of folks that, maybe you’ve just seen in the magazines, or you’ve just seen on video. They’re going to be there. And you know what, everybody started out at a beginner at some point in time. And so, it doesn’t matter how far anybody has made it to the top. More than likely, they are going to be approachable.
Melissa: Now if you’ve got a competitor in the ring, or you’ve got a speaker racing to get to a class, they may not be able to stop and talk to you and give you their full attention at that moment. But I can guarantee you, everybody is very approachable and they want to help, and they want to help the new people succeed and move forward. So get yourself out to those trade shows and you know, sometimes the best education that you can get isn’t necessarily on the trade room floor. It’s not in the classes. It’s not sitting ring side. It’s by meeting new people, [inaudible 00:06:52] getting out and socializing and meeting new people and the conversations that you have while you’re waiting in line or maybe you’ve gone to the bar or the restaurant to have a refreshment, and you’ll be able to meet new people and share ideas and the networking opportunities that are available.
Melissa: You stop and think about, when are you in a room full of people that all have the same passion that you do? Dogs and cats and grooming. And so everybody’s got something in common, so it’s really, really easy to strike up a conversation and just start talking to one another. As you’re sitting in your seminar rooms, you’re going to be sitting next to somebody. Introduce yourself. It is so fun to be able to network that way. So we’re looking at the trade show season just starting. We’ve got the California show out coming up in February, and the Atlanta Pet Fair is March 7th through the 10th of March, and I know I’m going to be at that show, along with my entire team, and that’s a great show to get out to. Lots and lots of exhibits. I think they’ve got over a hundred different exhibitors.
Melissa: They’ve got over 70 different classes that you can take. So get out there. It does take a little bit of planning. You’ve got to plan some time off, you’re going to have some travel, but if you want to come back to work energized and ready to start fresh and new, there is no better way to get re-energized then going to a trade show and learning something new. So hopefully, we’ll see you at the next trade show.