I'll start this blog by telling you that I'm not writing it from the point of view of a wedding show organiser, I had years of experience of exhibiting at wedding fairs as a wedding stationer before I decided to start organising my own events.
Of course, not all of what I'm going to write will be applicable to you, creating a visually interesting table-top stand isn't going to mean squat to a DJ or photo booth company but I'll try and keep it broad and hopefully, it will give you some useful insights or advice amongst the waffle.
Before You Book
I hear it a lot, "wedding fairs aren't a good investment anymore", "I just treat it as a networking day so I'm not disappointed", or "I never get any bookings so I don't want to waste my money". I'm going to be absolutely level with you here, if that's the case, the issue is one of three things;
You're booking the wrong shows for you
You're not going into it fully prepared
Something is putting your potential clients off
There are all kinds of event organisers, wedding venue in-house open days, independent shows, niche style fairs - and with all things, there are good, passionate organisers that promote their exhibitors and work their socks off to make a well-attended, quality lead filled event for you. And there are those that well, you might as well take your hard-earned cash outside and set it alight, chances are, the folks that have said the things above, well they've met the latter category.
So, before you book anything - do your research!
Things to look for online
Check out the reviews on the organiser's facebook and google - beware anyone that doesn't have a review section.
Look through their social media, this forms a huge part of marketing an event, if their content is fresh, consistent and getting plenty of engagement, it's far more likely that they're well versed in social media marketing.
Check out exhibitors that have attended past events, especially if the wedding show is an independent one as you can't always rely on the venue to be any indication of the calibre of exhibitors (or couples) they attract.
Look through their past facebook events, see for yourself how supportive they are to their exhibitors in the lead-up to the event.
Things to organise before the show day
Professional marketing literature - I cannot stress enough the importance of a professional looking brochure on a good quality paperstock. If you can, work with a graphic designer to produce this because it's not you, but your literature that couples will be taking home with them. You might have a great rapport with them in-person but then, when they're digesting all they've seen that day, is your brochure going to make them question your professionalism?
Update your website! If you're not a regular updater, make sure your price lists are current, that you've got recent imagery showing your best work and that overall, you're happy with your website aesthetic and content. I can guarantee, before a couple commits to book, they'll be checking out your website and that, is so often the clincher.
Make sure you've plotted out how long it's going to take you to a) get there, b) unload, c) set-up and d) go get a cuppa before the doors open. The less flustered you are, the more naturally you'll be able to converse with people, and allowing plenty of time to perfect your stand will mean that you can really showcase your work with maximum impact.
Night before prep - make sure your table cloth is ironed, your outfit is exactly the right look for your business vibe, you've packed your diary/tablet/lunch - all those little details as quite often, it's an early start for show days.
Things to do/bear in mind on the morning of the show
Harking back to the outfit - if you really want to attract your ideal client, you really need to dress the part. Dress as though you are your business, because for most of us folks in the wedding industry, you are your business. If you want to attract your ideal client, both your stand, and your own good self, should represent your style. Be yourself, be comfortable and the right kind of couple will find you and appreciate your authenticity. My favourite moto here is ‘Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe’.
Styling your stand - most couples have a checklist of things they're looking for when attending a wedding fayre, so key thing here, make it super obvious what you do, and make sure folks can see what that is from a decent distance away. The amount of times I've seen people enter a room, and immediately scan for the supplier they want - first stop, the one with the nicest looking stand offering the service they require. Doesn't mean it's the best fit for them, or that they'll book, but it does mean that that company has dibs on first impressions and sets a benchmark.
Use the space! Realistically, you have paid for a space, not a table. Maximise your visibility by using all the space you have available, be that through stacked props for height, using the floor space, staggered heights add visual interest and staging for product displays too.
Make your stand the only one they see - using a backdrop, a neutral cloth to make your work pop, or an extra large roller banner to show off your services, make sure your stand fills the eye of your potential customer.
A few eye-catching examples from our exhibitors - Lisa Notley Cake Design, Digital Bohemia Wedding Videography, Lily & Lottie Stationery (yep, me), Blossom Avenue Events, Sophie Bowdler Photography, RR Elite Wedding Cars.
Sales & Selling
For the love of all that is holy, please don't feel the need to pounce on people. Thrusting a leaflet into someones hand is just not okay, okay?! On behalf of the public, we do not like it.
Be human! Sales patter is all well and good but just keep it to key points about your business, if you really want to practice verbal sales technique, practice the art of small talk and observation, strangers make wonderful test subjects, especially now we do so much queuing. People value a comfortable chat and friendly advice over being told what you can do for them at great length.
Ask questions, be interested in their big day, their style ideas, how they met, it makes for much better rapport and makes the couple feel more at ease with you. They're probably nervous, likely organising a wedding for the first time and a bit tense so having someone show care and consideration can mean the world to them.
If you're anxious, try not to hide behind your stand. I know from experience that it's really hard to put yourself out there but even if it's baby steps, be on the customer side of your stand, reorganise your stand if things have moved about, stand to the side, anything that makes the couple know you're available to talk if they have questions. If like me, you don't know what to do with your hands half the time, take your tablet or hold a small batch of leaflets. That way, your hands are happy and you can show off other designs on your tablet, or supply a leaflet efficiently if asked. Super simple but it always makes me feel a bit more at ease.
Let people look - this is more for those of us that sell a product rather than a service. Sometimes, people just want to look at the detail of your work and that's a great thing, it means they're interested and appreciating your talent, give them a moment to look over the designs before you make conversation, questions and sales discussions can then build organically rather than couples feeling rushed and put on the spot.
Featured above: The Rose On The Cake & Eden Photographics
So there we have it, some tips and advice on working it at your wedding fairs.
At the start of this, I said that if wedding fairs aren't working for you, one of three things is wrong. Amongst all of those numbered lists, we've maybe hit on some items to help with booking quality wedding shows, being organised, creating a good impression and things that might put people off but there is of course the most important point, that you should absolutely be true to yourself, your business, your brand, it's all you. When a couple book you, or even just stop to chat to you, they're investing money, or time, in you. Value yourself too, invest in your dream, know your worth and be the very best you.