What I learned: My First Trade Show
In my previous life as a Buyer I attended A LOT of tradeshows. I really thought I knew everything there was to know about them. I was wrong. As a visitor the experience is so different to the Behind The Seams reality of exhibiting. This is my experience and some of things I learnt:
Research which show is right for you
Planning the business launch had to include being part of the right trade show. I picked Dot to Dot, London because it holds a special place in the heart for buyers and press. The Vinyl Factory where the show is held is an amazing space centrally located in Soho, London. It has a warehouse feel and very urban. It’s a small, curated show where every brand featured is unique and where some of the big IG names you know so well started as their first show like Tiba and Marl and Nor-Folk. It’s also slightly more affordable for a start up.
The team behind Dot to Dot, London is Carly and Nicole. Both of whom were super helpful in the run up to the event, helping me prepare and providing information I needed to plan the space.
In the van we hired to get us to Dot to Dot, 6am start.
My experience as a Buyer meant I knew I had to stand out if I wanted to attract people to my stand. I wanted to transform the urban warehouse into the urban jungle with a 3D display. Even the smallest space can be made magical. Hotdog HQ and Mero got our heads together to plan something really creative that can also travel easily, is light, affordable and fun.
This was the space before I started 2m across (took our own step ladder!)
Five of my lovely London based friends came to help me set up the garden and we got it all up and running in under an hour.
The awesome loveliest, Nic, Luke, Rach and Sam (not in pic)
The Little Hotdog Watson jungle came together with tall palm leaf plants, bamboo and topiary balls plus our fantastic sign made by the brilliant G from Bag and Bones and a lot of H’s jungle soft toys.
The two days were really busy and it was great to meet buyers and press but also the camaraderie of the other exhibitors was heart warming. There wasn’t that competitiveness I have seen at previous trade shows but warmth and respect. I have to give a huge shout out to my neighbours; Sarah Lovell Art, Willa and the Bear, Lala and Zizo and Willa and Bobbin.
Who wouldn't want to hang out with these guys
We all used social media to ’shout’ out for each other and encourage visitors to come to our section. We also all clubbed together and brought cakes and refreshments for our joint stands for visitors. The other small business contacts I made at the show have been as valuable as the Press and Buyers I met.
The one thing I really underestimated was the time to take and get good pictures of the stand before the show started. I had prepped and prepared a lot of extra items just in case and ALL of them (the sellotape, scissors, taking my lunch with me, flat shoes) came in handy but I didn’t get enough pictures. Lesson learnt for next time.
What’s really great about Dot to Dot is they celebrate success and are very supportive. The first evening we were all invited to drinks and awards ceremony. Little Hotdog Watson was nominated in two categories and I’m proud to say we won Best New Brand. This award was incredibly important as it meant that the next day we were able to talk about it on social media and encourage more people to come say hello.
I’ve included my top ten tips from the show:
- Research the shows and make sure you pick the right show for your business
- Be different - If you only have a small budget, take the smallest space at make it work. At Dot to Dot they have a tiny space for start ups but actually it is right at the front of the show - so an amazing opportunity.
- Take at least 100 business cards
- Bring your own lunch and snacks
- Dress smart - by this I mean wear your brand name so people can find you and don’t wear uncomfy shoes.
- Be different - I was worried I wouldn’t be all white walls and clean lines but actually being different worked out
- Provide enticing treats and the wifi password to guests
- Support your neighbours at the front and the back of the room so the buyers and press know how to find you, tell them about your colleagues and they will do the same
- Take a few basics like sellotape and scissors, extra pens just in case
- Give yourself enough time to take pictures at the start of the show
Would love to hear your thoughts on the different trade shows you have attended? Would you recommend them….What are your tips?