FOOD ENTREPRENEUR SHOW 2022 #FES2022 THE RESPONSIBLE PACKAGING EXPO.
Our team at TAPARI made our debut as exhibitors at the Excel for the Responsible Packaging Expo on the 19th and 20th October 2022. Here are some top tips that we would recommend for anyone exhibiting their product/service for the first time.
If you don’t have time to read about what we learnt below, watch our 50 second summary of our day here. The original video is from a reel on our Instagram.
A quick introduction…
Leo and I (Will) own and run TAPARI Limited, and we produce an incredibly unique disposable leaf plate that comes from Nepal that is natural and rustic. When we saw there was a whole event based around responsible packaging, we knew we had to be there to show off our product range.
This blog post is going to talk about what we learnt at our first show at the ExCeL London. We learned loads about our potential customers that we met on the day but may have learned even more about ourselves! We hope some of our learnings can help anyone who is planning on coming to the Responsible Packaging Expo for first time in 2023 or just generally exhibiting at the Excel London, or any other business event in the future.
The attendees were perfect for us; lots of catering companies, restaurant owners and in general the visitors had at least some interest in a new product like ours. Looking for innovations and new ideas, or having a new project they were starting - the profile of the visitors was highly suited to our innovative, compostable leaf plates and other products and services that checked these boxes. The event also included Street Food Live, Restaurant & Bar Tech Live, Coffee Shop Innovation Expo and The International Drink Expo – There were so many exciting things happening in this huge space! When attending your first event as an exhibitor, make sure you choose the right event, otherwise it's a huge waste of time and... these events aren't cheap!
Drop all your gear off at the night before
On the day of the event, Georgia and I left at 6am from Essex. This should have given us enough time to arrive at the event with an an hour and a half to spare but, after sitting in traffic on the A13 for 2 hours, we ended up having just 15 minutes to get ready before visitors started arriving! I thanked my lucky stars that I’d pushed through the late evening tiredness of the night before and dropped all the contents of our display into the Excel, otherwise our stand would have been more demolition than exhibition. The vehicle delivery system at the Excel is incredibly organised. There are a couple of hoops you have to jump through to deliver your stuff, like going to the office about a kilometre away to register your vehicle and arriving at the designated times, but you won’t regret that extra day running around when you’re sleeping easy the night before the big day. Don’t run the risk and take advantage of being able to set up everything the day before.
Plan your stand layout with your goals for the event in mind and optimise for the shape and placement of your stand
What do you want people’s eyes to be drawn to? What are you trying to tell people about your brand? Our TAPARI plates have a very natural look and that’s what people love about them, so we wanted our stand to scream natural beauty. To do this we loaded our stand up with plants and logs and avoided anything that wasn’t made of wood, apart from our signs. We used our signs to show the product in its best light with lots of great photos and 3 bullet points about TAPARI that were super easy to read, so people could understand who we were if they couldn’t instantly recognise what our product was from a distance. If you want people to focus on your product, make sure it’s the most eye-catching part of the stand. If visitors need to read something to understand your solution, ensure it’s in extra-large text and nothing will distract the eye from reading it. Like a website, by understanding how visitors will interact with your stand and knowing what will educate and excite them, you can ensure this is prioritised.
Have something in your hand to show and demonstrate your product or service
I found that having some of our smaller TAPARI bowls in my hands as people approached broke the ice in starting any conversation and also peaked people’s interest. Especially for those people that were hovering, unsure if they wanted to come over, the simple question of “would you like to take a look at our leaf bowls?” worked really well. We showed them what we had to offer and their focus was then shifted to this novel item in front of them and the decision was removed as to whether engaging with us was worthwhile for them and they could be absorbed by the product and the person demonstrating to them. Break the ice by showing people or demonstrating something.
We wanted our stand to look at one with nature and we think we did that quite well on a small budget!
Make the most of the marketing opportunities
Make sure you’re on the exhibitor’s map and your profile is built on Fortem’s (or the event owners) website. We saw a handful of visitors come over to our stand based solely on the predetermined research they had. If you have opportunities to get tagged on social media by other businesses on the day too, it may be worthwhile!
Bring plenty of business cards, samples and flyers
There’s a lot going on for everyone on the day, so something physical for a visitor to remember you by is very valuable. If you have a small sample you can give them then great. We gave a lot of people one of our tiny 7cm bowls because they are cute and pocket-sized, which meant they were a great piece of memorabilia for our brand that people wouldn't be burdened with carrying. Furthermore, quite often the visitor was one decision maker in the business and they would report back to other people on their management team, so by providing an example of our product meant we had a talking point and a free demo to whoever sees our product on their desk. People constantly asked for business cards from us. Certain people didn’t want to chat and only wanted a business card, so business cards are still king!!!
Make good notes on the people you meet
I’m an extrovert, so meeting with people gives me a lot of energy so it was quite easy for me to retain information about the people I’d met. I would just write a couple of words down about the person like “Jane… Thai Food… new restaurant”. This was enough to really help on my email follow ups because I could write with a real feeling of genuine connection as I spoke to the people. We had a few generic email follow ups from other exhibitors that we gave our email to and they just looked like spam mail to be honest. Don’t be those boring email guys, remember the people you meet, properly!
It’s basically impossible to look after a stand on your own, you’ll need at least one person who is confident to talk on your brand and answer questions while you take comfort breaks and top up on caffeine! Every person that walks near to your stand could be your next new customer, so make sure every person that comes to your stand throughout those 13 hours you’re live gets a fantastic representation of your business. Make sure your people are confident, engaging and have a smile on their face. No looking at phones and avoiding eye contact.
Demonstrate things that you get frequently asked
We often get asked if our product can hold liquids, and the answer is YES! It can hold hot, greasy and liquid foods, but it was only on the second day that we decided to fill one of our bowls with soup to demonstrate this. In hindsight we would do this from the beginning next time. Also, we could have brought more food to demonstrate how our bowls look with actual food in and potentially made our stand even more interactive with something demonstrating how they can be home composted too. If you can show people what you can do without telling them, this is a powerful tool!
Don’t make your stand too cluttered
Less is definitely more when it comes to exhibiting. You want your stand to have enough going on that it’s attractive but if it’s a mess, people will be deterred. Try and leave anything unnecessary in your car or the locker rooms. If you have to have it with you - make sure it’s well hidden. We used our giant pieces of bark to hide our coffee cups and anything else that could have been an eyesore. It’s all about creating an experience as the person comes over, so once your stand is set up, take a step back and look at it through the eyes of a passer-by. Feng that Shui.
Network with other stands
Not only did we increase the foot traffic to our stand thanks to referrals and additional visibility of our product we also got countless titbits of advice from other businesses. We ended up supplying more than 1,500 TAPARI bowls to Meadowvale Foods as they’d run out of sample dishes. They didn’t need to worry about not having bowls to serve their delicious chicken samples and we got 1,500 free advertisements from every hungry visitor that came to their stand and we left a stack of our business cards on their stand too. By taking the opportunities that arose on the day of the event itself we created even more exposure for our product. Look out for opportunities like this yourself by making friends with other stands on the event days!
Use your body language to attract people
Your body language when people are near your stand is one of the biggest determinants of whether someone will stop and talk to you. There were a few stands I saw where people were sitting down, 1 meter back from the front of their stand and nobody really came over. Be excited about what you have to offer, stand tall, wear a big smile on your face and radiate positive energy and it will come back to you for sure. If you can’t believe in what you are exhibiting, how can anyone else? Ensure that your body language exudes energy when around your stand, and people will reciprocate it!
The event included the Responsible Packaging Expo, Street Food Live, Restaurant & Bar Tech Live, Coffee Shop Innovation Expo and The International Drink Expo encompassed into the overall Food Entrepreneur Show 2022 and this meant there were thousands of excited visitors across the two days!
We want to shout out a few other people we met on the day and their projects too. Thank you to Meadowvale Foods for sharing your delicious chicken dishes on our plates on the day. Good luck to Bruce Garside from Silver Oak Coffee who has a very exciting new project space in Cambridge called The Yard in Ely and finally to the lovely Gita from Nimtoh who together with her sister they sell delicious Korean and Nepalese food in their restaurants and do street food in the summer too!
If you want to learn more about our experience and we can help in any way, just pop a message to firstname.lastname@example.org . If you like what we are doing and want to try out product we'd love to hear from you too!