I WAS INCREDIBLY FORTUNATE in recent days to connect with Gail Billingsley, the former Director of Marketing for PGA Golf Exhibitions. Among other golf-related activities, Gail developed and launched the Golf Demo Day and worked on the development and launch of Play Golf America Days with PGA Magazine. Gail now serves as the Executive Director of the YMCA at Virginia Tech University.
I asked Gail for her advice as I made preparations to attend my first PGA Merchandise Show.
“Neil, you are truly in for a treat!” Gail wrote. “There is nothing in the world like the PGA Merchandise Show.”
Below, with Gail’s permission, I share her top 10 list for the show:
1. Wear comfortable shoes. No matter how ugly, wear the single most comfortable shoes that you can. There are over 12 miles of aisles at the PGA Merchandise Show and you will cover them more than once.
2. Go to Demo Day. If you can go to the Demo Day at Orange National prior to the show, do it! The atmosphere is very different than the show and people are very chatty out at the range. It can be cold in the morning, but there are fewer folks there then. You’ll get a rare chance to hit clubs from newer manufacturers that you’ll usually never get to touch − and many of them are sweeter than those of the major manufacturers, but they have less marketing power.
3. Take the shuttle. Parking is awful.
4. Meet Sherry Major. Make sure to introduce yourself to Sherry Major in the PR/Media Room. Give her a hug for me. Sherry is an incredible source of golf info throughout the year. But, at the show, she really knows what is hot and what is new.
5. Read the show magazine. The show magazine is well done and Rick is good about featuring smaller, up-and-coming companies. I would pick up a copy each day.
6. Have a plan. Biggest piece of advice − go with a plan. Seriously, or you will waste so much time, you won't know where the day goes. Two ways you can do that. Go online and check out the layout of the show. Divvy it up into different periods of the day. Carry a notebook or the show directory and make active notes. While I know you are media, not a buyer, one of the most consistent pieces of advice from the top buyers was disciplining themselves to have a “map” each morning of what they expected to cover, and spending at least an hour each night reviewing what they had seen and then revisiting key companies on the last day.
7. Visit range and accessory people. The range and golf course accessory folks at the show don't always get much attention, but when it comes down to it, their products can make or ruin a good game of golf. I played at a course once with no yardage markers, no ball washers, no benches, nothing that just made the game a bit more enjoyable. It was eye-opening.
8. Drink lots of water. The air in the Convention Center is very dry and dehydration is a real problem that most folks don't realize until they leave.
9. Eat at local dives. Ask locals about their favorite hangouts and go there ... unless you like the crush of people that comes with the “tourist” restaurants. We really used to have fun going to local dives. Some wonderful food.
I leave tomorrow. I better get to work on that plan.
−The Armchair Golfer