By Mary Jo Reutter, game and toy inventor.
I’m no newcomer to toy fairs—I’ve done the New York Toy Fair a dozen times—but coming up Feb. 1-6 will be my first trip to the granddaddy of all toy fairs, the Spielwarnmesse in Germany. While I know how to pack for a trip to Europe (ready with my power adapter!) and I’m excited about the games I’ll be pitching, I wanted to make sure I experienced the event to the fullest. So I asked some fellow toy inventors who’ve been before for their advice and came up with a list of five “must-dos” for a Nuremberg “newbie.”
1) Check out each of the 18 different halls. You might think, “of course you’ll check them all out,” but there are supposed to be more than 2,800 exhibitors. That would mean visiting 467 booths a day. It would be crazy to assume I’ll see more than a small percentage of them, but I’ll focus on getting an overall impression of who’s there and any trends I notice.
2 ) Seek out at least five interesting new products every day. The thrill is in the hunt, and I suspect I’ll see a lot that’s interesting, so culling it to the five that most pique my interest means I’ll look with a more engaged eye—I’m not just glancing but really thinking about what I’m seeing. I’ll share my top five, so stay tuned!
3 ) Spend time looking at categories I don’t normally pay as much attention to. Like trains. I don’t keep up with miniature trains, but I’ve heard that hall is not to be missed. For me, that’ll be what separates the toy fairs I’ve been to in the U.S. to attending one overseas.
4 ) Attend networking events, like Thursday’s “Women in Toys” dinner. I used to dread networking events because, face it, it’s not always easy to talk to people you don’t know. But a friend suggested instead of worrying how I might “mingle” I instead just treat it like a puzzle. Find out what people are doing and working on, and see what kind of connection I can make. This will be a room filled with people with the same passion I have (play!) so it’ll be exciting to share that.
5 ) Check out the pastries! I hear there are some amazing German sweets. All play and no play makes Mary Jo a dull girl, so I’ll be sure to take some breaks to refuel and just enjoy.
Please check back in to see how the trip is going. And if you have any ideas how I can get the most out of Spielwarenmesse, please share it in the comments. I'd love to hear from you.