A stand at the Kidz In The Middle exhibition in Coventry.
It was exhilarating and exhausting - it's taken me until now to get back to my usual level of functioning, but it was worth it.
It took a lot of planning - I spent most of my time for the 4 weeks up to it deciding on freebies, designing posters and leaflets, and coming up with ways to display my products for sale without causing total information overload.
After much deliberation I decided to go for having 1 of most things on display except the keyring cards and car stickers, which I featured in a brochure instead, so people could browse through and we could get the ones they wanted from storage out of sight.
The plan was to have 4 of us, so we could each have a couple of long breaks, as well as being able to go for a wander and meet other stand holders.
Deciding whether to opt for lighting or not was a huge decision: would it make much difference? Would it make me overheat and crumple? Was it worth the extra cost? - opting in the end for a single strip light.
What I learnt, as a stand holder targeting a combination of brand-awareness-raising and sales:
- Less is more: having sample products out and stock hidden worked.
- Two people is not enough for a busy stand. (2 of my assistants had to drop out due to unpreventable stuff - it was just bad luck it happened to be half my team!)
- If you want to get round to see other stalls, bring more staff! I only saw my neighbours and a few en route to the loo!
- Bright, interesting, relevant, new products draw a crowd (between 11:00 and 15:00 we probably had a total of 5 minutes without people at our stand!)
- I don't need as much stock next time - some people will buy, but many will just browse and get information.
- Always have additional light. It makes a huge difference! (And if you overheat easily, get a striplight/fluorescent tube light NOT spot lights)
- Have packs ready made to hand out. When people are standing 2 -3 deep at your stand and waiting to get to the table, being able to pass a pack through the crowd to them means you reach them even if they decide to move on before the crowd clears.
- Iron your table cloths. (Or get someone else to. I forgot and regretted it)
- By 3pm everyone has a glazed look. Don't try to engage exhausted customers in conversation- instead acknowledge it's been a tiring day and hand them some info to be looked at later.
- If you are selling, make your prices easy. Give discounts so that all values are easy to add up! (no items with pesky 99p in them, and have a calculator as back-up)
- Keep a 'lie on the floor' space behind the stand. This proved to be an invaluable pacing tool for me as lying down is an important way I manage my POTS.
- Set everything up the day before, so on the actual morning you arrive fresh and full of energy, ready for your customers - trust me, you'll need it!
- Check out where the toilets are the day before (- and the quickest route to them)
- Enjoy it! - people like speaking to people who are enjoying what they are doing.
As a small business just testing the water, it was reassuring to see that the most popular items were ones I love too:
The 'Today is' wristband set, and the 'Sensory Overload' keyring card. (followed closely by the pink 'differently normal' lanyards!)
All in all, it was a very successful day.
It was also lovely to get to meet some of the KIM team - well done guys, it was a great event, and I look forward to doing more.
My personal highlight?
Winning the 'stand selfie' competition
Yes, I am a responsible adult. That is why I draw stickmen for a living.