Firstly, it is costly! Whatever figure you believe will be the final cost, double it! It’s the additional necessary add ons that the event organisers fail to tell you about from the outset when you have made the brave decision to #GoDo and book your already costly shell scheme stand or open space. Extra lighting, plug sockets, stronger wifi connections, customer data capture app, and other non essential and extravagant add ons such as fresh flower displays, catering, furniture hire, live stage demos, etc. with of course VAT added on which mounts up for those smaller businesses who are not yet VAT registered.
So, I began to realise that the Tradeshow is a show with 3 basic parts, the preparation, the show itself and the follow up. Preparation as always is key, you have your costly background graphics to order for the stand, furniture to arrange (IKEA was more cost effective than hiring table and chairs from the contractors), production costs (raw materials, packaging, gift bags, labels, tissue paper, information leaflets, time required to make up a selection of different products in the hope of selling out!), card payment devices that travel (I selected iZettle to begin with and discovered in just about time that iZettle is not yet set up to travel internationally to Dublin!). So a swift change to SumUp which does travel as long as the company are emailed in advance with dates of travel. SumUp still only accept payments in the currency for which it is set up in, in my case sterling, so I was unable to accept euros as payment through the card machine but nonetheless that did not deter any of the paying customers thankfully from swiping their debit and credit cards.
Accommodation costs, travel costs, catering, and of course the odd inevitable purchase here and there while checking out the other exhibitors at the show. Brand exposure does not come cheap, but in my line of business it’s unavoidable. Preparation takes time and research, reach out to the bloggers, VIP guests (if known, if not ask the organisers who will be attending), the various social media platforms and shout about your planned attendance, etc. I don’t recommend doing this more than 2 weeks before the event as you will be forgotten.
I came to the Professional Beauty Dublin Show fairly late on, booking my stand less than 3 months prior to the start date, so as you can imagine all the great positions were already snapped up. However, I didn’t really take this on board at the time convincing myself that to feature anywhere at the show was better than nothing, hmmmm, hindsight is a wonderful thing! I do not exaggerate when I say I believe we had the worst stand and positioning in the whole show! We were not in the main hall, but the side hall with not as much of a foot fall and we were totally boxed in, in our 2×2 shell scheme stand, with limited products being placed at the front on our small table. I quickly came to realise that location, location, location is so very important at these events. Not only that, but have some extra space for shelving, display cabinets that will beautifully show case all of your products and allow the customer to freely browse without standing on top of them. Also, have space to demonstrate your products properly during allocated time slots.
Due to health and safety we were unable to ignite the candle wicks of the skincare and spa candles so instead we warmed the product on a heater and applied the product to interested customers who all loved the scents. You need stamina in order to be able to talk to each and every customer like it is the first one of the day for 8 hours of a day over a two day show in our case. Being 7 months pregnant suffering from sleep deprivation with a nasty head cold this was indeed a challenge, on reflection I’m actually amazed that I got through it to the very end.
Taking regular breaks, keeping hydrated and having some energising snacks most definitely did the trick! It’s very obvious but wear comfortable shoes, some didn’t surprisingly! Speaking to other fellow exhibitors was just as important as speaking with customers, testing your assumptions and validating your customer base. Although our positioning was diabolical, the silver lining was that our next door neighbours were seasoned trade show goers, they had been exhibiting for 20 odd years and were fit to tell us what trade shows would suit our products more, and assured us that trade shows can be very hit and miss.
I even spoke with a skincare brand who had the backing and endorsement of an Irish Dragon, who reassuringly informed me that you don’t always make a ton at a trade show, that you are paying out for the exposure, leads, contacts made. Of course, there were the established brands that were indeed making a small fortune, at the premium locations, with the fancy counters, demo spaces, numerous staff members, etc. But of course you have to start somewhere although I still wouldn’t recommend starting at the worst stand!!
It’s important to try and capture the details of all who you speak with, whether asking for their business card or noting down their details on a template form and try and get as much feedback as possible. We were praised a lot for the scents of our products and the packaging. Our customers were mainly massage therapists who instantly understood what our products were all about. We even had an interested gentleman who is opening a new spa hotel in Dubai! So the 3rd stage, follow up with leads and customers, don’t let any go to waste!
So having reached the end of our trade show debut it was time to pack up the car and tightly squeeze in everything again, it was a little bit lighter than before but not much having not sold as much as we had hoped. However, the experience itself was definitely a valuable lesson learnt and one which we will apply to our next trade show which will be really successful…. a little bit down the line!
Any thoughts or questions, please feel free to drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Beverley x x