As I Googled through all of the upcoming bridal shows around the GTA, I came across the Deer Creek Bridal Show in Ajax, Ontario. After some pushing from my ever-supportive husband, I finally faced my fear and entered my first bridal show last September. Deer Creek Bridal Show was held at the Deer Creek Golf and Banquet Facility on January 8, 2017.
A bridal show is a great opportunity to showcase your product and your brand. It is a huge resource for meeting new clients. There are different types of shows and the fees range as well. There are shows that span over 3 days held at Convention Centres and then on the other hand, there are 1-day shows that are hosted by venues. Fees for the show can range from $500 to $15,000. Aside from that, finding the best time to enter is an important factor to consider. The earlier you enter, the better booth you get. If you get invited – even better. So, for a newbie like me in the events industry, picking the right show to enter for the first time is important.
Let’s rewind back to September. After signing up, I had four months to prepare for the show.
I had no idea who the other vendors were in the planning, décor & floral category, but I knew there would be others. The only thought going through my head was, “I need to be original, my booth cannot look like the others, I have to stand-out!” Here I am with a pen and paper and a million ideas going through my head – what stuff do I need for the show?
My booth was 8’x10’ in size. My floral wall, which coincidentally I bought earlier that summer, ended up being my backdrop for the show. The entire décor & colour scheme would be based on this floral wall. A bridal show is just like any other event. You need to think about all the details that will be displayed – draping, furniture, linens, dinnerware, silverware, glassware, menus and the flowers! I found all those details easy to put together expect for the floral display. I found this to be the hardest to prepare because I had to match the flowers on the wall. Given that it was in the middle of winter and trying to stay within a tight budget, my choices were quite limited. After lots of research, I found the floral collection that suited the look and my budget for the booth.
I have been to so many trade shows and let’s be honest, we all look forward to the “Swag Bag”. I had a collection of pens, USB sticks, mini LED flashlights, mints, gum, and stickers from past tradeshows I have attended. As I tell my clients when giving out favours, make it personal and give something that is worth keeping. My favour options were; #1 – individual homemade sugar cookies with the HB Events logo, or #2 – clear tumblers with a twist cover and a straw, personalized with the HB Events logo. Choosing favour #1 would require tons of hours of me baking and decorating each cookie. Oh wait, in case you didn’t know, I am a hockey mom to 2 rep players. After imagining driving around these hockey players then having to bake and decorate approximately 200 cookies, favour #2 clearly was the best way to go. I used a colour frosted soft loop plastic bag in aqua to bag each tumbler. The swag bag prep was quick; all I needed to do was bag the tumblers! No hours and hours of baking and frosting cookies.
The Marketing Materials
Marketing materials are items given or posted to promote a company, brand at trade shows.
Choosing the right type of marketing materials for the show is extremely important. There is a plethora of options to choose from. To stay within my budget, I chose a half page flyer and a vertical banner for the show. I designed both the flyer and banner myself. The banner was quite simple, the company logo, our slogan and a few portfolio pictures. On the flyers were a collage of pictures from past events, my website address and contact information. These elements were key to ensure the prospective clients could have a quick snap shot of my work and have my information handy. I personally find handing out flyers to be annoying and they end up getting thrown away. Show attendees tend to either toss them out or lose them while walking. My flyers were inserted inside the swag bag. That way, attendees will remember who gave them the cute tumbler ☺.
The Tradeshow Form
Every bride or couple that stopped by to chat with me were asked to complete our tradeshow intake form. This was an online form, completed by using an iPad we set up at the show. I found this to be very efficient and everyone loved the idea. A few days later, I emailed each person or couple who completed the form to personally thank them for stopping by our booth.
My Overall Experience
I have had other vendor friends (who have yet to take the bridal show plunge) ask me what was my take on this experience. Here’s what I can share; the show preparation takes a ton of work and depending on how much detail you put into your booth, it can get costly.
Was it financially worth it? If you booked clients, then you a got a return of your investment. Another important point I want to share is to make your booth a representation of who you are and your style. Believe in your product and your brand, but most importantly, believe in yourself. I was second guessing myself throughout the entire course of the preparation all the way to the morning of the show. All that was going through in my head was “is my booth good enough?”, “will it match-up against the other vendors in the show?”. I drove myself crazy and made myself extremely nervous. As soon as I spoke to the first attendee, that all went away. My personality had shone through, my confidence in myself was back – nothing else mattered. I met so many wonderful brides and couples, made new industry friends and most importantly, I was able to showcase myself and my brand.