When my wedding photographer partner got the call to tell him there was a booth available at a major, London wedding fair we jumped blindly at the chance. We were totally unprepared for the work and financial commitment that would be involved. This is a very honest blog about my experiences of getting through this first wedding fair experience.
After securing the booth, we realised quickly that the cost literally involved just the booth. Electricity? extra. Furniture? Extra. Wifi connection? extra and so on. It seemed like the list of extra expenses was never ending. As a new business this was already a massive investment for us and at this stage we had no idea if that investment would be returned.
After a few weeks of designing the booth, buying drapes, table cloths. enlarged prints, easels, branded clothing, stationary, printed brochures, business cards and a new pair of shoes (!) we were finally as ready as we felt we could be. The night before the fair, the enormity of what we were about to do hit us and self-doubt crept in. What if people viewed our work negatively, what if we didn't get a single booking?
The first day went by in a blur. A steady stream of people visited the booth and I lost count of the number of times I described our album as 'Hand made Italian leather.' And my feet! Ouch, my feet hurt as my partner insisted that I dress according to our brand.
On the way to the venue on the morning of day two I was overcome with emotion. I didn't know how I was possibly going to manage another full day and my feet had several plasters on them from the day before. As I sobbed onto my newly purchased Levi's I managed to pull myself together in time for the start of the day.
It was a wonderful experience and a fantastic way to put your face in front of hundreds of potential brides and grooms. It was also a steep learning curve. Based on my experiences I have the following recommendations for which you may agree or disagree, this is just what worked for us
1) Be true to your brand - Let people experience what kind of service they can expect from you. Dress to impress the kind of clients you are hoping to get business from.
2) Go big or go home - Display your best images large if you want to make an impact.
3) Invest in high quality print materials - Visitors to the show often have a bag where there are putting literally hundreds of leaflets and fliers. Make your print material stand out from the rest. They may not look in this bag for months after the wedding fair and you can be sure that an 8 paged, glossy brochure will make more of an impact that an A5 flier.
4) Create a call to action - This is a way to draw people in so that you can engage them in conversation. We had a competition to win a free engagement shoot and to enter we asked for e-mail address and phone number. We collected over 200 by the end of the show so a great way to reach out to people after the event for future marketing.
5) Follow up all leads the evening of the fair - thank people for dropping by your booth and remind them of your services.
6) Network with other vendors - There are lots of very useful contacts to be made at wedding fairs. For us we were able to secure a venue, dress designer and hair and make up for a styled shoot.
7) Be prepared to get limited breaks - keep bottled water and snacks close to hand as there were very few opportunities to leave the booth for refreshments
8) Don't be disheartened if you don't get a booking It might feel like all the effort and expense are for nothing but be patient. Lots of the people we met weren't getting married until 2017/18 and were merely window shopping to find out the kind of expenses that were involved or to just see what is available. They are in no rush. It is just now, 2 months after the event that we are getting enquiries and bookings and it could be an entire year before we realise how successful we were.
Enjoy it. Be open-minded and expect the unexpected!