Producing an excellent vendor event is no small task. Here are my expert tips on how to host a vendor event that will serve real dividends and be worth your while.
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First Things First: What Is a Vendor Event?
For those who may not be familiar, let’s start with a simple definition:
Vendor events are events that allow people within an industry to network, learn, create partnerships, and even make sales.
What do vendor events look like?
Vendor events can take a variety of forms, but typically involve a large space filled with vendor booths, or kiosks where businesses essentially create a miniature storefront. Professionals visit the vendors to purchase their product or see if there is potential for business partnerships to be created.
Successful vendor events – and successful event emcees at that – leave attendees with fresh ideas and new contacts with whom they can partner in all sorts of ways.
The Benefits of Hosting a Successful Vendor Event
No matter what role you play in a business or organization, you can benefit professionally from a well-hosted vendor event:
Increased visibility for the organizer
As the corporate event organizer, everyone invited will know your business or organization’s name. The possibilities for publicity are endless: use your likeness in event branding, offer fun company swag the day of, or even include the name of your business in the name of the vendor event itself.
If the event is a hit, folks will look to you to make it happen with regular frequency. The next thing you know, hosting a vendor event can become part of your brand identity.
Broadened clientele for vendors
Inviting vendors to participate in a vendor event isn’t a terribly difficult sell. Why? It’s an investment of time that can really pay off!
For vendors, these events can be excellent marketing tools. For the price of setting up a booth, they have the potential to meet clients who have the capacity to give them big business.
A great place to make direct sales
In addition to relationship building, direct sales companies can use vendor shows as opportunities to make money on the spot. Many direct sellers bring their product to vendor events and sell to new customers who are there to shop around.
Not only can vendors meet clients, they can meet peers who have a mutual interest in expanding their business. Here’s what I mean:
Partners for industry professionals
Let’s say you’re a wedding planner. Your talents lie in organization, communication, and vision. You bring a lot of talents to the table – but not every talent.
It takes more to organize an unforgettable wedding. You need top-notch DJs who will get the party going, caterers who consistently leave guests’ mouths watering, and florists who always deliver jaw-dropping arrangements.
Find other vendors who can help!
You, a wedding planner, would be the target market to attend a wedding vendor event. Why? Because you can meet countless DJs, caterers, and florists. You can see whose work complements your planning style, and with any luck, you will leave a successful event with a plethora of vendors to recommend to your next happy couple.
My Top 6 Tips for Hosting a Successful Vendor Event:
Now that you have a better understanding of what vendor events are, let’s dive into my 6 favorite ways to guarantee a successful vendor event:
#1: Set a Clear Objective
Identify a specific goal for the event and ensure that all decisions align with that goal. This will help you find a strong target market, appeal to a specific industry, and inspire potential vendors and potential clients to participate.
As the master of ceremonies, your objective may be to foster a stronger sense of community and mutual support among vendors in your area, or introduce your product or service to local vendors and clientele so they are aware of what you offer
Work with stakeholders early in the process
If you have sponsors or a committee for your event, don’t wait until the last minute to get their feedback. Often, your stakeholders will have community connections that can benefit the event as a whole.
Set up regular meetings to run questions by them, ask for advice, and ensure that everyone is pleased with the direction the event is going.
#2: Make Strategic Logistical Decisions
You have your objective – you know your why. Now, as I always remind my readers, do not skimp on the details.
Each decision you make in the planning process comes with certain implications and presents its own set of tasks. Here are a few examples:
Virtual or in person?
A successful vendor event can take place in a massive event hall or in gallery view on your laptop! You just need to decide which format works in conjunction with your overall goal.
Virtual events are a great way to increase how many vendors can participate, how many people can experience the event, and allow global audiences to mingle without being confined to one location.
Making your next event in person has its perks too, of course! Guests can sample vendor products, feel the excitement and energy of a true “shopping” experience, and vendors can interact with customers face to face, which can be invaluable.
Cost and budgeting
Make the decision of whether to have a virtual versus in person event early. The cost of producing one versus the other can vary greatly, depending on a variety of factors.
If you go virtual, here are just a few costs to consider:
- Do you need to pay for use of an additional digital platform?
- Will you send or deliver gift bags or other swag to vendors and/or several attendees?
- What technological infrastructure and/or security needs to be in place to create a seamless user experience?
If you choose to produce an in person event, here are a handful of items to budget for:
- What is the cost of the space you would like to use, and what does that cost not include?
- Will you serve food and drink?
- Is there ample parking? Will you need to pay for additional parking, or valet service for guests?
#3: Curate an Exciting Pool of Vendors
You understand the objective for your event, you have assembled a top-notch logistical team, and you are ready to produce your first event.
What’s next? Building your roster of merchants, of course!
Use your network
As I mentioned in Tip #1, utilize your stakeholders. The people who are invested in your event want a win for you, they want to see it succeed. So, they will gladly set their resources on the table for you!
You can probably come up with a list of vendors off the top of your head, but chances are it is not robust enough. So use your network: whether it be your committee, board, staff, colleagues, or even peers from different circles in your life, reach out!
Who do they know? Who have they heard about? Who do they follow on social media? Give marching orders (politely, of course) and ask your network to help you build an eye-catching, diverse group of merchants.
Check out online resources
When in doubt, the trusty internet is there!
If you are looking for local vendors, get creative beyond your basic Google search. Here are a few ideas to search for:
- Facebook groups for merchants in your industry
- Your local Chamber of Commerce website
- Small business affinity groups
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#4: Promote an Unmissable Event
Be sure to leave ample space in your budget for marketing and promotions. After all, the incredible event you are planning will only reap rewards if people know about it – and attend!
Set yours apart from other events
Part of knowing your purpose is knowing what makes your event special. Presumably, you want to produce a vendor event because, at present, there is no other event meeting your needs.
The reason you are willing to dedicate so much time and energy to producing such a successful vendor event is because you know you are going to offer something special, something different.
What can set you apart?
Maybe that means you will have the largest pool of vendors in your area, or a truly diverse array of merchants who bring a depth of knowledge featured nowhere else.
Maybe your event includes breakout rooms where partnerships can ignite, or you are including a panel of expert guest speakers, or a famous keynote speaker.
Take to social media
These days, a strong social media presence is vital for successfully promoting a vendor event. After all, the primary way interested parties find vendor events to attend is by going online. (This is not to say you shouldn’t have any printed marketing – but that can’t be all.)
If you are hosting an in person vendor event, consider creating a Facebook event to help spread the word and track interested attendees. Get guests excited about the direct sales vendors who will be in attendance by promoting their goods on your own social media pages. Encourage followers to comment on the products and services they’re excited to see!
Focus on the social aspect of “social media” – sell your event as a fun opportunity to shop around and get to know new people!
#5: Focus on Fostering Relationships
Your marketing strategy was a huge success! Folks are in the door (or logged on) and it’s time to get to work.
Excellent vendor shows help nurture relationships among attendees, ensuring that everyone leaves having made a meaningful connection.
Here are a few ways to do that:
Who’s in the room?
Offer guests a booklet (physical or virtual) that lists all of the vendors who are present and makes a comment on what they do. This way, attendees can review everyone in the room and make sure they visit all of the booths they’re interested in.
The last thing you want to hear from attendees is that they missed a booth that could have fostered a meaningful relationship. So, do your due diligence to ensure that every customer understands their options.
Make it easy to share contact information
With vendors’ permission, include their contact info in this booklet or on your event website.
This way, there is no risk that customers cannot get in touch if they so desire. After all, business cards can run out, or people can get caught up in a wonderful conversation and simply forget to exchange contact information.
#6: Keep Attendees Engaged Post-Event
This is the part many people forget as they organize events. One of the most important parts of hosting, though, is maintaining a relationship with customers and participating businesses after they leave.
It sounds simple, but it is truly important: write those thank-you cards post-event. Whether they are hand-written or it’s a heartfelt email, reach out to the merchants in post and tell them how much their participation meant to you. After all, none of it could have happened without them!
Offer your contact information, ask if they have any exciting things on the horizon, and go out of your way to support them in post. Remember, the partnerships you are building are meant to last beyond the duration of the event itself.
Don’t guess how it went – ask for feedback
Despite the hard work you and your team put into planning it, it would be foolish to think that your event was absolutely perfect.
If you invite customers to share their experiences with you post-event, it demonstrates to them that you care about their feedback and want to continue improving. Especially if you are a first time event organizer, this is a humble practice that will go a long way with the customers you invite to share with you.
Time to Review!
Vendor events have the power to foster relationships that can change people’s lives and take their businesses to the next level of success.
Let’s take a moment to recall my 6 favorite tips on hosting the best vendor event possible:
#1: Set a clear objective.
#2: Make strategic logistical decisions.
#3: Curate an exciting pool of vendors.
#4: Promote an unmissable event.
#5: Focus on fostering relationships.
#6: Keep attendees engaged post-event.
You’re ready to get started!
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Adam Christing has been called “The Tom Brady of emcees.” He has hosted more than 1,000 company meetings, special events, gala celebrations, and more. He is the author of several books and founder of CleanComedians.com. For more event tips, follow Adam Christing on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and YouTube.