Where do I start? Olympia 2017... what an experience. Never in a million years did I think I would have a trade stand at any kind of event, let alone one of the world's most famous horse show.
This was one of the most exciting and terrifying opportunities I had ever faced. However - there are a few things I learnt along the way which I thought I should share with you.
Firstly make sure you are 100% sure you know the size of your stand right from the get-go. Maths has never been my strong point... when I see numbers, my brain just seems to switch off and I just glaze over it.
The size of my stand was a 1.5 x 3 with one open side.
I took that as... 1.5m by 1.5m by 1.5m with the front open... for months I was planning the design of the stand to fit this. It wasn't until James and my Dad just wanted to double check the size was what we thought...just two weeks
before the event, that we realised it was in fact 1.5m deep by 3m wide!! This would probably have been crystal clear to most people, however I now faced a rapid redesign.
I was adamant from the get-go that I wanted the stand to reflect the country lifestyle as much as it could. Originally, I wanted a sofa but reluctantly I had to come to terms with the fact that - on this occasion - it simply wouldn't fit.
I can't thank LALOA enough for their extremely generous contribution to our stand in the way of their beautiful, show stopping pheasant wallpaper. I think the eye-catching design drew so many passers by in and as a result lead to a number of sales... so an extra thank you to Liz for that!
As a total trade show virgin, I found myself trying to get as much information as I could from those in the know. Having attended various events and meeting the people behind the brands exhibiting, I had never given much thought about the immense amount of time, effort and genuine hard work that goes into making these shows happen... until now.
It's funny how much can change in a single year... throw it back to Olympia 2016 and I was working for the ultimate equestrian magazine, Horse&Rider on their stand. Now as much as it was hard work, above all - it was enjoyable. I had very little to do with the planning, set up or take down of the stand. A year on... I am back at the same event with two issues of my own magazine under my belt and my own (albeit small) trade stand.
Lesson one - ensure you have your measurements correct from the very beginning.
Now, you would think booking accommodation in London would be quite straight forward. You'd be right... there was SO much to choose from. We set out to book our accommodation for the duration of the week... however me and my mum are as dreadful at maths as each other. If James hadn't of pointed it out to me THE NIGHT BEFORE we were due to leave... I would have been staying on my stand on the Sunday night. We only went and booked it one night short!
Most companies I have spoken to regarding the event, spend months planning for it, rather than weeks. In hindsight, I can imagine had we done something similar - we may have become aware of these little hiccups a little sooner than we did which may have reduced the stress levels within ITC HQ. This would have been greatly appreciated, hindsight is a wonderful thing.
THE BIG DAY.
My alarm sprung into life at 5am on Monday 11th December. Thankfully, James had thought ahead and we had spent the evening before packing everything into the pick up, ready for a stress free, straight forward set off the following morning.
The one thing I hadn't planned for was accommodating the beautiful bouquet of fresh lilies James had surprised me with the evening before. This was precious cargo... which unfortunately for my friend Emma who was sat next to them and in charge of insuring their safe travels... happened to be allergic too.
I was unbelievably nervous. Nervous about pretty much every aspect of the coming week that there was to be nervous about.
I was worried about whether I would get on with the fellow exhibitors around me, about knowing what to do when we arrive, about navigating London...the trains...the walk...the flat.
Thankfully, I had James and Emma to keep me calm. Mum was travelling up on the train and would meet us later to help set up. Once we had unloaded the truck... carrying all of the boxes etc by hand up the stairs because we didn't realise there were lifts, we went out to get some breakfast and wait for mum. As soon as she arrived, we set to work.
Here are some of the work in progress pictures.
AND A TEAM PICTURE.
I was and still am SO proud of what we achieved. I couldn't have done it without my little team of helpers - I am forever grateful for your help.
In addition to a dedicated team of supportive friends and family there are a few things that I think you should know if you want to survive a week as an exhibitor at Olympia... or any trade show for that matter. I think (although I don't know), that many of these will relate to a number of events.
1. COFFEE. Lots of coffee. If you get on with your stand neighbours as I called them, rotational coffee runs are advised. If you're mega organised you could even produce a rota!
2. COMFORTABLE SHOES! Despite my attempts at persuasion, Mum strongly disagreed when I suggested brining emergency slippers to wear if my feet got too sore. I would definitely recommend bringing a spare pair or shoes to change into if you become uncomfortable.
3. DON'T TAKE YOURSELF TOO SERIOUSLY. I am sure this is slightly different if you're working for a larger company but the nature of the Olympia Introducing scheme is that start-up businesses get their chance to shine, so many of us were entrepreneurs or very small businesses. We are all there to sell or to increase our brand awareness and that is important BUT having fun and enjoying the experience should be a top priority too.
You never know you may see us somewhere on the show circuit this season.
Until next time,
Lots of love,