In the run up, your heart is pounding at the prospect of a 'high profile' fair that cost an arm and a dozen legs, for a meagre 2m x 2m of space (or in my case slightly under that as the stand was missing some length and width which the Organisers are refusing to reimburse) and promises of the earth in terms of exposure and sales. It dominates your thoughts and plans, and before you know it you're spending out on displays, increasing stock levels, buying up accommodation, van hire and all the logistics that go with it. It's hard not to get carried away with the hypothetical possibilities with promised visitor numbers in the hundreds of thousands…
The Salesman who sold me the pitch made out that it was a very high end event, with consumers with high expendable incomes enjoying design-led products. The reality was that there was a real mixed bag of stalls, which in turn attracted a mixed-bag of customers.
Many people were just looking for a bargain, and wanted to barter down as hard as they could. Others just didn't differentiate at all between mass produced bought in products, and the type of "shop" that I was, having designed and created everything myself. Once I realised this and led every conversation that happened with the fact that "this is me!" I had a much more positive time.
Having realised very quickly that this was totally the wrong platform for sales and trying not to let myself get too upset, I switched focus to damage control. I relished the comments from those who understood what I was about, which kept me buoyed up and able to ignore the panic I was feeling. I tried to maximise exposure and that awful word networking.
Many of the seasoned exhibitors also shared mixed experiences, and there was a definite community spirit helping to keep that brave face plastered on. In conclusion, I think I'm just about glad I did the show as I would have forever wondered of what it may have been like if I hadn't.