My 7 Tips for Trade Shows


Trade shows can be quite daunting if you haven’t done them before, so I thought I’d share a few light hearted tips for other makers or small businesses who might like to try one but have questions about the small stuff.

Tip 1 - Catalogues & Price Lists

Now, I like a printed catalogue but it’s not essential. As long as you have something like a postcard or flyer with an image on as a reminder of what you do and a price list that visitors can take away, then you’re golden. How many to take? This is a key question. When some trade fairs boast visitor numbers of over 21,000, you could, get over excited and think you’d need thousands, like I did on my first one. Okay, I didn’t order thousands but I definitely over ordered. Luckily, I had done my price list separately, so was able to use the catalogues at other shows. I would say anywhere between 50 - 100 will be more than enough.

Tip 2 - Pre-show prep

Most shows have a website that buyers can visit to see who is exhibiting. Some buyers use this and often have already decided on what they are interested in before the show. Make sure you upload some good images of your work to the show site. It’s all promotion and it all helps.

Tip 3 - Easy order forms

When I am doing a show, my body is usually flooded with cortisol and I’m running on adrenaline, which is not ideal for clear thinking, particularly where numbers are involved. So I designed myself a chart type order form (for dummies, if you will) that requires minimum thinking on the spot and eliminates any doubts about a hastily written scribble that I can no longer read once I’m back in the studio. ignore this one if you are utterly together with thinking and writing while someone is watching, I am aware that I could be alone with this one!

Tip 4 - Design yourself into the stand

Allow enough space for yourself to be on your stand without obscuring your work, if possible. I know that these shows are hugely expensive so we all go for the smallest space we can get away with, so where you will hang out needs some thought. You don’t want to appear like you’re lurking or worse, in the way. I also factor in a seat of some kind. I have no idea how some peppy exhibitors stand for 3 solid days! I’m not a total princess, I don’t necessarily need a cushion, but a seat, yes.

Tip 5 - Coffee & Tea

On to the serious stuff! Teas & coffees are expensive at these shows, plus if I have to queue for one, I worry that I’ll miss a key opportunity while away from my stand. I always take a flask.

Tip 6 - Reward

When the show is over, I try to make sure that there is a bloody big glass of wine in the fridge for me when I get home. I also am usually really tired the following day ( not due to the wine, of course) so plan for a slower pace of day. Unpacking, reflecting, sorting paperwork etc or maybe even a day off entirely if you can. Be kind to yourself, these shows are hard work.

Tip 7 - Enjoy it

Much as they are tiring, I really enjoy doing shows. It’s an opportunity to get orders from and meet potential customers that perhaps you would never have thought of or known to contact individually. It’s also great to meet up with other makers and small business owners. The days are long, and there are lulls in visitors so try not to look bored in these times or indeed too eager to the lone wandering visitor just after 4pm. Not always easy.

If you’ve got this far and are thinking Good Lord!, she’s not mentioned ‘X’ then please feel free to add your tips into the comments box.