If you haven’t already done Vegas, Hong Kong, or Nuremberg this year, February in New York kicks off the kids’ show-and-tell season. iKids, Kidscreen, Toy Fair, and Digital Kids all happen in the next two weeks. Although each event has a specific mission, they all basically talk to us: the makers, buyers, sellers, and users of kids’ toys and media.
As a veteran of more-than-I-can-count events, an organizer of Sandbox Summit, and a believer in the Boy Scout’s motto of “Be Prepared, ” I offer you my personal planning playbook.
- KNOW THYSELF:
The crowds at these functions can be intimidating and clique-ish, especially for first timers. Humming Frank Sinatra’s anthem as you elbow through the throngs gives you secret powers and an enigmatic smile.
- WHAT TO WEAR:
Coolness counts at Kidscreen and iKids where media moguls exude glamour and hubris. Clothes revolve around black and skinny jeans with strategically worn animal print accessories. Comfortable shoes are all that matter at Toy Fair. No one notices what you wear at Digital Kids.
February weather in NYC can be brutal. Nine times out of ten there’s been a snowstorm during Toy Fair. Since most of the action at these events is inside, you only need to have a warm coat, hat (yes!) and boots to get to and from your hotel. Don’t think about saving space in your suitcase by not packing them. You’ll thank me later.
- WHO TO MEET:
Be strategic: Kidscreeners usually have something to buy or sell. They aren’t necessarily looking to hire talent, they want properties and projects. Toy Fair is a trade show, attracting more than 16,000 buyers. There are designated areas for new products and major companies. There’s lots of press. Ikids and Digital kids are filled with information and informed, i.e., talented, interesting, and interested, people.
Check out the delegates’ lists at each event by going on the websites. Make appointments ahead of time at Toy Fair, especially for the big guys. Kidscreen’s Xchange lets you contact potential connections with a click. At iKids and Digital Kids, the speakers are a draw. Use the 5 minutes before or after their presentations to connect at the podium. Hone your elevator speech.
Check out Play Happens on the Toy Fair website. This ever-popular virtual board game is another way to meet new (and old) contacts.
- WHERE TO EAT:
There are lots of kiosks around Javits; the Hilton bar and coffee shop are powerfully packed. Those in the know tend to bring their own snacks and water to get them through the day. Unless you’ve just done an IPO, buy your Starbucks before you enter Javits. The prices inside seem to be the highest in the city. If not the world.
- SECRETS TO SUCCESS:
Carry as little as possible: A bag to hold flash drives and biz cards; an iPad to show off your work and take notes. If someone wants to give you a hard copy press kit, hand them your business card and say, ” please mail it to me.”
Cab shifts change between 4 and 5 pm. Rush hour starts by 4:30. If the cab line in front of the Hilton is too slow, walk to 5th or 7th Avenues for a better shot.
Leaving Javits at the end of the day is a horror show. Cabs are nowhere to be found and walking from 11th Avenue to anywhere is not fun. If you can’t leave by 3:30, when people are still arriving and cabs are lined up, consider a.) Hiring a car service; b.) Scheduling an off-site with a company that provides a car service; or c.) Hopping on one of the Toy Fair buses and taking it to any midtown location where you can more easily flag a cab.
- AND REMEMBER…
We’re in the business of creating great entertainment and toys. Don’t forget to have fun while doing it.
Look for me in the Delegates Lounge at Kidscreen, or check in at firstname.lastname@example.org.