A whole month has passed since MCWF ’18 and my intention was to have this post live only a few days after the event to share my experiences to those who may be considering to exhibit or attend next year, but as always I have no idea where the time has gone! So without wasting anymore time I’m going to jump straight to it:
A good question to kick things off, why did I exhibit at MCWF and what makes this one so special from all of the rest? Before MCWF I had exhibited at a few number of fairs all running under different promotional companies. Some of these wedding fairs were good, some of these were bad. But neither were really good (or even really bad) Just good. A good amount of attendees, a good amount of quality stall holders and a good amount of leads for me to take away. But what I was really lusting over was an event that just delivered that little bit more. Exhibiting is a no mean feat, it takes a lot of preparation and can be very costly, so after completing a few fairs it became really important to me to spend my hard earned marketing budget and time on the ones that would really make a difference.
When you are exhibiting at a fair it is up to you to make sure that having your business and brand represented at this event will work well for you. There have been numbers of promotional event companies contacting suppliers asking them to buy a stall at their next fair and I’m quite confident in saying no to those ones that just don’t represent my clients and how my own business wants to be perceived. I’ve turned down stalls at some really popular events that boast 5,000 attendees simply because the events branding and projected image of the wedding industry isn’t something that I’m either interested or invested in. It is important to know your clients well, and to know where to find your targeted customers. With my designs being modern, bold and creative I knew when I read MCWF’s strapline of ‘The wedding fair for the style savvy couple’ that it was the one for me! Their branding, imagery, website, tone of voice and take on the wedding industry aligned with my own values and beliefs and this is one of the most important aspects to consider when thinking of who to exhibit with.
The reputation of MCWF was also something that was hard to ignore, I knew that by having an association with their brand it would only do great things for my brand too. And also just because it looked like a whole heap of fun! So many incredible vendors that are all so inspiring in their own right, it really did look and feel unlike any other wedding fair I had seen.
When I submitted that application form I had already told myself that I hadn't got accepted. 'There is no way your branding is up to the standard', 'you know you can't do this but well done for trying anyway' and 'your work is not good enough'. These were the thoughts that I was placing into my head to make the rejection a lot easier to deal with when it came around. But there was that one small part of me that thought 'just maybe you will get accepted!' (and what the hell would I do then?!) So of course when the congratulatory email landed in my inbox with the subject heading of WELL HELLO THERE MOST CURIOUS EXHIBITOR 2018 I honestly nearly had a heart attack and cried with happiness at the same time. I could not believe it. It really was one of those moments that I just felt all of my hard work was paying off in ways I had only ever dreamed about. I mean if the team behind MCWF liked my work and believed it was going to suit the attendees at the show then that is all I have ever worked for and wanted. It was definitely a huge milestone not only for my business, but for me as a business owner to know that I was enough and that I was exactly where I wanted and needed to be.
After I had finally calmed down from the excitement of being accepted, I had that moment of panic 'oh crap how am I actually going to do this!' so a lot of planning took place to ensure I was ready and prepared in good time. I had 6 months until the big weekend but I wanted to have everything ready and completed a month before. Having wrote down a list of things to do/make and a rough idea of how I wanted my stand to look it was just a case of ticking things off the list in order next to the completion date I needed to do them by. This was actually something that I did feel confident and prepared for having the experience of a few wedding fairs under my belt, I knew what I would need but what I didn't know was the standard that my stand needed to be at in order to look the part. So I decided to just go for it, make it the best and most creative stand I could, because at least then I knew I would have done everything that I could of with no regrets.
One part of my stand design that I knew I really wanted was a back drop. Having experienced first hand the problems with having lots of things going on behind you at wedding fairs it can be really hard to create your own brand space at an event when your back to back with other suppliers. I've had it a few times before where there was no real clear definition between my stand and the exhibitor behind me. So I knew a backdrop would help create my own space as well as just looking really lovely! with these types of frames becoming really popular at Weddings for bespoke alters I knew this style would work well at MCWF. I had seen some really lovely paper streamers at Peach Blossom party shop in Brighton which matched my brand colours perfectly that I could use as the hangings for the back drop. So I had my vision in sight and all that needed doing next was to actually build it!
So I have to be honest here, a lot of the build work was completed by my partner who has always been more than happy to help me at these events (I really am too lucky to have him) I would show my sketches to him and try to explain the thoughts in my head to see if they made sense, and also if he knew how we could build it. Probably the easiest part of the construction was the copper frame. I had sourced a couple of local companies who had made copper frames for various reasons (mainly for clothes rails) but to be honest I was quite put off by the price! I knew copper was a relatively cheap material so I decided first to try and build one ourselves before spending a fortune on having one made. And I am so pleased we did because it was so easy!
We took a trip to Homebase on a rainy Saturday and bought all the materials we needed, the copper pipes, the copper cutter (a very important tool) and super glue. We took along my sketch and the measurements we created to make sure we bought the right length of pipes and had to work out how many 'end pieces' we would need (essentially the covers that go on the ends of the pipes to make them look a bit nicer). I didn't take any photos of us cutting the copper to show but I did watch this youtube video to see how it was done using the cutting tool that we had bought.
One of my favourite parts of designing my stand was getting to have my new logo cut out of acrylic for the sign! It is such a nice way to see your logo and branding in a different light to just seeing it digitally on a computer a lot of time to actually have it in your hands to hold. I had it cut by Zoli at Exhibit Printing in Brighton, having worked with him previously I knew he was the man for the job. The only downside to my sign was having to glue all of the letters on by hand, making sure they were straight (and in the right order!) was a very stressful part of the process. But when it was completed and hung on my frame for the first time it was such a huge sigh of relief that it worked and that I LOVED how it looked!
Decorating the frame was pretty easy, I hand taped all of the paper streamers with the loop hole and used some fake flowers that I bought from Home Sense (they have the most amazing range of fake flowers that look almost as beautiful as real ones) The flowers were tied with floristry wire and after giving the frame a few wobbles nothing was falling off so I considered that a success!
At previous wedding fairs I had always displayed my templates on foam board, I had a design digitally printed on, with some wood glued over the width to create mini shelves. This had always worked really well and displayed my template designs nice enough. But I knew for MCWF I had to raise the bar, foam board just wasn't going to cut it! So I had the idea of using acrylic instead with it being a very popular and modern aesthetic in current wedding trends.
Once again I wanted to make this board really different from all of the usual acrylic signs I had seen but also keeping with the modern style. I decided to use a circle shape instead and I painstakingly hand applied gold, silver and copper foil to make it extra.
The two main builds of my stand design were done! I just had the printed items left to complete such as new business cards, price lists and quote sheets, all pretty easy items to create and all completed exactly a month before the show!
The set up
So the weekend was finally here! And how typical that the weather was horrendous. The beast from the East was trying to stop the show but there was just too much determination from the team to stop it from happening. We left Brighton nice and early to ensure we had enough time, not having a car this meant we had to travel via train, and when we had all of my stand along with luggage for 3 days it was quite tricky getting on the underground with so much stuff! We arrived at the Truman Brewery and were fully submerged into the Most Curious chaos with suppliers setting up their stands and people running around. But the atmosphere in the room was electric, and considering it was a huge warehouse it was just filled with so much excitement. The press evening was due to begin at 4:30pm so I was nervous and eager to get my stand up as soon as I could. Normally it takes me no longer than an hour to set up my stand, but of course this time I had a lot more to prepare!
There were a couple of things that I did to make the process of setting up easier and a little more stress free:
- Taped all of the paper streamers before hand and rolled them up in the correct order so I could simply unravel and place them on quicker
- Took pictures with me of my table design from previous events that I loved and wanted to re-create, this made it a lot quicker to get things on the table in the right order
- Packed all of the items in the order that I would need to take them out - it sounds really particular but as the majority of my items are paper made things can get really messy very quickly when all of my items are out at the same time!
I really enjoyed the set up process as it gave me a chance to see just how much the vision in my head of what I wanted it to look like had actually become a reality! I did actually cry when my stand was all set up as I was just so damn proud of myself for doing it - and I don't think people give themselves enough credit! Of course I wouldn't have been able to do it without Dan - he is the first person who is going to reap any reward that this little business gives us!
So it was done! it was all set up. Part of me felt like that was it, that I could go home now it was all set up, and I had done what I came to do. But of course the event hadn't even started yet! And oh my lord the room was looking amazingggg! Such incredible vendors with insanely creative stands, it was such a joy to be amongst them all. Some of my favourites are below:
It was quite a whirl wind at times, so many people and so much stationery chat! It really was the best and I felt my stand and presence at the show went even better than I had hoped. The weather hadn't stopped brides & grooms from attending and it was such a joy chatting to them all. I had bought along quote forms for potential clients to fill in, this is something I had done before and don't know why I hadn't done it from the very beginning! These kind of events can be quite overwhelming at times for couples to take in, so much to see and so much information being put in front of them. I felt very comfortable to let the couples ask questions and enquire via my form, it gave a lot more of a relaxed feel and less 'salesy' a definite tip I would recommend for anyone thinking of exhibiting.
As a way to round this huge post up in a way that might be helpful I've listed below the 'top tips' for both applying & exhibiting, not just at MCWF but any fair that you feel is a little overwhelming - because trust me, you can do it!
- Be confident in your application form and make sure the images you supply are KILLER (as this is essentially their very first impression so it needs to be a good one)
- Plan, prepare and schedule - don't leave things until the last minute, exhibiting is stressful enough without the extra worry of getting things done in time
- Don't be afraid to push yourself both in your stand design and your offering. I designed a whole new template range to launch at the show as this gave me a good selling point and something that was a unique offering to potential clients.
- Bring food, water and if you can a helper! Toilet breaks are a must and I don't believe it ever looks professional to leave a stand unattended
- Don't be scared - I almost didn't submit my application because I didn't have the confidence in myself, and what a shame that would have been! Just do it and worry about the finer details later. Because honestly, exhibiting at Most Curious has been one of the best things I have ever done for this business!
Overall I had the BEST time. Meeting both suppliers and clients, and the team behind Most Curious were the reason it all happened. A huge thank you to the team for having me and hopefully here to exhibiting at London 2019! x