Showcase Showstopper

Tips on how to plan a memorable wedding open day with Kelly Chandler
Huntstile outdoor wedding
At Kelly Chandler Consulting we are passionate about helping unique spaces and places benefit from creating a memorable showcase to really put their best foot forward and drive the right wedding business for them. I’m a strong believer that the bridal market of today expects to see and experience so much more before buying. Technology has made that possible in so many ways; it’s now widely expected that wedding locations and professionals truly demonstrate their worth and their work much earlier in the wedding journey and hosting an impressive wedding showcase is a key way of delivering that. Whether we call it an open day, a showcase or (shudder!) a wedding fair, there are certain ingredients that I know really work in delivering superbly attended events, with the right audience finding the right support for their wedding celebrations and for you, as a venue, demonstrating your endless possibilities. Here are my ‘top 10 tips’ on what I feel are the key ingredients in ensuring your venue pulls off an eye-catching, inspiring, commercially successful, live experience that will leave that vital lasting impression on every couple, family member and friend. That ‘one off’ event everyone is talking about!

1. Setting the scene
I see too many wedding open days put together as a last minute addition, with little time or effort from either the venue team organising it or the suppliers contributing. A great show requires an investment of both time and energy and there is no getting away from some cost.

Places that deliver the most successful results invest in the promotion of their event via their marketing budgets and put in place certain key infrastructure from both internal and external resources to really make the day happen. Keenness for partner companies to be involved and to invest themselves in showcasing their work creatively is key.

Focus on showcasing your spaces to bring in future business rather than looking to make a profit from the hosting of the showcase itself.

2. Ask for advice and get the right team on board
It’s a team effort. Bring in experts where you need to support your in-house team, whether it’s hiring an independent events planner to head up the event (this is what we do for some venue clients) or whether it’s hand-picking the right wedding partners to showcase their products and services, make sure you go with those who know!

Be sure you’re selecting the right suppliers to feature at your shows. These should be special, talented and offer that ‘extra something’ making them truly stand out from the crowd. They should have equal measures of creativity and reliability with a main goal to not only exceed their clients’ expectations, but also yours as a unique wedding space. Investing some time in getting to know your key suppliers and maintaining this relationship is absolutely vital. If you are recommending and showcasing substandard services to your clients, it will reflect poorly on you so just be sure you’re choosing your suppliers according to their merit.

3. Be inspiring
Modern couples are long over the idea of turning up to a wedding show to be “sold to” by a group of suppliers flogging their wares from behind an uninspiring white-clothed trestle table. It’s key to really showcase possibilities and give couples an experience and a chance to touch, see, feel, smell and taste elements of their potential wedding; they don’t want a brochure, they want to see samples!

4. Create a sense of collaboration
There is a core principle which runs throughout the veins of any successful wedding showcase that really makes a difference and that is the spirit of collaboration.

To showcase your unique spaces, you need your team of partners/suppliers to be happy to collaborate with each other to really create an amazing show experience rather than just sticking to their own little zone leaving an event filled with lots of disparate offerings. Styled tables which show a team spirit and demonstrating the actual teamwork that goes into a wedding day is a much more captivating offering for couples to see and experience. Wedding professional partners who are part of your show should enjoy, thrive and promote their collaborations with one other. This will essentially produce the best results for everyone.

It is far better to nurture great loyal relationships with suppliers who have experience and can see the benefits of a long term partnership helping bring you to life as a unique place. After all, a space without all the extras is empty and unappealing to any couple, no matter how lovely a location.

Be confident in your overall design/theme for the day, giving your key participators the opportunity to also come up with their own ideas and put them forward for consideration. There is often a lot of communication that goes on before a final theme is set but it’s worth it to get it just right to be sure you’re demonstrating the current trends rather than something people have ‘seen before.’ This really is a fabulous opportunity to be bold and brave with your offering all the time being sympathetic to your unique selling points as a potential wedding space.
Wedding table decoration5. Make it unique
Make a point of all your fabulous features, your USPs. You want to highlight them all as well as make a huge ‘song and dance’ about your food and beverage offerings if this is an option. Make sure you really place emphasis on what you do exceptionally well in your location, this is what will make you stand out and essentially secure that next booking.

6. Invest heartily in promotion
There is no getting away from it, it is exceptionally hard to get ‘guests through the door’. You need to invest in local advertising and this should be a combination of printed, blog and social media alongside any in-house promotion. Telling your enquirers or confirmed brides about your showcase is also great idea and should definitely be part of your marketing plan in the lead up.

7. Keep them there
You’ve gone to the trouble of investing and getting people there, so now it’s about making sure they stay to get the full experience. Couples planning their wedding tend to really do their research. They want to learn from the experts and really get to know the wedding teams they’re getting involved with to be sure they are the best fit. What better way for your audiences than to join in and listen to an expert speak? They’ll gain knowledge from workshops on key wedding topics while listening to live music and munching on tasty treats. Lay on a variety of activities to give your guests the opportunity to truly experience your venue and essentially visualise how it would work for them on their very own day.

8. Treat them well
This is your chance to shine so while budgets are always a consideration, do honour the effort that couples are going to in giving up their valuable time to attend your show. Reward them with complimentary drinks/nibbles and consider user-friendly and high quality printed show guides to take away, to digest what you offer and enjoy.

We are simple folk and really appreciate good food and drink; a wedding show is a far more relaxing experience if guests can circulate with a lovely cocktail in hand and enjoy some edible bites as they waft through what should be a warm, friendly and fun experience.

Make the guest experience from start to finish as simple and rewarding as possible. Display good event signage so that guests can find their way around and offer beautifully designed show guides outlining what to expect for the day. To really leave that lasting impression, offer a ‘well stocked’ goody bag at the end of the visit as a small thank you.
Church Farm Weddings inside marquee wedding dinner9. Keep in touch
Capturing your couples’ email addresses and other key details to ensure you can keep in touch and follow up is vital (do make sure you are up to date on all the latest data capture and storage legislation including the big changes coming with GDPR this May).

The follow-up for your showcase is just as important as the lead-up. Ensure you embrace this small window of ‘hot potential business’ by investing in as much resource as you can to convert new bookings while you are fresh in the couples’ minds. Be proactive and personal with every call.

                                                                                       10. Keep it fresh
You might run a successful show once but don’t make the mistake of replicating it exactly nor become complacent with how successful it once was. Trends/fashions and designs change fast and need to be reflected in your showcase. Become known as an innovator, not a follower!

In my experience, those who truly invest their heart and soul and are passionate about delivering a ‘showstopper showcase’ and achieving great results, get great returns from their efforts. For the increasingly discerning client base we are targeting, there is no room for average or half-hearted in wedding shows these days. It’s about being innovative, current and ahead of the game. Be the wedding location everyone aspires to be.

Do you host a wedding showcase? What changes can you implement to make it representative of the weddings you actually aspire to book? If you’d like to talk about outsourcing or having additional help with your next showcase, then do get in touch 01483 282858 / /

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