5 things we learned from our first trade show

By Becks

In May 2016, we exhibited at our first trade show – Pulse at Olympia. 

We launched in November 2015 and by the time Spring came round we were feeling a tad daunted. Very daunted actually. The months preceding Pulse had been a haze of late nights and seven day weeks while we grew our collections in time for the show.  We didn’t know what to expect from exhibiting at a trade show and I imagine it’s very similar experience for all first-time exhibitors. With that in mind, we’ve collated five things we wish we’d known beforehand:
1.    It’s not the end of the world if you forget something
Despite making countless lists of what we needed to bring, a couple of hours into the first day we realised a chunk of our price list was missing…while we were talking to a buyer. This was the type of disaster I’d imagined for weeks leading up to the show, but it turns out that Olympia is not, in fact, situated on a remote island. Wherever you are, it’s likely you’ll be able to access a computer and printer. Olympia has its own repro office – the kind that school administrators can only dream of – so I got to spend a happy 15 minutes with a nice lady amending and photocopying our price list. Problem solved! 
Top tip – email yourself any important documents beforehand so, if needs be, you can log on using the exhibition centre’s computer and print anything out. 

2.    Thoroughly measure furniture and the vehicle you are transporting it in
On the way back our table didn’t fit in the car. The table that, just three days previous, we had lovingly assembled, sanded, plastered, sanded, painted, filled, sanded, and painted again for good measure. After the show we just wanted to get home so after several attempts to fit the table in the car, we just paid for it to be disposed of. Sob. This one is obvious, but throw in pre-show sleep deprivation and it’s an easy mistake to make. 

3.    Double-sided tape is not advisable
There’s a kind of double sided tape that is sold to stick up picture frames and claims to be able to hold up to 5kg. We bought it to stick up our very lightweight shelving confident that it would be able to hold our cards. Don’t buy it. We rocked up on the second day to discover our shelves askew and cards on the floor. Irksome to say the least. 
(This is one of the many instances, where our neighbouring exhibitors were lovely and offered to help us. See point 5)

4.    If you have the budget, it’s worth investing in a plug socket
If you plan to be reppin your brand on social media throughout the show (and it’s a very good time to do so) the plug socket will be your friend.  We managed to keep our phones charged throughout the show so we could Instagram/Tweet/Facebook to our heart’s content. The show’s organisers are looking for as much content as possible during the show, so it’s a great opportunity to get your brand noticed!

5.    People won’t tell you they hate your product
In the lead up to the show, I spent a bit too much time worrying that people were going to come up to us and tell us our cards were rubbish, we were rubbish and everything we’d ever done was rubbish. A bit of common sense suggests buyers are busy people and, if it’s not their bag, they won’t waste their time to go out of their way and tell you they dislike your work. Everyone we did meet at the show was thoroughly lovely. We really enjoyed ourselves, so if you have any moments of worrying what people think, ignore immediately and focus on all the lovely people you will meet. 

We are exhibiting at our first Top Drawer show in September on stand Y38. You can register for tickets on the Top Drawer website.

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