In today’s issue, I’ll share my learnings after attending Bar Convent Berlin. I will share 5 tips. These are notes to self as much as a guide for you. You will be able to make the most out of trade fairs, regardless if you are planning to have a stand at a fair or just go to check what's happening in the industry.
Unfortunately, most people lack preparation when attending or exhibiting at a fair. They browse around the stands randomly or they build their stands hoping that someone will fall into them.
If you read some of my posts on LinkedIn, you will think that I am not a big fan of Trade Fairs. I’ve always felt it a bit as a tick-the-box kind of thing that big and small brands think they must do. I'm not against having a stand there but I am against exhibiting at a fair as one of the first things that a small brand does. If a brand hasn't proven successful in one market and hasn't created demand, it should direct investments elsewhere.
Nevertheless, I like to challenge my own convictions so I went to Bar Convent Berlin to look at things with fresh eyes.
I must admit that I was blown away by the organization. It was a huge machine. Everything was super smooth. A huge space. I went there by myself but I felt right away part of the ecosystem. Obviously, after years of remote connections, it was great to meet the people I had had video calls with and meet them in person.
My skepticism disappeared fast and I understood why so many people pay a lot of money to be there. At the same time, I've also confirmed some of my thoughts but I've updated them. I asked people for their impressions and learnings and blended them with mine, creating s list of 5 key takeouts
Here’s what I’ve learned.
Whether you are an exhibitor or an attendee, do your homework before going to a trade fair
Time flies at a fair. It’s so big and full of people that if you don’t have a clear agenda, you soon realize it’s 6 pm and you haven’t achieved much. Despite having gone there well-prepared, I often caught myself not following my own schedule, bumping into someone I knew, or postponing a visit to a stand that ended up never happening.
I won't dig into the tips and tricks of what to do but I want to focus on the biggest learnings.
Some overall observations:
• The best atmosphere was around the stands from big brands but it was also because they had many employees and importers there. It was more internal than external.
• Some small brands had clearly no idea about what to do. I saw too many people on their phones at their empty stands.
• A lot of attendees had no clear agenda. They were just there to have a good time and meet their friends, having a few drinks.
• While the location of your stand is key, I saw some empty stands in great locations and vice-versa. It's all about the preparation.
#1. Make your attendance the last step of a journey
Do your homework. Understand your objectives. What are you planning to get out of the fair? A new distributor? Meeting a brand owner? Recruiting team members? Make sure you contact people beforehand, establish a relationship with them and then you meet them there just as the last step, not as a first one. People are so busy there that they tend to prioritize and meet people with whom they have something meaningful. They don't want to risk that a first in-person meeting will be a waste of time. If someone tells you, let's meet there to talk, and arrange a couple of calls online beforehand so you know if it's worth meeting or not. This is also key to avoid it is all too transactional and that it becomes like a speed-dating event.
#2. Build demand before having a stand
I'd say there were 3 categories of brands: the big ones, the small but known ones, and the rest. Regardless of the location where they were (which matters), I would say that the main difference was about which brands had a following. The size didn't matter much, in the end. The most successful ones were those who had built a demand before and were just making it possible for people to enjoy the brand experience there. You could see the brands that were focusing on on-trade with bartenders wanting to hang out there as the brand understands their needs.
If you haven't built demand in your home market and have some following, it is too early to invest in your own stand. You don't need many importers, you need to have a handful of them that sell well.
#3. Bring the On-trade experience to your stand
I witnessed the best atmosphere around the stands with a bar. Most were obviously big brands that could afford a bigger space but I was impressed by some hybrid solutions where some small brands partnered up, making it a success together with some nice real on-trade outlets.
Experiencing your brand in a real cocktail vs a plastic cup is priceless. You are able to showcase your brand in the real environment, making the brand proposition clear for customers, distributors, and bartenders. I honestly believe this is the future of stands at fairs.