Nowadays, it's almost as though you can find a wedding trade show somewhere in your area nearly every day of the week, all year round. (Likely because so-called wedding "season" now seems to last all 365 days of the year!) As a vendor, determining the event at which you should showcase your work -- and for which you should spend your hard-earned money to do so --continues to be the million-dollar question.
While you may not have a significant marketing budget, the decision to actually exhibit in a show can actually produce a significant part of your revenue. Therefore, first and foremost, you must seek out the opportunity that best caters to your ideal client base or the level of consumer you are striving to reach. However, narrowing down the various shows that might fit in your desired client category can still be quite the task.
All in all, there is a lot riding on the show you do choose to participate in, especially if you can only budget for participating in one show each year. To help you make this decision confidently, look for these key elements that make a wedding trade show worth your precious time -- and money.
1. The event producer must show passion and determination to make the event a marketing tool for all exhibit partners. Partners is the operative word here: Beware of a producer who promises the moon (without specifics) and rushes you to sign a contract -- this kind of behavior doesn't signify partnership. Pushy event producers typically care about their own agendas (and making money) more than fostering a worthwhile show environment for both vendors and attendees. Another red flag? If the producer does not offer former exhibitors' contact info as references (so you can find out past exhibitors' experiences) -- it could be a sign that he or she is not someone you want to work with.
2. The event staff must maintain open and honest communication with exhibitors. Evolving details arise during an event's planning stages and it's important that you, as a vendor, are informed. The event staff and producers must give you the head's up regarding a timeline of information such as: the promotion of the event, social media calendars, special marketing opportunities, staple items to expect to receive (tables, chairs, electrical, and so on), as well as a load in/load out schedule. If communication -- and organization -- isn't there from the get-go, you likely won't receive proper communication about these crucial aspects of the show, and the experience can be a disappointment.
3. The event should promise and deliver a WOW experience. Brides and grooms have many, many choices when it comes to attending a trade show. You want to be part of the show that gives them something beyond their expectations whether it's a niche gown designer's trunk show, unique activations that are interesting, informative, entertaining and inspirational, or some kind of special takeaway that will draw couples in.
4. The event should embrace and drive change in the space. The event should compel couples to expect the unexpected. For example, all wedding shows feature caterers, photographers, and florists. But one that feature mixologists, drone videographers, and plant wall artists will draw in the savviest clientele -- not to mention help evolve the idea of what kinds of vendors weddings can and should include. You want to be associated with innovation and be part of the future of the industry.
5. The event producer should build a positive team and family spirit. Trade shows are not about competition -- they're about camaraderie among the exhibitors. In fact, they should be an opportunity not just for connecting with potential clients but for networking with potential industry friends and collaborators as well. If you get the sense that a community spirit is lacking in a show you're considering, do not sign up for it.
I am proud to say that RSVIP Media Group, LLC (Renￃﾩe Strauss Very Important Partners) produces what I believe is an event worth participating in: the Luxe Hotels Wedding Event held annually at the Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel. (This year's will be on March 9.) The show has become the Southern California wedding showcase-truly, it's Academy Awards-worthy. Planning and orchestrating the show had taught me how to differentiate our event from all others. Learn more about it here.