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Behind The Seams: How To Plan For A Tradeshow

Recently on instagram stories I’ve been talking a lot about preparing for our second tradeshow, Playtime Paris. A lot of people got in touch to say they’d like to hear more about it hear my tips. Here is a youtube video of myself talking you through my suggestions and a link to a pinterest board with lots of ideas.

Full disclaimer before we start…I’m not an expert! These are simply the things I’ve learnt through experience. As some of you may know I was a buyer before setting up my own business. I’ve visited lots of trade shows as part of that job and for me I know what I found really helpful and exciting when visiting a business a tradeshow.

With Little Hotdog Watson I exhibited at my first ever show, Dot to Dot, London last June 2016. We won Best New Brand at the show and it was an amazing moment for a business that had launched only 6 weeks earlier.

These are the lessons/tips things I’ve learnt between the last show and what I am putting into practice for Playtime Paris. I also would really like to add these are only my thoughts and not rigid rules. Also, if you are only just starting to plan now, there’s still time to make your stand awesome!!


1. Decide if you are going for theme or brand. Theme refers to very much communicating the story of the collection. Brand meaning just the overall image. See the examples below.


Fendi = Theme Tiny Cottons = Brand

Why is this important? Well it can have a huge impact. I went for theme for my first show, Dot to Dot. I wanted a big impact. I was only showing a small range and I wanted to be distinctive. For Playtime Paris I am focusing on brand. I am showing a much bigger collection, more variables and I am travelling with all the things I need so I want less ’stuff’ to carry.

2. Plan your space.

A lot of stands are actually very tiny, particularly when you are a new business starting out. Our Playtime Paris stand is 3m x1m our Dot to Dot Stand was 2m x1m (tiny)  Once you add a couple of things it can get quite full and it is hard to tell this on paper. Mark it all out. Think about how you can use the space effectively. This seems obvious but it’s something I didn’t do enough of the first time round.

I normally sketch it all out (it doesn't have to be perfect) and then I physically mark out the space on the floor/wall in my house. From here I add in furniture and mark where shelves etc will go. Also, don’t take lots of paperwork that clutters up the space. Less is definitely more.

3. Props.

Making a stand is time-consuming, especially when you consider you will need to take everything with you as most exhibitions are in the middle of nowhere.

Make sure you consider all the bits and pieces you need to get your stand correct. Consider your signage, how things will hang, what will your business cards and Press packs be sat on.  

Consider whether everything needs to be printed on paper. I love looking at Pinterest and wedding favours for ideas. Think cleverly about what you can do instead of paper printing that’s on brand.

For Dot to Dot I printed 200 lookbooks it cost a fortune and was really heavy to carry. For Playtime Paris I am printing one larger Look Book in a really good quality, line sheets and 30 A5 Look Books for Press. It’s cheaper and lighter to carry and in my opinion looks slicker on the stand.

Think carefully about how all the elements you use represent your brand. We have to provide 20 Press Gifts for Playtime Paris. This could get really expensive. Little Hotdog Watson is all about adventures, technology and fun prints/colours. So we are using mini suitcases filled with sweets in the colours of our prints with our swing tags on. Cute, fun, on brand and way cheaper than a lot of things. 

4. The business stuff

There is no point having a pretty stand if someone asks you a question and you don’t know the answer. Here is the stuff you definitely need to know

  • Your wholesale price
  • When your stock is available
  • Your lead-time
  • Your minimums
  • Delivery - how long / is the cost extra
  • How do you take payment 
  • Your T&C’s

Sometimes people will ask something you just don’t have the answer too. This happens! I certainly don’t know of the top of my head the delivery cost to Korea. But I have an idea that in UK I can fit X hats into a box and that costs X amount to post. The post office and a pair of scales, or check out myhermes for a quick guide.

5. Marketing

It’s no good doing all this handwork and not telling people. Talk about it on social media and your website. Also,  shout while you’re there and use social media to the full. At Dot to Dot, I made friends with a few other mums and we all tweeted about each other to drive extra interest.

Just a final thought it’s worth considering how your outfit fits to the brand. You are part of the marketing after all. Should you wear a logo or stick to the colour scheme. It looks great for images and also people can spot you easily.

6. Top tips:

A few random tips that I've found helpful.

  • Wear comfy shoes - sounds obvious  I didn’t and suffered :(
  • Get the wifi code
  • Take water/sandwiches
  • Prep an email about the business so you are ready when you get an enquiry (top tip from Lara&Ollie)
  • Take a notebook and stapler to put business cards and notes in
  • Phone charger!

But most importantly ENJOY it - network and make friends. These are your colleagues. Setting up a business yourself can be lonely so make the most of the opportunities to be around other people on the same journey!!

I hope you’ve found this helpful. I intend to do some filming at Playtime Paris so you can see more Behind the Seams and I will write an overview of this once I’m back.

Would love to know what you think? What else would you like to know more about??? Let me know

Emma x


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