It happened weeks ago, but I’ve been procrastinating about writing this article because frankly, I’m embarrassed.  Here’s how it went down…

We presented at the Wedding MBA in Las Vegas (a fantastic experience, by the way, if you can go) and we were given an exhibition booth.  It’s a lot like a bridal show booth, except we’re set up to meet and greet the wedding pros who are attending the conference.

We were so caught up in our presentation that we forgot to plan the exhibition booth!  We quickly ordered a retractable banner sign to use, but it was pretty pathetic.

A couple bridal show producers in attendance came over and said, “What happened here?  Did your booth get lost in shipment?”  Cringe.

Feast your eyes on our anemic booth and learn what NOT to do with your bridal show booth, oh, ye wedding pro.

bridal-show-booth-fail

I could write pages about what we did wrong and how we’re going to fix it next time.  The bottom line: nobody could tell what we do and our lack of a booth didn’t inspire any action.  Plus, it was just embarrassing.

Here’s a list of what you can do to make sure you don’t waste your time and money from a booth that doesn’t get results.

How to Avoid Our Dumb Ass Booth Mistakes

1) People should know what you do and why they should care (or not) in 10 seconds.

bridal-show-bannerOur sign was a big fail.  It made them work to understand what we do and didn’t inspire action.

We had so much empty space with just the name of our business on a tiny printed sign hanging from the curtain behind our booth that people kept asking, “So, what do you do?”  In a desperate attempt at humor, Jeff started telling people we sell black curtains.

Design your booth so that it’s crystal clear exactly what you do from across the room.  Brides and grooms should instantly recognize:

•    Who you are.
•    What you do.
•    Why they should care.
•    What to do next.

Get rid of confusing messages or anything that isn’t immediately understandable.

2) Put an irresistible offer in the bride/groom’s hands.

The only thing we had to give out were business cards.  I guess it was better than nothing, but nowhere near effective.

Print up a brochure or postcard offer that you can press into people’s hands as they walk by.  This is an easy way to engage them in conversation and give them something to take home.

Make sure your handout contains a clear, compelling call to action (see below) that gets them to do something that takes them one step closer to booking you.

Here’s an idea: give out cards printed with an offer for a freebie using a QVR code or near field communication for easy access.

3) Have a simple, low risk call to action.

Our sign invited pros to opt-in to receive our free Price Shopper Report by texting a number, but no one knew what a “Price Shopper Report” was and why they should care.

We also learned that it was far too cumbersome for someone to pull out their cell phone to text while they were staggering around with bags of exhibition swag through a crowd of people.  Duh.

Your bridal show booth should include an offer for every bride or groom that’s easy to understand and do.  For example, give away a free report in exchange for their email address or a free sample.

4) Collect leads at your booth.

This one is bridal show 101.  We completely forgot a way to collect leads by hand!

Host a giveaway and collect the contact information of brides and grooms in a basket at your booth.  The prize should have no strings attached (something like a dinner for two or an iPod) to encourage the maximum number of entrants.

The leads you collect at your booth are the highest quality.  Your follow up will be more effective and you’ll book more weddings as a result.

5) Clearly label any interactive materials on your table.

We had stacks of our training DVDs on the table, but we forgot signs and labels for them.  People thought we were giving away demo videos, and one person walked away with a DVD that sells for $300!  (If you’re the one who took that DVD, I’d like to personally thank you for that expensive lesson.)

If you have samples of your products on your table or anything for brides and grooms to look at, make sure it’s labeled so that people know what to do…and what not to do.  This way no one feels foolish or unintentionally steals something.

Screwing up really bites the big one, especially when we should have known better.  At least we’ve learned from it and we have some good lessons to share with you.

What’s the lamest thing you’ve ever seen at a bridal show?

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Stephanie Padovani

Stephanie is a Hudson Valley wedding insider, blogger, writer, and wedding business coach. Want to book more weddings at higher prices? Quit dealing with price shoppers? Transform your wedding business so that it supports the life you really want? Look her up! They don't call her the Wedding Business Cheerleader for nothing. :)

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13 thoughts on “Craptastic Bridal Show Marketing: 5 Lessons From Our Big Screw Up”

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I’m the promoter for a Philadelphia Bridal Show in March 2014. I’ll share this with vendors who are attending my show.

  2. Thanks for sharing what must have been an embarrassing experience. It reminds us that even though we may be pros, we still screw up sometimes. And I will try not to make those same mistakes. I spent $2000 to be in a bridal show in New York City last year and didn’t manage to get a single lead because I relied on the customer list to get emails, not realizing many brides opted out on the list!

  3. Learned on our honeymoon not to assume who might be/or not be the bride … women do get married at more advanced ages now ( I married again @ 50, and suffered some terribly ignorant sales people during that process!) .. and men marry younger, as well as older women … so don’t assume the “young woman” is his daughter. (In our case, she turned out to be his wife…). This booth advice follows on the heels of a bridal show meeting we went to recently, and it was nice to see so much reinforcement. IF we do a show again, we’ll definitely take these tips into account. Thanks for sharing.

  4. DJ Staci says:

    ME yesterday at the won’t-bother-naming-it show…..OMG. As the show DJ, I got “the free space” which was the only one located in full so cal sun for 5 hours (yes, I’m burnt). The promoter told me as I arrived that there would be fashion shows (news to me). I had no music prepared–thanks for the notice. Then literally 30 seconds before the first model is set to come out, I’m handed a list of dress descriptions. So in the time I’ve allotted to look for appropriate bridal fashion show music (i.e. between songs), I will now be occupied reading dress descriptions. Sigh! Usually show DJs just make a few announcements and it’s done. But, no, the promoter wanted me to be giving away door prizes like every 15 minutes. I literally have a client writing me a check and signing my contract as the promoter stands over me with another stack of red tickets. I was interrupted at least 5 times giving my sales pitch to an interested bride. Because we were outside (also news to me), my sign saying who I am kept blowing over. The promoter would occasionally grab the wireless mic to make a few announcements. She stood immediately in front of the speaker which causes the mic to squelch. So who looks like an idiot–ME! Looks like I have bad equipment instead of her not following directions. I watched clients pass my booth all day yesterday while I was busy reading off red ticket #s. I wished I had just bought a darn space and been left alone. What seemed like a great way to showcase my skills and equipment just turned into a giant waste of my time. I’m going to be show DJ 3 more times (for a different more organized less invasive promoter) next Spring. And by the way….seriously Stephanie, you’re a DJ…..what would you play for a COUNTRY bridal fashion show. She said to keep it country (normally I hear “Only Girl in the World” by Rihanna and stuff lie that at bridal fashion shows). So I thought “These Boots Were Made for Walking” by Jessica Simpson, “Boots & Boys” by Kesha, “Country Girl Shake It” by Luke Bryan…..1 minute before the second show the promoter says, “Do you have anything elegant, wordless, young, upbeat for the models this time?” (So all the country I’ve now prepped is out the window.) WHAT!!! Tell me how “elegant” and “upbeat” are not two complete musical opposites. I put on some Vitamin String Quartet was was told to “kick it up a notch”…..OMG!!!!! Can I have my Sunday back please? At the end, the promoter apologized for “being a b*tch” and gave me a spa coupon…..ok, nice touch, but I really just wanted to BOOK MORE BRIDES!

    1. What a nightmare! I’m so sorry you had this experience, but like us, I’m sure you’ve learned some hard lessons from it.

      Make lemons from that lemonade! :)

      Thanks for sharing your story. Hopefully it will save another DJ from going through this.

  5. Oudeline says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. My first bridal show is in two months and I am greatly appreciated for this critical information.

  6. Cheryl says:

    Thanks for sharing (your pain), I have never done a bridal show due to the huge cost. For our small business, string trio, not getting paid like DJ’s, not even close, with the booth rental, signage, free dinner, pamphlets, audio set up, food/water, and sore feet, it would take booking 10-12 weddings just to break even. It seems most of society is so addicted to “bling” that we can’t make ourselves huge enough, loud enough, young or perfect enough to attract attention. If there were a way to appeal to the need for naturalness, at such an unnatural place as a bridal show, I would do it. Just my thoughts.

    1. Good points, especially for musicians. It sounds like these types of bridal shows are not a good match for you.

      Jeff used to perform acoustic guitar at shows, which attracted some couples, but also caused confusion because of the DJ/acoustic guitar combo.

      You might have more success at a upscale invitation-only bridal show event (you won’t have the thumping music and crowd to compete with) or a much more intimate event.

  7. Dear Stephanie,
    This has to be one of the best, and most humorous self-critiques I’ve ever read.
    So many people like to write about how great & wonderful they are, but you chose to tell folks that even though you ARE great & wonderful, you ended up with a misstep at the Wedding MBA show. By the way, the joke your hubby made about selling black curtains was hilarious. I have learned a lot of important tips from your honest and extremely funny description of how things did not go as you had planned. I love your blogs, tips and emails. I continue to learn from all your good info. Keep up the great work.
    Sincerely,
    Georgia Joyner-Your Travel Agent, a real live travel agent breathing air.

    1. Georgia, this brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.

      And thank you for saying we’re “great and wonderful,” especially after our major faux pas. :)

  8. Really insightful article Stephanie, we recently exhibited at the National Wedding Show in the UK and found that we’d neglected to attach any branding to the walls of our stand. We thought that just putting beautiful images (we’re a wedding capturing service) would be fine. Suffice to say, it wasn’t and we had a lot of couples quite confused over our unique concept. It’s only afterwards that you realise what a “Duh” moment you’ve had, especially when you’re walking around the other exhibitor’s snazzy stands.

  9. Thanks for sharing your story Stephanie! Too often we only see and hear how fabulous every one else is. I can’t think of the lamest thing I have seen at a bridal show but I can tell you the lamest thing I have ever heard. Before I ever had a booth at a show, I attended as a guest to see what it was like. As I entered a booth the owner of the booth says to me “Oh are you here for your daughter?” It was a corner booth with two opening so I went in one and directly out the other side without saying a word. While technically I am old enough to have a daughter getting married (if I was pregnant as a young teen and she was marrying very young) it was a huge turn off.

    1. Yep, that moment we were seriously lacking fabulosity. :)

      That is an awful mistake. We ask, “Whose wedding are you planning?” or “Is this your wedding that you’re planning?” to people at bridal shows to avoid this very situation. Big ick factor!

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