Top tips for making the most of exhibiting at a wedding fair or open day
By Kelly Chandler Consulting
You’ve been invited to join a venue’s wedding open day or showcase and you naturally want to put your best foot forward and gain the most from it. It’s a big investment of time, effort and money so you want to make sure you and your services shine. Here are my top tips in making the very best of it.
How do I know? I work with a select number of unique venues (Waddesdon Manor, Chiswick House & Gardens) in planning and producing their wedding showcases from the ground up. I work with my venue clients in curating the wedding professionals involved, designing the programme, overseeing the creative, and ensuring everyone gains from the plethora of opportunity that exists at such shows. Wedding Inspiration at Waddesdon Manor brings together some 60 wedding professionals by invite-only across its annual 5 hour opening, attracting around 600 visitors at each edition of this highly regarded venue wedding showcase.
Image: Kate Nielen | Shoes: Harriet Wilde
How do the wedding professionals I work with put their best foot forward and gain big wins? Here’s my top list of things you need to consider:
1. Choose carefully – live shows can be great but they aren’t always great! Do your homework on any “exhibition” opportunity you are presented with and make sure it’s a good fit for you and your brand. The very best shows are those at venues you are already affiliated with and recommended by and those should be your priority to help build your relationship there. Don’t discount other newer opportunities (after all new showcases have to start somewhere) but make sure you ask about how the event is being put together, how it’s being marketed, what the aim for the show is, what features of the show are being planned, what follow up possibilities you will have etc. Trust me, I know what it’s like to be on the other side of this; I had to work hard to build a reputation for the new client shows I put together the first time of running and went through lots of lengthy conversations with suppliers who put me through my paces but that meant we had the very best as part of our show!
2. Shout it loud – if you commit to being part of a showcase, make sure you do your bit to spread the word to your contacts and enquiries. It’s so easy to share news on social media, make sure you make this a regular part of your marketing in the weeks running up to the event and make sure you keep in close contact with the showcase organiser who should send you easy ways you can share news of the event with an e-invite, a social media image etc. It really does make all the difference if everyone shares – it’s no longer enough to just pitch up and expect the work to be done for you, unless you’re singing up to a major national exhibition and paying a hefty sum for attending, you need to be prepared to do your bit to help with the marketing and promotion of the event to get visitors through.
3. Be inspiring – modern couples are long over the idea of turning up to a wedding show to be “sold to” by a group of suppliers flogging their wares from behind uninspiring white clothed trestle tables. It’s key to really showcase what is possible for a couple’s wedding and give them an experience, a chance to touch, see, feel, smell and taste elements of their potential wedding; they don’t want just a plasma screen and a brochure, they want to see samples and see it brought to life. Yes, this costs money, time and effort but you need to think creatively how to put together your space these days. It could by hiring or bringing in unusual pieces of furniture that best showcase your products (think ladders, dressers, bureaus or trees) or it could be how you create a backdrop that’s eye-catching or what professional lighting you add to make things pop.
Image: Kate Nielen | Table & Chairs: Academy Furniture | Flowers & Candles: All For Love London | Tableware: Couvert Hire
4. Plan it out – think carefully in advance of what things you’ll need to bring things to life and don’t forget people don’t know your company name. I’m not a huge fan of pop-up banners (a bit corporate for the wedding market) but what clever ways can you position your company name and brand? Chalkboards, photo frames, floral designs, so many ways to show something lovely and be remembered for it. If you need things like power, shelving, a specific backdrop, make sure you discuss it well in advance with show organisers – these things are not easy or possible to alter on the day; try and put yourself in the shoes of the organiser who has the task of juggling the often conflicting requirements of sometimes up to 60 professionals.
5. Ask for opportunities –don’t forget to think beyond what you can offer just on your own “stand” – this is great but a really modern show should have opportunities for you to get involved elsewhere perhaps in contributing to a speaker programme, adding samples to a goody bag, being part of the team collaborating on styled dining tables and much more. Put yourself forward where you think you can add value.
6. Set up early –if you’ve got the opportunity to set up the day before or early on the day, do take advantage of this if you possibly can. You really do gain more in terms of being able to make your space look the very best, in terms of seeing how the event mechanics work and in having a bit of time to see what others are doing for your future learning and collaboration.
Image: Kate Nielen | Stationery: Intricate Creations
7. Don’t go it alone – I know that it’s incredibly hard to staff a wedding exhibit alone all day and I also know that not all wedding professionals are naturals at this face to face sales opportunity. Bring in some help where you possibly can – whilst you might not have a big team who can do the front line communications for you, they can often help with lifting, packing, getting you lunch and this support is hugely valuable in helping you remain calm, professional and full of energy for those all important clients and the unique opportunity that this face to face opportunity allows.
8. Keep in touch – ensure you capture the details of interested couples in some way so that you may follow up afterwards. You might want to look at some kind of give away or competition element to help you do that but my view is it’s better to capture the details of 20 interested clients who responded well to your offering than have the details of 200 brides who won’t remember you and weren’t particularly fussed about what you do – remember no business is for everyone!
9. Keep it fresh – you might be part of a successful wedding open day regularly but don’t make the mistake of replicating how you present your services exactly the next time. Of course it’s the less time consuming option but it’s a mistake in the bridal market. Trends/fashions and designs change fast and need to be reflected in your offering. Couples often plan far out and will attend venue events more than once especially if they are highly regarded locally – become known as an innovator not a follower!
Kelly Chandler Wedding Consulting
Kelly Chandler has a wealth of specialist wedding industry experience over more than 14 years leading her award-winning independent wedding planning company (The Bespoke Wedding Company) working very closely with and on behalf of discerning global couples to plan their unique UK-based weddings.
Kelly regularly speaks, trains and consults for a range of forward thinking wedding locations including the Unique Venues of London, National Trust properties, hotel groups, university colleges, media sources and more. Kelly is passionate about making the client/venue relationship work beautifully and making progressive venues shine more brightly and achieve greater commercial success in this fast-paced industry. Take a look at her ‘Refine & Shine’ 3 month programme for established wedding venues wanting to thrive.
Image credits: Kate Nielen and Waddesdon Manor