I’ve designed a lot of material for trade shows and events in my career, but I’ve never been part of the production AND participant side of the gig. It got me inspired and I wanted to share my experience.
The first installment of the Annual Pittsburgh Business Show took place on April 19 and 20, 2017 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. I began my involvement with the event in early 2016, when the show producers brought me on board to help with all the printed materials they would need. Branding had been established (logo, colors, basic imagery and message, etc.) but not much had been developed in the way of promo pieces.
I had the honor of creating all the printed marketing materials, including ads and advertorials, fliers, media & sponsorship kits, a direct mail piece, admission tickets, and billboards. In addition, I also got to create the on-site materials, including all signage, the show’s personal booth, and the 16-page show program distributed by the Pittsburgh Business Times, as well as its addendum.
So, you could say I was super involved. I was immersed in this world of show promotion, but I was also encouraged by the show producers to take a booth for my own business.
Can you believe that I never even thought to do this?
The negative thoughts started invading my brain:
I’m a freelance graphic designer, not a big company.
What would I have to show at my booth and would anyone care?
Talk to strangers for two days, no way!
What would you wear? What would you say? You can’t do this alone!
Stay in your safe office in the comfort of your own home and don’t put yourself out there.
Terrible mindset, right?
I hadn’t done much in the way of promotion for my own business, (honestly I’ve relied on referrals most of my career) so it felt super scary, but also kind of exciting, so I went for it. I really had nothing to lose.
Planning for my own booth design and marketing strategy got underway. I talked with several people who gave me some great ideas. I’m telling you…the more you connect with your network and ask for help and support when you need it, the more you thrive! A lesson I’ve definitely learned this year.
I set a budget. (This was the hardest part, and of course I went over, but not by much.) I got a fancy table drape with my logo, and made a sign and entry forms for my giveaway. I updated my business cards and fliers, and I got notepads with my logo on it for a little handout goodie (Who doesn’t like free stuff?)
In retrospect though, most importantly, I gathered up a lot of my favorite pieces of work and created a portfolio book and display so everyone could look at projects I’ve done. Of course, I’ve had all this stuff collected previously in varying degrees to show potential clients, but it was really great to put it all in one place and see the body of work as a whole.
The two days I spent at the show were great. I may not have come away with an onslaught of new clients, but I met great people, made new connections, exchanged ideas with fellow business owners, and learned that it is actually possible for me to network for two days straight (although I was exhausted after that.)
I’m really proud to have been a part of this show, on both sides of the spectrum. The chance to participate as part of the show’s team, and as an exhibitor, showed me some interesting perspectives, and it brought me valuable experiences that will do nothing but strengthen the skills I use in the services I provide to my clients. I look forward to many more challenging opportunities like these in the future.
If you’re planning a special event, or if participating in one as a vendor and you need help with promotional materials, please get in touch! I’d love to talk with you about how we can work together to bring your marketing visions to life.