1. Don't rent/buy equipment you've never used before!
I had rented a 24-70mm lens, thinking it would be better to have a zoom lens that I could set on a tripod and not have to move around in my photo booth at The Ottawa Pet Expo. However, because I don't usually work that way, I ended up moving around like I usually do, but now I had a large expensive zoom lens to worry about for the whole weekend!
"Lesson here is just use any equipment that you are most comfortable with and don't waste your money on something you may or may not use as intended!"
2. Don't break the bank!
Attending an Expo/Show is very expensive to begin with, so make a realistic affordable budget and stay within it. Your budget should include things like the cost of attending the show, materials for creating your booth, marketing tools (flyers, business cards, pamphlets, handouts), food for the day, parking, gas and any travel expenses.
"What is important here is to use what you already have, don't buy anything because you think you may need it, odds are you probably don't! "
I had created my booth setup from household items I already had (tables, chairs, baskets, linens, flowers). I also used my own picture frames to showcase my work at my booth. My walls at home were bare for a couple months, but it was worth it by not spending the extra money.
For marketing tools I had my business cards, which you should already have tons of. I had printed session fees and upcoming event pamphlets, which I later realized were an unnecessary expense. The last piece of marketing material was my banner. Because the banner can be used in future shows and events, I would highly recommend investing in one for your business. I purchased mine from Vistaprint. Remember, the best marketing tool is YOU!
3. Less Is More!
Large events like a Pet Expo generate a lot of traffic and have different sized groups travelling together.
I had a Christmas-themed Photo Booth set up where participants could come and get their family holiday pictures taken with their pets. During the event, I ended up having to move many of my props (lanterns, baskets, pine cones, chair) around to accommodate the different sized groups, which created extra work for me.
"Lesson here is keep your photo booth and/or displays to a minimum, keep it simple. Then, you won’t have to worry about them during the show. "
4. FREE equals EVERYONE!!
If you offer anything for free, be prepared to deal with many participants, which means lots of work during and after the event.
My photo booth was free, so I ended up with hundreds of different participants and thousands of images to process after the event which we had not anticipated.
Lesson here is make sure you speak with the organizers about what you plan on doing or offering at the event, so they can give you feedback as to what you should expect.
5. Take BREAKS!
I know we feel like we don't want to miss anyone but do yourself a favour and take breaks. Being a vendor takes a lot out of you, refuel when you can! My favourite hiding places were the bathrooms and back hallways! ;)
6. Make friends with your neighbours!
Many of the vendors are "Expo Veterans". They go from show to show in different cities every year. They are a great source of knowledge and can make great connections for future business endeavours. Go a little early and/or stay a little late during setup times so you can mingle. You could also take a walk around the show on your break to check things out.
7. Bring a buddy!
You should never leave your booth unattended so make sure you have someone with you, so you can take breaks and keep each other company during slow periods.
For my Photo Booth setup I definitely needed a second person to manage the line and make sure people stayed in order once we had retrieved their contact information.
Expo organizers may have volunteers on site for vendors to use for breaks. If you don't have a partner, make sure to ask before the event so you can plan accordingly.
8. Have a way to collect Info
Generating leads is of the upmost importance! Expos are crazy busy and participants will see so many vendors that they may forget why they stopped by your booth in the first place. Make sure you have a way to collect the participant’s information through a survey or an activity, so you can reach out after the event. This gives you a chance to reintroduce yourself to them.
Note: Avoid pen and paper. Trying to decipher people’s writing is a pain and a waste of time! There are lots of free APPS that can help. I had used Jotform or you can just create a landing page on your website.
9. Location, Location, Location!
If the event is outdoors, pay the extra fee and get a booth location under one of the main tents. Your booth is no match for high winds, rainfalls and the harsh summer heat. For indoor events, ask the organizers for some input on good locations and their surrounding businesses. I would stay away from any locations that will have loud music and/or announcements. It can be really hard to speak with the participants if your booth is beside a speaker!
10. Roll with it!
We can do our homework on trade shows, spend weeks on Pinterest looking for inspirations on booth setups and make our to-do lists, but nothing can prepare us for the actual event. Show-goers are unpredictable. You just never know what is going to happen or what is going to get peed on! ;)
"Lesson here is don't overthink things and just roll with whatever comes your way so you can enjoy the show!"