We recently exhibited at Pulse London, a gifts trade show attended by industry buyers and interested members of the public. As this was our first ever trade show we were completely clueless about the process and couldn’t find much information online.
That’s the main motivation behind this article – we wanted to share what we learnt in the hope it helps someone else going through the same thing. To keep things manageable, we have split our experience into three posts: before, during and after the show.
These are our main lessons from setting up for Pulse.
1. It’s expensive (but worth it)
This might seem obvious to most people but attending a trade show is expensive. The cost does vary depending on the size of your stand – we paid £2,500 for ours (it measured 4.5m x 1m) and I would guess that the minimum cost of a smaller stand would be around £1,000. That’s for a completely bare stand. Add in all the extras that you will need (see below) and you could easily double your cost.
So why bother with all the effort and money? Because it is the place that buyers come to discover brands and place orders. You can spend days/weeks/months emailing buyers but a lot of them only attend trade shows. They want to see your products and talk to you to get a proper feel of what you are offering. It also makes your brand look legitimate – buyers are looking for brands that they can build long-term relationships with.
2. Get your printed materials sorted well in advance
Other than products, there are a whole lot of things that you will need to sort out in advance of the show. First are your printed materials that you will be handing out or using. Ideally these will be professionally designed because they are what potential buyers will be reviewing when they are making buying decisions back at their office.
We had the following:
- Lookbook (Printed by Awesome Merchandise)
- Price list (Printed by us on glossy paper)
- Order forms (Printed by us on standard printer paper)
- Business cards (Printed by Moo)
- Discount cards (Printed by Moo)
- Branded pens (Printed by Pens Unlimited)
You want to have at least a few hundred of everything. Running out of something will make you look very unprofessional in font of potential buyers.
3. Make sure you have all the tools you need
When you start building your stand you will be stressed, that’s natural. Make sure you are as prepared as possible because the last thing you need is unnecessary drama. If you are painting your stand yourself bring extra brushes, rollers, extension handles and a step ladder. We were lucky that there were lots floating about but you don’t want to rely on luck.
Some other tools that were essential for setting up our stand were:
- Spirit level
- Picture hooks
- Electric drill
- 3M strips
- Masking tape
- Measuring tape
- Sharp pencil
- Pencil sharpener
We did a practice setup of our stand at home which helped us figure out everything we would need on the day.
4. Pick your signage carefully
Putting up our signage took so much more time than it should have because we had so much trouble making it stick. We painted our stand on the first day and left it to dry overnight. The paint had a matt coating so perhaps that was it. Unfortunately, it is still a mystery.
As you can see in the picture, we had a lot of vinyl (the dividing wall was also covered in a vinyl quote and social media handles). It was a painstaking process which involved applying a lot of pressure to every millimetre of vinyl. The logo was especially tough as it had so many thin lines that required extra attention.
Even when it was finally all up, we had to go around and use superglue to ensure it would stay up. We came in each morning expecting it all to be on the floor but luckily it never was. The silver lining was that our neighbours got a lot of entertainment out of our efforts to keep our vinyl up.
Other stands seemed to have no trouble with their vinyl but we will not be using it again and are looking at other options for future shows.
5. You will need lights
This is almost essential, especially if most of your product is being displayed on the wall. We weren’t sure about it before the show, but as soon as we saw our stand and realised that the outer panel would cast a shadow on our products, we realised we needed lighting. Luckily there were electricians on-site and we were able to get three spotlights installed. It wasn’t cheap (about £150) but it was worth it.
We were finally set up at 7pm on the second (and final) day allowed for stand builds. Stay tuned for what we learnt during and after the show. If you are reading this because you are about to attend a trade show and have some questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org – we would love to help.