This year I dabbled into the world of food and bridal shows and it was a whirl wind of an experience. I made a lot of mistakes and thought I’d share some of the insight I gained from my experiences! After participating in five different shows, I am ready to take a break!!
Things you should do:
1. Do your research on the event. Have they had a show before? If yes, try to find pictures from previous shows. This allows you to see two things: a) the demographics (this is important if you have a target audience for your products) b) you can see how other vendors have set up their booths! I’ll tell you one thing: I NEVER got the latter right! The first bridal show I attended the vendors went ALL out- they had curtains, chandeliers, fancy floors and diamonds everywhere… whereas my booth looked like this:
Granted, I had a lot of future brides approach my booth as if it was a breath of fresh air since I wasn’t decked out, but I still felt like a peasant amongst kings. The next couple of shows I attended didn’t really give me the opportunity to dress up my space, up until the one I did recently. I decided to rent drapes, cocktail tables and pretty linens… I was the ONLY one who was decked out! haha! I never got it right. This time I was the Queen and the rest were the peasants 😉
If you decide to deck out your space, expect to spend $200+ for the rentals! If you’re in Los Angeles, I’d recommend renting from White Night Design! Great products and incredible service!
2. Choose your events carefully and ask yourself this: what do I want to gain from this event? Is it exposure? Is it clients? Is it new vendor relations? Depending on your answer, an event might not be the right fit for you. I realized that food shows are not a right fit for my goals. Instead of people focusing on my business, they were focused on gulping down my cake samples! It wasn’t until I was all out of samples that people started noticing my display cakes!
3. How many cake samples you want to prepare is completely your choice! I made 200 for my bridal show and I barely got through 100. I made 800 for the food show and they were gone within an hour. I prepared my samples the following way: I cut 1″ squares, placed them in plastic souffle cups, added a swirl of frosting and then added a logo sticker on each container. This made it easier for me to transport and I thought it would be cool to give guests a “to go” sample in case they didn’t want to consume sweets right there and then. In hindsight, I realize that this isn’t the most cost effective thing to do. Most guests eat the sample and toss the container without evening looking at the label. If I decide to do another show, I now plan on taking sheet cakes to the event to cut and serve on site.
4. The loading dock will become your enemy. Not only will other vendors take up prime location, most loading docks are far from the hall you have to present in. Prepare for many back and forth trips (if you’re like me you’ll make friends with the staff and have them help you). Also, if you’re going to take a van make sure the parking structure will be high enough to give your car clearance. I ran into that problem recently at the Hyatt hotel. I had to end up giving my van to the valet guys and they parked it in their drive way. Stay classy my friends!
5. EAT BEFORE YOU GO TO THE SHOW. it will be your last meal for the next 10 hours. Leaving your booth will be tricky, especially if you’re the head honcho and are the one who needs to talk to the guests. Pack some food with you or energy bars to have at your station, along with some water.
6. Event planners will promise you the stars, but you’ll be lucky if you make it to the stratosphere (geeky and lame joke, I know). Don’t go to these shows with a lot of expectation. It takes a lot of time and investment on your part to reap any rewards from anything! I think a safe statistic would be for every 100 guests you might get 1 customer. I would change that to for every 300 you’ll get 1 if you are surrounded by popular local competitors.
7. Display cakes: what can I say? people have no manners. They will prod them, touch them, and BREAK OFF YOUR FONDANT RUFFLES because they wanted to see what they were made from. I am a very patient human being, but these types of guests really put my patience to the test. Try to display your cakes in a way that would make it difficult for anyone but you to touch them. If that’s not possible, print “do not touch” signs. Put your best display cake in the front to help capture attention 🙂
8. Make sure you converse with the people approaching your booth. I made the mistake of being somewhat passive during my first show and not asking future brides more questions, or getting their information. Be a little aggressive. Have a sign up book and have them write down their information, or try to book a cake tasting! Try to follow up within 3 days after the event.
These events are pretty draining- a combination of not eating, a lot of manual labor (loading and unloading) and talking all day will wipe you out. Some events are a lot of fun, and others will feel like a waste of time. Hopefully some of my tips will help you in some way!