August 5, 2011
Becoming Trade-Show Immersed
Thank you to Alisse Wissman for writing this post. Alisse is international sales coordinator and academic print publicist for IVP.
I'm a strong believer in full cultural immersion. When I decided to study abroad in college, I chose a program that would provide classes about the culture I was living in and allow me to physically experience that culture through travel, museums, language, and in particular, Irish dance.
So when I started working at IVP just over a year ago as the International Sales Coordinator, the question of my attendance at the International Christian Retail Show was raised. Would I like to attend? Could I handle such a big show within weeks of starting a new job? Would I be able to establish a rapport with customers by then?
"Absolutely," I said, laying down all my cards. I was in. Taking the leap. Fully immersed.
Not having heard of ICRS before, I did some research: the International Christian Retail Show is produced and hosted annually by the CBA, the association of Christian stores. It features a variety of Christian publishers and music/movie producers who set up booths featuring their artists and products. Store owners, distributors and media browse the aisles checking out the latest in Christian retailing.
It seemed simple, but what followed my very brief three-week training period was a small bit of cultural shock. Yes, I grew up in an evangelical home, and yes, I attended an evangelical Christian college, but was I ready for the art of evangelical Christian retail? Not particularly.
I was thrown into a world of Christian celebrity sightings, rows of booths and kiosks vying for my attention, mazes of author-signing lines and meetings with international customers on a noisy show room floor. Full immersion means no turning back, and there I was, in a completely new conference culture. But thankfully the experiment worked just the way I hoped it would, and adapting quickly, I gained brand new insights into the publishing world.
This year I felt much more prepared. I knew our customers and authors, had a year of experience and was quite excited to meet up with so many people whom I only see once a year.
ICRS took place in Atlanta this year, and two IVP authors attended, both of whom I was thrilled to get to know in greater capacity. Richard J. Foster, author of the forthcoming Sanctuary of the Soul, and Adele Calhoun, who recently published Invitations from God, both gave interviews and signed copies of their books for fans, media and shop owners. It was lovely to see these stellar authors interacting with the people who so cherish their writing.
I was also able to spend time with both Richard and Adele throughout the show. Richard was full of wisdom about ICRS (which he has attended many times), giving me tips and pointers. Adele and I bonded over our shared love of Cape Cod, and she even gave me ideas on places to visit for my upcoming vacation!
Conversations with our international customers were also priceless. It's fascinating that our books, which generally are written in America, relate to people not just in other English-speaking countries, but even in places like Singapore and Ghana.
Highlights of this year's show:
I think some cultural aspects of ICRS will remain the same--it will always be a place to meet authors and buy your favorite flavor of "Testamints"--but I hope it will continue to be a place where IVP can nurture relationships between authors and readers, and foster bonds between ourselves and the dedicated people who love to sell our books.