Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bridal Fair Madness!


Once or twice a year, I purchase a booth and exhibit at a bridal fair. I do my homework. I make sure that the bridal fair has had high attendance in past shows, I interview other exhibitors from past shows to find out if they had a good experience, and I make sure my booth will be far away from the booths of other musicians, entertainers, and DJs.

I exhibited at the 21st Annual Fantasy Wedding Faire in Reno,
Nevada, produced by the American Heart Association, perhaps
against my better judgment. Why? Because I broke my own
cardinal rule: Never exhibit in the same room as a fashion show. I
signed up for this show because several other wedding service
colleagues had participated in previous years and successfully
booked a number of weddings from the brides who attended.

The event was held in the Silver State Pavilion at the huge Grand
Sierra Resort
. Very spacious and comfortable--the room was well
suited for a bridal fair. Set up was a breeze, with easy load-in, but I
didn't count on walking into DJ Bill McClain's loading cart when I
was setting up. Scraped up my foot! Ouch! Maybe it was a bad
omen?

My booth was located on the opposite wall from the fashion show,
as far away from the fashion show as I could possibly be. But once
the doors opened and the brides entered, I discovered my booth
was beneath five PA speakers in the ceiling. These speakers
belched constant announcements for raffle ticket prizes,
descriptions of dresses and models in the fashion show, and
annoying fashion show music at an astounding volume. Anyone
approaching my booth had to yell to converse with me. And of
course, no one could hear my poor little harp-my amp was no
match against those giant speakers. It was no way to introduce
my services to brides.

I commonly book weddings at bridal fairs, because I always offer a
10% discount to brides who decide to hire me at the fair. But this
show was quite the exception, when people could barely converse
with me. Or perhaps, it was a sign of our economy that a larger
discount needed to be offered for landing bookings at bridal fairs? I
may never know.

At least I do know that many brides were interested in my services,
because they waited in line to talk with me, even though they had
to shout over the din. More than 100 brochures left my table that
day. And I'll be in touch with those who entered my drawing for a
free wedding CD, too.

The networking opportunities were endless. Two very generous
florists donated flower displays for my booth: Hattie Reed from Art
in Bloom
and another floral arrangement from Floral Expressions &
Events
. I met Kathleen from the Harbor House at Sand Harbor
Beach, Lake Tahoe, and learned about their wonderful wedding
facilities. Maybe she'll start recommending me to brides getting
married there. Kristy Hawke who produces the Nevada Women's
Expo
also introduced herself to me. Adjacent to my booth was
Andy and Jennifer from The Pampered Chef and along with my
friends Rolf and Eileen from Starling Video , helped watch my booth
when I had to take a break.

So, even if a bridal fair may look like a total washout on the surface,
the connections between the brides and the exhibitors can make it
well worth attending!

Tips for Brides:

Bridal fairs aren't just about checking out the bridal fashions,
sampling cakes, and winning door prizes. Go there with the idea to
hire your wedding vendors at the show. Here's why: most wedding
services offer budget-saving discounts if you decide to book them
right then and there. Bring your checkbook or credit card, an
envelope for your receipts, and your fiancé, mom, and others to
help you make decisions. If they cannot attend, bring along a cell
phone so that you can call them from the show and help you
decide.

Don't want to make quick decisions at the fair? Then bring
something to take notes. Don't be caught without any way to write
down quotes from a potential ceremony site, florist, or musician.

Also prepare a sheet of address labels, and write your email
address and phone number onto those labels before you attend the
fair. At each booth, you may find a drawing for a prize like a free
honeymoon, free flowers, dinner for two at a restaurant, or a
substantial discount off of particular services. Instead of wasting
your time filling out forms for each drawing, just affix the address
stickers to each entry form you encounter and move along to the
next booth.

Follow up with those you meet after the bridal fair while their
wedding services are still fresh in your mind. The more generous
wedding vendors may extend their bridal fair discounts a few days
beyond the fair, especially if you hit it off well with them. But if you
wait weeks or months, not only will you be paying full price, you
may also find that they are no longer available on your wedding
date.

Tips for Musicians:

Exhibiting at bridal fairs is a huge monetary and time commitment.
The booth price alone is not the only monetary factor-having
brochures and promotional materials pre-printed, electricity for your
booth, and other booth amenities will add to that cost. And you
must plan to perform in your booth. The only way brides will fall in
love with the idea of hiring you for their wedding or reception is to
see you in action, as if they would see you at their wedding. You
may need to put in some extra rehearsal time with your ensemble
before the day of the bridal show.

When choosing to buy booth space at a local bridal fair, you can
ask all the right questions of the fair promoter, hear that the fair was
successful previous years from other wedding vendors, and the
event can still stink. All it takes is for the fair to be poorly attended
(perhaps due to lack of advertising or bad weather), or even
something like being placed under a string of loud speakers, as in
the above example. But there are always other wedding colleagues
to meet, and they could be in the position to send you a lot of work
in the future-the silver lining to participating in a bridal fair.

If a wedding fair was truly a washout for you, look at it rationally and
decide what you could have done differently to make it a better
experience. That's what I'm doing about my experience at this last
wedding fair. Should I be involved with another bridal fair that has a
fashion show in the same building? Should I offer a larger discount
to brides who consider booking my services at the wedding fair,
because of this down economy? Should I make a formal complaint
to the fair producers about being placed under the PA speakers or
should I not bother at all? These are some questions I'm
pondering.

I've only touched on a few of the intricacies of participating in a bridal fair
in this blog. I devote an entire chapter to this subject (including
negotiating booth prices, setting up your booth, etc.) in my book
"The Musician's Guide to Brides" available wherever Hal Leonard
Books
are sold: music and bookstores, and through online retailers
including sheetmusicplus.com, Amazon.com, and of course, at my
website at Celtic Harp Music by Anne Roos.

I'm looking forward to reading your stories, comments, and
feedback. And if you have something new to add about your bridal
fair experiences, I'd love to hear them.

Sending my best, Anne :-)

2 comments:

Alice said...

Definitely complain to the Fair organizers about the conflict with the speakers. If it is a well-run event they will want the vendors to be happy. I had a similar situation one year with being too close to a DJ, complained and they bent over backwards to make sure I was happy the next year. -- Alice

Celtic Harp Music by Anne Roos said...

Thanks for your post, Alice! I did indeed complain. And FYI--I booked enough weddings at this show to make it pay for itself :-)

Anne :-)
---
www.celticharpmusic.com