By Alex Hippisley-Cox
Last year was my first Frankfurt Book Fair, so I know what it’s like to being going for the first time. You hear all these scare stories about the “Messe” being the size of Heathrow, and people taking six hours to get from the entrance to Hall 8. Don’t listen to them all, please! Trust me, it’s not nearly as daunting as you think it might be.
Here now are a few pointers that might help you in the run up to your first Frankfurt. Plus some do’s and don’ts when you are there:
• Try and make as many appointments in advance as you can. People’s diaries get very booked up, very early, so grab that slot in plenty of time.
• Before you leave, make an appointment to see someone as soon as you get there. Even if it’s just to have a cup of coffee with a friend or colleague. No one will know. They’ll think you’re discussing serious business and you’ll be thinking “See –- I can do this!”
• Try and print off a map of the local transport system, so you know beforehand how to get from A to B. Plan your route, and then add a bit more time onto the end. Take plenty of euros with you, including small change.
• Be organised. Know what you are doing every day in advance and try keep to your schedule. If you are late for an appointment, you will lose valuable “face to face” time with your client.
• If possible, try and attend at least one event/discussion/presentation each day. You will get so much more from the Fair if you engage with what’s going on.
• It will always take you longer than you think to get from one appointment to another. It’s not just the distance between halls -– it’s the navigating round the people walking slowly too. Set off to your meeting point well in advance.
• Pack and wear comfortable shoes. No one will really notice what’s on your feet, but they will if you have blisters and can’t walk!
• Try and pace yourself. It’s a long week. Don’t go out until the wee hours on Day 1 because you’ll be crawling by Day 5.
• Carry a bottle of water at all times. It’s easy to forget to drink and even easier to get dehydrated with too much coffee. Take headache tablets too, just in case.
• Take a small digital camera with you. You might stumble across something really interesting that could be used on your website or in the trade press.
• Have a big breakfast before you leave your hotel every morning. You never quite know when you might get a break to eat again during the day.
I hope these tips answer a few of your questions. Have fun, enjoy your first Frankfurt, and remember, the other people there are never QUITE as busy as they are trying to make out!
Alex Hippisley-Cox has worked in publishing for over 20 years including 10 years at Random House UK, where latterly she was Publicity Director for both the Hutchinson and Heinemann imprints. She has been a freelance publicist since 1999 and over recent years has worked with many different UK authors, publishers and retailers. In 2009 she was appointed Head of UK Communications for the Frankfurt Book Fair.