Earlier this month Creative Entrepreneurs were invited to partner with ERIC Fest – an exciting new format of careers fair for young people, designed and curated to provide practical, relevant advice on starting a creative career.

As Creative Entrepreneurship was the theme of this edition of the fair (previous fairs have looked specifically at breaking into the music industry, the arts and digital), we were really excited to be involved and to have the opportunity to meet a host of talented, budding creative entrepreneurs.

This was our very first time exhibiting at a fair of this kind, or for that matter, of any kind! Whether it’s a trade fair, a careers fair or a graduate fair that you might be preparing for here’s some key findings we learned that you may want to consider:

1. Find a fun, inexpensive way to stand out from the crowd

Wanting to engage as many people who attended ERIC Fest as possible, and provide visitors with an opportunity to spend time at our stand to learn more about our work, membership and the value we offer to our community, we decided to theme our stand as the ‘Business Advice Bar’.

Rather than simply handing out free branded pens, boiled sweets and business cards, we offered visitors free business advice and a selection of simple (non-alcoholic) cocktails, encouraging them to spend time engaging with our team. In addition, the spectacle of our bar props and fun signage intrigued people, drew them to the stand and enticed them to take pictures to share on social!

Having a simple concept to help you stand out from the crowd can help make your brand memorable, and make visitors more likely to follow up and connect after the fair.

2. Think about your target audience

ERIC Fest is aimed at young people aged 16-25 who want to break into the creative sector. With this in mind, we wanted to make sure that the marketing material we used at the fair was relevant to the young nature of the crowd, so we tweaked the images used on our flyers to have a more youthful, fun feel, and ensured that we used the right kind of jargon-free language when chatting to visitors.

When preparing to exhibit at a fair, spend time researching the potential audience/audiences likely to be attending. There may be more than one audience – for example, potential customers vs potential suppliers, and you should think about how your messaging might differ between them. What might you wish to highlight to one group, rather than another? For example, you might want to have different marketing material printed for different audiences.

3. Stock up on refreshments and food for you and your team

Exhibiting at fairs can be exhausting and thirsty work! You’re likely to have lots of (sometimes repetitive!) conversations with lots of new people, and you’ll want to maintain high levels of enthusiasm and passion throughout. Have a good stock of drinks and snacks available to hand to keep you and your team replenished throughout the day, to keep energy levels high! It may sound trivial, but you won’t want to leave your stand unmanned, or understaffed - having a good stock of refreshments with you can prevent this from happening!

4. Have a clear idea of what success looks like

Having a clear target for the day, for example, a certain number of email addresses captured, or orders placed, can help you and your team focus your conversations on the day. Make sure your target is achievable and measurable for maximum impact.

5. Record your learnings

What worked well? What might you do differently next time? Did any visitors have any useful feedback you’d like to remember for next time? Did you print enough business cards? Did any other exhibitors have clever ways of engaging with visitors that you could be inspired by? Dot down all your key learnings so that your stand will be even more stand out next time!