How attending community events can benefit your business

Herbs in glass jars


Attending community events is a great way to network and build your professional and business reputation. In March 2020, I had a stall at the inaugural Hills Wellness Expo, in Castle Hill, NSW. If you’ve ever wondered if participating in such events will be beneficial to you, here’s a little bit about my experience and my tips to help you get the most out of the events you choose to attend.

In my 17 years as a practitioner, I have attended a variety of events, from corporate wellness expos where I have provided seated massage or iridology sessions, to community markets where I have sold my herbal tea blends. My experiences have been varied, some I found really worthwhile, while others I thought were much work for very little reward. What I learned from those past events really helped me to get the most out of my day at the Hills Wellness Expo.

Here are my top tips for a successful expo or market experience:

Consider if the event is right for your offering

It has taken quite a bit of trial and error to get this right. I once had a stall at a pre-Christmas night market for mums, selling my herbal tea blends. I thought this would be a huge success as these women were there to get their Christmas shopping done and were ready to spend money. However, I didn’t take into account that this event was being held at a licensed venue and everyone would be walking around with a wine in hand and very little interest in sampling iced tea.

Conversely, I have previously declined offers to exhibit at industry or themed events because I thought that there would be too many similar offerings and I wouldn’t stand out. The Hills Wellness Expo taught me that this is not the case. A niche event attracts customers who already have an interest in your offering, which takes half the work out of trying to promote your products or services because the audience is already interested in what you are selling.

Keep it simple

You don’t need to display every item in your toolbox. The first market I ever did for my herbal tea was the Crows Nest Festival which sees thousands of people attend over the course of the day. I went armed with every blend of tea in my range in a variety of sizes, I ordered teapots and infusers and all sorts of accessories I didn’t usually stock. While the overall takings from the day were quite good, I would’ve been much better off without all of the extra money I spent on unnecessary stock.

At the Hills Wellness Expo, I only took a few of my herbal tea blends, with a few extra items like calming mists and nappy cream to build a story around the tea blends. For example, lactation tea alongside nappy cream and child calming drops.

Keeping it simple makes your preparation and expenses a lot more manageable and it also helps to keep your stall uncluttered and eye-catching.

Think about what you want to get out of the event

Is your goal to make sales, build your community profile, build a referral network with other practitioners or something else?

Have a clear idea of what your goal is, as this will help you to decide what you want to display and offer on the day. For this particular event, I decided my goal wasn’t herbal tea sales, but to be more involved in the community, give back, and build my network and contact list.

I offered free iridology photos with a mini-assessment emailed after the event. This way I captured emails to add to my newsletter list. This was the single most successful method I have ever used to build my email list and I added 75 new signups in one day. At this event, I also had people approach me to network, offer business opportunities and enquire about my services. By having a clear goal, I set myself up to achieve this and it was hugely successful. The tea sales were an added bonus!

How to set up an eye-catching and appealing stall

If you need some inspiration, start taking notice of what other stallholders are doing when attending similar events. I knew there would be more than 50 other exhibitors at the Hills Wellness Expo and that people who attend these events can often feel overwhelmed by all of the information and services on offer. I had a general idea of how others might set up their stalls, so I made the conscious decision to make mine a little different. Instead of giving my stall a corporate look I made it more like an Instagram photo. I had posies of flowers and my stock was laid out in an attractive way with herbal tea tasting clearly displayed.

It’s important not to confuse people about what is on offer or to give the impression that I was desperate to sell something. I also used my stand-up banner to clearly display what I was offering with 3 large photos (an iris, my herbal tea and a photo of me) with minimal writing so that they could easily compute what my stall was all about. The key here goes back to my previous tip: keep it simple.

Capture contacts

No matter what your purpose when attending an event – sales, community growth or networking –  you should always have a way to capture email addresses. Your email list is your biggest asset and the best opportunity to keep in touch with your community and promote future offerings. It’s always a good idea to offer an incentive for people to sign up. A prize draw, a sample giveaway, an e-book or information sheet to be emailed upon sign up. At the Hills Wellness Expo, I offered free iridology photos and mini-readings, which were emailed after the event. This was wildly successful and I had a line of people waiting at my table and people seeking me out because they had heard others talking about the Iridology lady. It was a massive undertaking, with 75 reports to send out after the event, but it absolutely helped me achieve my goal of building my community.

Have all of your systems set up and tested before the day

Spend time pre-planning and setting up your systems so that things run smoothly and you can be a professional, unflustered presence at the event. Test your card reader and ensure you know how to use it, practice putting up your signs and banners. You may even consider doing a test run so you know exactly what needs to be done on the day.

Review of the Hills Wellness Expo

I have never attended an event where the organisers were so focused on helping all of the stallholders to have a successful day. The event organiser, Rachel Aldridge created a Facebook group so she could easily update all stallholders as well as suggesting how exhibitors could source signage, organised walk-thoughts of the event space and even organised breakfast for stallholders on the day. If you’re new to markets and expos and you’re a local to the Hills District, I highly recommend the Hills Wellness Expo for your maiden voyage.