6 Learning Lessons from our First Trade Show
Our booth at the National Women's Show!
It’s been nearly two weeks since we’ve officially celebrated our launch at the National Women’s show at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. It is our first launch event in Canada that spanned from Nov 9 - 11! We really cannot believe how fast time flies. There was a lot of work that went into setting up the booth and the show. Despite all of the work, there were days filled with frustration as there were days which ended euphorically.
Life is about exposing yourself to new situations and learning on the way. Even if we didn’t get everything perfectly the first time around, I personally found a lot of fulfillment and takeaways from the show. I wouldn’t trade these lessons for the world.
Here are 6 highlights and learning lessons from our show
1. Plan ahead
The one thing that we learned about trade shows and selling in general, is that preparation is key for a successful event. We drew most of our inspiration for our booth off of Pinterest and Google. We found that with enough time and planning (as a side note: we signed up 4 months in advance), we had us ample time to think about what we wanted to do. As a result, we were able to tap into our creative juices and optimize the ideas and budgeting of our booth. Can you believe that we were able to put our booth together for under $1,000 CAD? Thorough planning can really save you time and money. Careful planning and budgeting can also allow for you to prioritize what is important and what isn’t.
Deciding on themes for our booth
Trial Set Up
2. Get your Logistics right
One of my biggest stressors and gripes during the entire planning and operational stages of the show was planning the logistical details. What goes where, how do we transport our inventory, how do we set things up, how many volunteers do we need? Add that on top of being pregnant and you can see how the stress can add up quickly! Luckily for us, we had some wonderful friends and family members who were able to dedicate their time, energy and patience in helping us with our booth. I could not be more grateful for their support. Logistics are a key element for an efficient set up and take down of your booth. My one recommendation would be to have a trial run before you set up on the day of the show, just so that you can get a sense of A) The dimensions of your booth, B) The material requirements and extra items that may be needed to make your booth more marketable; and C) The amount of set-up time required so that you can get a sense of the operations and tools needed to put together your booth.
Van life & Inventory Transport! So many boxes...
3. Say yes to rejection
I find that approaching potential customers is probably one of the most intimidating aspects of trade shows and sales in general, as you never know if they’ll be interested in your product. I even had a few experiences over the weekend where customers would yell or get irritated by my presence, but I recognize that sometimes, it has less to do with me, and moreso to do with them - perhaps they had a bad week, or they are stressed from the traffic. Regardless, over time, you begin to understand not to take rejection too personally. People can reject your product and your business on the basis of many factors - the way you look, the way you sound, heck they could even be put off by you smiling too much! The most important thing is similar to the concept of dating: Find the customers and the people who match your business’ target profile - and focus on the positive and not the rejection.
Our neighbours. Oh Canada...
4. Be open to change
I have to admit: The first day of the show was a bit of a disaster for us - it was completely the wrong demographic, mostly consisting of menopausal women. Add in a rainstorm/half blizzard and you’ve got yourself a recipe for low traffic in our area. There were some moments where I felt like giving up, but I realize that if you give up, then you will never succeed. I picked myself up and I had to do a mini-pep talk to myself and in the evening, I stayed up late to re-strategize, redesign certain marketing elements, and ultimately re-arranged my booth so that it would better appeal to a wider range of consumers. Thankfully, on Saturday, customers began to really warm up to our booth and our salespeople. The learning point here is, it’s okay to be unhappy or dejected if you fail the first time, but if you don’t fight for your business, no one else will.
Our pad cake was a big hit at the show and was decidedly our WOW factor.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
For trade shows, your sales team is the lifeblood of the company. They’ll be there not only to represent your brand, but also to help you when there is a high volume of people who you want to engage with. I found that over time, training and with more experience, my sales team became more and more confident and that translated to more comfortable interactions with customers. After all, no man (or woman) is an island - it is perfectly normal to ask for help. I was also especially grateful that our brand manager & a few influencers dropped by our booth in an effort to promote our presence and brand at the show! You only have 24 hours in one day - even if you can be as productive as you are, having some extra help will always do you some good.
This is what our setup look like after putting things together!
6. Life isn’t just about the sale
While sales and funding is a fundamental part of any business, don’t make it your end all criteria. Business life itself is a wonderful teacher and it’s important to recognize that like everything else, you need to find a good balance in order to have longevity in the business. At the end of the day, I find that forging new and good quality connections is really a powerful channel to grow your company’s presence.
Until Next Time!