I attended my first ever open house (like a mini bridal show) at Columbus Country Club last week. Before I go any further, if you haven't hear of this venue, you need to go check them out. Like, now. They recently renovated their venue and it is AH. MAZING. and super affordable, too! Their staff is wonderful and I walked away thrilled with open house!

Since I had never exhibited at any sort of open house or bridal show, I was a little nervous, not really knowing what to expect. Then, of course, the inevitable planning set in, wanting to make sure I was taking all of the right things and setting myself apart from the rest!

I had nearly two months to plan for this event, which was pretty small in size, so plenty of time in my opinion. It has didn't have much of a "booth space" so no rentals or builds were required. I recommend starting small to any new photographers, or first-time exhibitors. This is good for several reasons. First, smaller events and open houses are usually free or very inexpensive to exhibit at. Second, it allows you to get to experience one on a smaller scale before you try and conquer anything like the Columbus Wedding Show. That's on an entirely different level. Finally, it arms you with tons of ideas for when you finally decide to go big, but be ready to spend some money on large expos and bridal shows.

My booth space was 10' wide by 5' deep, 8' table and floor length linen provided. I also had access to electric. I wanted to make sure my space best represented my brand visually, while also standing out from the rest. So first, you must ask yourself "what is my brand?"

What do you want people to remember about your brand? What does your brand look like? What emotions do you want your brand to evoke? How should your brand make your clients feel? How can you make your brand attract your ideal clients? How should your price point be reflected in your brand? These are all important questions!

WHAT I HAD AT MY BOOTH + WHY

1. Pricing sheets. There are different people who will argue that not having pricing is their strategy to winning their clients over with personality first before letting them in on pricing. However, I pride myself on being transparent and quite frankly I don't want to waste my time or theirs if I'm out of their budget. I want my clients to know my pricing, and then fall in love which me (which makes the time I spend with them trying to make the sale that much more valuable and worthwhile).

2. Business cards. This is a no-brainer to have, but make sure you have plenty of them. If attendees take nothing else, make sure they take your business card as a reminder that they talked with you, and with your information so they can get more information from your website.

3. Sample wedding album. If any of your collections include albums, or it's a common a la carte album, a sample album is a great way to attract people to your booth (people love touching things) and it's a great way to up-sell an album if they weren't previously considering one!

4. A calendar. This is important if clients are asking about available dates, or if you plan to schedule consultations with people in the days following. This is also crucial to have if you have an assistant (that isn't a business partner) helping you at the booth. This way, they have access to your schedule and can answer questions appropriately.

5. A show promotion. Most show hosts encourage vendors to do this anyways, but it's always a good well to get a sale. People come to open houses usually ready to find vendors, and if you give them an incentive to book, it's even better! Make sure your show promotion is good enough that people would want to jump at the opportunity (like 50% off a wedding album that's already marked up), versus something that won't make the sale worth your while (like 75% off your pricing).

6. Fresh flowers or snacks. These can do several things. First, it allows you to connect with other vendors by asking for in-kind donations in lieu of promoting them at your booth. Second, it attracts people to your booth because you have something different and pretty. And finally, food will keep them at the booth longer (hopefully) which gives you the opportunity to sell them on your product or service (hopefully).

7. An assistant! Thankfully, I have a mother who offered (before I even asked) to come and help. At smaller open houses or shows, this may not be necessary, but it is certainly necessary for expos or large scale bridal shows. Since this was my very first show, I wanted to have someone there with me just to make sure everything went off without a hitch.

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