Exhibiting at the Ideal Home Show – lessons learnt

When you tell someone you are about to exhibit your product at the Ideal Home Show people seem to think it will be a glamorous affair and lots of fun – little do they know the hours of preparation that go into having a stand at one of these shows. We have spent 18 days exhibiting SafeSip at this year’s show and it was a huge learning experience for all involved.  We were unexpectedly phoned in the summer of last year by the organisers offering us a stand at this year’s show.  I was thrilled with the idea that SafeSip had been noticed at this level and thought it was an amazing opportunity for us. I am now writing this with hindsight, looking back at what we have learnt from our experience and wanted to put down some key points we should have understood before committing ourselves.

Research into the Exhibition you want to attend (don’t just take the word of the organiser).

We were advised that there would be around 14,000 visitors each day and was convinced this would be a great opportunity for SafeSip.  With hindsight I should have asked around for other opinions - spoken to people who had exhibited there before to get their feedback on attendance levels, what had worked well for them and what hadn't? The attendance levels in our area did not seem to be as high as expected.

Try other exhibitions/shows in the run up

Before the Ideal Home Show try some other events, they don’t have to be on the same scale – a one day event can give you great understanding of how things flow at these shows.  It may even be worth attending as a visitor.  Think about how long a demonstration takes, what sort of questions you get from the public, how much time can you spend talking to one person without losing the interest of another and potentially missing a sale.

Budget for all the hidden costs

The first thing to remember about exhibiting at shows like this is that everything costs money.  First you pay for the stand/space itself and then the extras start coming - a power source should it be needed, shelving follows, internet connection if you are going to be using a wireless payment system. The list is almost endless! I would recommend planning what your stand is going to look like well in advance and then budget.  Have an idea of exactly what you will need and write a list, will you be showing a video of how your product is used – if so you’ll need power, TV, DVD player vs computer? Do you need microphones?  Work out how many power supplies you will need and see if you can reduce any of them.  By planning in advance and paying early you can often benefit from discounts.

Plan ahead

Once you have an idea of what your stand will look like start ordering any display boards/price lists/banners you need.  You will go through several ideas, proof reading and minor tweaks/changes before the big day.  The sooner this is all done the more relaxed you will feel. We had many other things going on in the background during the run up to the show. We were busy re-branding SafeSip, designing new packaging and overcoming production capabilities but it always felt like the show was a long way off.  As with everything it crept up very quickly.

Research a payment system that works for you.

SafeSip is sold principally online which meant that we needed a complete point of sale system to use at the event, ideally one that didn’t incur huge set up costs and enabled us to take credit cards.  There are many options out there, paypal, sagepay but after lots of research we settled on iZettle.  It meant we could accept card payments, keep track of our sales and link perfectly with our accounting system (Xero).  With no upfront costs it was perfect for our needs.

Plan for sales

I know this is a given but if you haven’t done this type of event before your head may be swimming with how much stock to bring.  Obviously you don’t want to arrive with limited stock and sell out on day one but at the same point you don’t want to have too much with the limited storage available to you on site.  Seek advice from others that you know who have done this before.  Have a look at your current daily sales, estimate the market you’ll attract and how many people are likely to attend each day. You are allowed to have deliveries at the show but only within certain time limits on certain days so make sure you have enough to cover you around these periods.

Organise enough help

Resourcing the stand was one of the most difficult areas to plan for. It is hard to know exactly how many people you will need on any given day.  You want enough people to cover the demonstrations, answer questions and to complete sales so you don’t miss any opportunities but people standing around twiddling their thumbs can create the wrong impression.  Try to make it all as flexible as possible so if you arrive and realise it is really quiet until lunch time, then manic after that, perhaps switch plans and let people come in later – just make sure staff/helpers are aware things might change.

Don’t expect everyone to love your idea

Not everyone will like your product/idea, and some people will just come right out and express their opinions. Try not to take offence, ask questions to find out more about why they think it is too expensive; don’t think it would work in their market.  See if any of their thoughts are valid if not just move onto the next person – try not to dwell.

After the event: 

Do an honest assessment

Look at the costs you incurred, the sales you made, the comments you received, the sales after the event based on feedback received.  Look at social media and see if you have more likes/more interest in what you are doing.  Assess what your team think went well/badly, were there any new product ideas that came to light talking to people at the event that could help expand your range/the markets your aiming at.  Only after all this can you really know if it was all worth it and whether it would be worth investing your time again.

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