How to Exhibit at a Trade Show

It was exactly one year ago that Nicola embarked on exhibiting her chilli jams and fruit preserves at her very first trade show, Speciality and Fine Food Fair. Fast forward a year and we were there again at the same trade show, exhibiting for the second time, having showcased Single Variety Co at a number of shows along the way.

Single Variety Co Trade Show

However, this week was my first ever trade show. I was with Nicola at the show in Olympia last Monday and I really wanted to understand how on earth, as a small business, do you go about exhibiting at one of this huge events?

I quickly learned that the recipe to a successful trade show is:

  • visually design the stand

  • budget well

  • have a clear strategy

  • plan plan plan

First things first, get a vision for your stand. Spending time working out how you want your stand to look visually is so important. After all, your stand is that initial connection with potential customers, so being clear on how you want it to look, how it ties in with your brand and how it will best showcase your products is vital. Going to other trade shows to get inspiration is a great starting point for this. Nicola went to shows that featured non-food as well as food, such as Spirit of Christmas Fair to gain inspiration. She took lots of photos along the way which meant she had references when designing the stand.

When it comes to budgeting, not spending too much on the first one really helps in the long run. As tempting as it may be to get carried away, costs really add up quickly, so it’s best to stick to budget! Buying furniture from Ikea or eBay helped us to keep costs low.

Our stand at our first Speciality Fair in 2017

Our stand at our first Speciality Fair in 2017

Nicola soon learned from her first trade show that she wanted to change it for the next one. She then spent time analysing what did and didn't work for her, and spent the next few trade shows tweaking and refining the stand. And we now have a stand design that works for us! 

When we got to this stage, Nicola invested into the stand and got someone to design and build it for us. This someone is the lovely Bruno from Standbuilder, who not only designs the Single Variety Co stand, him and his team assemble and disassemble the stand at each show we go to. It takes an incredibly long time to do this yourself, so being able to have someone take responsibility for this is a huge weight off your shoulders when preparing for (and recovering from!) a trade show. We soon learned that always booking the same shape stand at each show meant that we can reuse the same display which helps manage costs.

Building a strategy for a show helps to make the most out of your time there. Being clear on who you are targeting e.g. big vs. small retailers, whether or not you want to export, and knowing your prices and capabilities, means that you target the right customers for you.

And finally, plan plan plan! Being super organised and managing logistics down to a fine detail makes such a difference to how well the show goes. 

So our top tips of things to take to a trade show are:

  • Phone charging pack (most shows charge extra for electricity)

  • Notebook, pen and stapler (for business cards of new contacts and to write notes to follow up with them on) 

  • Water (it’s amazing how thirsty you get talking to lots of people)

  • Your lunch (it’s really difficult to leave your stand for long and often the food available to exhibitors is expensive)

  • A friendly face (make friends with your neighbours at the show)

  • Help (don’t do it all on your own! The stands are small so 2 people will be plenty).

  • Samples for tasting at the stand (plus things to sample with)

  • Business cards

Also, if you’re thinking of doing a trade show, visit the year before to make sure it’s the right customer for you. There are a lot of trade shows out there and you can’t go to them all!

We had a great time at this years Speciality and Fine Food Fair, meeting up with current customers as well as making new contacts and hopefully some new customers! On top of that, our Lemon Drop Chilli Jam won the Fresh Discovery Award at this years show! Thank you to everyone who voted for us. Not only are we super proud to add this to our awards collection, we’re busy deciding when we’re going to crack open the massive bottle of champagne to celebrate!!

Fresh Discovery Award Winnder

Much jam love,