Made By Mrs M

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Trade Fairs - The Stand and Set Up Day

Business, Craftmadebymrsm

GUEST POST BY CLAIRE BROWN OF THE BELLWETHER and MAKING * LIVING * DOING - CHECK OUT CLAIRE'S BLOG HERE. This is the second in a four part series on trade fairs - (read part 1 here) and come back next Monday for part 3!

Setting Up
Setting Up

So, next up, the actual stand and how it would look. I wanted it to be like stepping into someone's lounge and the best way to create that was to wallpaper the walls of the stand. There are very strict guidelines about what you can and can't put on the walls and although I could have Blu-taked wallpaper to the stand walls, my frames would have been too heavy to be supported by that. So my only real option was to install wallpapered boards in front of the shell scheme panels. We debated long into several evenings about this and were worried about how we'd make them stand up - this is where actually attending the show in advance of exhibiting really came in useful as we were able to draw on that for ideas. In the end we thought chain and hooks would do the job (but we were wrong...).

So, off to B&Q. The organisers will issue a manual with all sorts of information in it when you book. So we knew the exact dimensions of the stand in mm ahead of time and could order wood cut to size for our faux walls. I could then set about the more appealing task of choosing wallpaper to cover the panels. I researched online, worked out how many rolls I'd need and dragged my husband, Lee, around many DIY stores (he was secretly pleased) to choose something suitable. We decided to paper the panels in situ during the set-up day in case of any mishaps with measurements, hanging etc which turned out to be a wise move. It made transporting them easier too as there was no worrying about the paper being marked or ripped in transit. Wallpaper, hanging and set dressing materials cost around £75.

Prepping Frames
Prepping Frames

So, I had my samples, I had my promotional materials and I had my panels. Signage was taken care of by the fascia board included in the shell scheme and my sign I had printed up. Some set dressing then - I had gone with the living room theme and what better to set that off than the furniture from my actual living room! I decided on my vintage bureau for display and storage, my chair and a piano stool to use as a table.

Incorporating some sort of storage is a good idea if you can as you'll need somewhere to store price lists, a calculator, your phone, pens, notebook, water, an extra layer of clothes, your handbag, keys, etc. Luckily, as we were local we could take all the packaging, bubble wrap, etc home with us but some events, like this one, do not provide any storage space, so bear this in mind when travelling further afield and check with the organisers.

Only one last thing to prepare - me. I did the event solo with no help on the stand, which many small businesses do. I had to ensure I knew my products and price list inside out and back to front and had friends and family quiz me on it beforehand. I decided at quite a late stage to offer a show special of a 10% discount on orders placed during the show, so I had to print up information for my info packs the night before and do a little sign for the stand. If you do have help on the stand, make sure they know your price list and background info as well as you do - it's vital you're all singing from the same hymn sheet.

Something which I totally overlooked until the night before was what on earth I was going to wear. Smart, professional but comfortable are the watch words. I decided to wear a dress and cardigan, for the smart look whilst incorporating layers (the temperature can fluctuate wildly in these large conferencing halls) and some smart shoes. Big mistake on the shoes - I was in agony after an hour. Luckily for me, the venue also hosts a lot of big concerts and it had an actual shoe vending machine in the hallway, so I could get some emergency ballet flats! (£6 - bargain!)

The Show Itself

So, the day of set-up dawned, a Saturday. The timetable of the event went like so:

  • Saturday - build-up day.
  • Sunday, Monday, Tuesday - show open
  • Tuesday evening - break down
  • Wednesday morning - break down
Packed and Ready To Go
Packed and Ready To Go

Mid-morning on Saturday, we moseyed along to the venue with our wooden panels and wallpaper and other accoutrements. The place was in chaos and after we queued in our van for a slot to get into the goods yard, we arrived to find our stand near the loading bay. Handy, but also extremely draughty, given that this was the coldest January on record since Nam and there was snow falling outside. So we set up entirely in near freezing conditions, thanks to the giant doors being open.

The first thing we did was place our panels and quickly realise that our original hanging method was not going to work. This was because we hadn't factored in that our main back wall was, on the other side, someone else's main back wall. This meant that our hooks would encroach on their space a bit, so another plan was needed. We decided to use giant bulldog clips instead and I dispatched Lee to Staples just up the road for a box of 12 (another £10 - hope you're keeping track). Once he arrived back with those, it transpired that those were not quite big enough, so we decided to head further afield back to B&Q for something more heavy duty. We found some big orange clamps that did the trick and needed 2 packs of those to get all the sizes we needed (another £20).

Back to the hall and after we tested the clamps, time to paper our panels. We did this with Copydex, Blu-tak, a staple gun... they looked great once done from the front but were pretty much cobbled together in at the back, with our frozen hands in the Arctic conditions! This took a couple of hours to get right but once we had them done and in place, looked really impressive. The organisers and some random passers-by stopped to say how great they looked, so that was encouraging to know we were on the right lines! I am glad we took the trouble to do it.

After that, I unpacked all the display items and samples whilst Lee brought the furniture from home. We spent another couple of hours arranging everything, hanging up the frames on the wall (with drawing pins and string) and stowing away all the promotional materials, ready for the next day.

Then home to collapse on the sofa, eat some dinner and get to bed in readiness for the actual opening.

This is the second in a four part series on trade fairs - (read part 1 here) and come back next Monday for part 3!

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