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A chat with Mike Anderson from the Giving & Living trade show

Deciding to do a trade show as a small business can be a daunting step to take, and it can be hard to decided which type of show is right for you and your business.

In this chat with Mike Anderson, who runs Hail Events and the Somerset based trade show Giving and Living , we talk about how to decide if a show is a good fit for your business and the various options you need to take in to consideration when deciding to start your trade show exhibiting journey.

Rather watch the Instagram live with Mike? You can watch that here.

Mike from living and giving trade show chats about finding the right tradeshow for your small business

1. Can you tell us a little bit more about who you are and the Giving and Living event that you organize?

I'm Mike Anderson and I run a small business down in beautiful rural Somerset called Hail Events. We've been based down here now for 30 plus years, and during that time we've been running a gift and home event called Giving and Living. It started off in Torquay on the coast, and is now in Exeter, where it provides the regional buyers and buyers from further afield with a wonderful selection of everything from handmade British gifts through to decorative accessories and home accessories, to all of those souvenir tourist items that people buy for the summer season. So it really is a real cross section of products from the mass produced through to the handmade one-off pieces.

It’s once a year and we're very focused on the summer season. Buyers are coming along from either their small independents or they might represent tourist attractions, heritage sites, and they're coming to select the gifts that they want to sell to the tourists that visit them throughout the year.

2. Over the time you’ve been running the show, has anything changed with what your buyers are looking for when they visit the show?

It's changed dramatically since we started 30 years ago. We've seen a huge shift, firstly away from the collectible market in terms of, there used to be lots of companies doing collectible dragons or collectible cottages or those sorts of items. That's gone and instead we're seeing functional, practical, life enhancing gifts. Gifts that you might want to use as home accessories, pictures on the wall for your holiday home, for your holiday caravan. Items that are less sort of dust gathering and often have a slightly more of a function as well.

Mike Anderson from Hail Events
Mike Anderson from Hail Events

3. If someone is thinking about exhibiting at your show for their first show, what kind of expectations should they have?

We like to think it's friendly, it's supportive. We are a small team, and I personally have been working on that show for 30 years now. We know the market, we know what people need and support that they need. So from every point of contact from that very first phone call that people make to say they might want to do an event, we will provide as much decent information as we can and help them and guide them through that process. Information such as what do you get on your stand? What do you need to think about bringing with you? What additional costs might you expect to pay at a trade show? Have you budgeted for all of those? We'd much rather people come into this with their eyes wide open.

We really try and keep the price affordable so that brand new businesses can come and do the show and, it's not gonna break the bank. So they can come away maybe having picked up half a dozen new accounts and get a very healthy return on their investment because people gotta watch the pennies.

4. Cost is one of the things that makes trade shows so scary, isn’t it?

Cost is a factor, and we'd always advise people to find out all of the costs from any organizer up front. They should be able to share with you what it might cost you if you want some electric sockets on your stand, or is there a furniture hire cost? Should you bring your own furniture? What about graphics? What about the pre-show marketing? All those different aspects need to be costed in together and we try to make that first experience one that's comfortable and manageable.

Often businesses will come and do our show as a first event because they know they're going get that extra bit of support, in a venue that's easy to get to. We like to think we can provide people with a very friendly and manageable way of trying a trade show for the first time in an approachable way.

5. What would be a few of your top tips for someone that is exhibiting for the first time?

The first one we've discussed, which is know your costs. Know what you're letting yourself in for, make sure that you have planned, budgeted and ask the organizers are there any other costs? Are there any media charges? Are there any other unexpected costs that you haven't thought about?

The other one is work with the organizers, particularly with their marketing team, as this is an opportunity to highlight your product to some really key buyers.

So I'd say cost marketing and good planning. If in doubt, speak to the organizers. When can you get in and set up? What are the facilities? Where can you park your vehicle during the show days? All of those things that make the experience itself easier for you because there will be enough stress and difficulty with manning or staffing your stand.

6. Is there any like mistakes or things that you see new exhibitors do that you think should be avoided?

One of the most interesting ones is sometimes the people who make the products aren't always the best to sell them. Sometimes what you need is to bring someone with you who doesn't know quite as much about the product, who can just smile and meet the buyers, introduce them to the product. Make sure you've got the right person who's going to be the face of your stand.

And secondly, follow up on everything. Make sure that you don't waste any possible leads. It's hard work doing these shows and, and you want to get everything out of them that you can. We have found that at least 50% of business now comes after the event.

We've got a show where people do place orders on site, but most people are coming along and they're doing fact finding. They're gonna compare your products with what they find online. They're gonna compare your products with what they see at other shows and then, then they might want to place an order. Make sure you've got their details, follow up, make sure that you're speaking to them on a regular basis to ensure that they've got the details that they need. So I think communication I would say is the absolute key to it all.

7. For anyone that is reading this and wants to get involved, what's the first step they would need to take?

Have a look at our website and this will provide a really good overview of what the marketing is, when the show is, where it is, and who's taken part. Think about the event, what some of our exhibiting clients think about the events, and then either give us a call or drop us an email and we would be straight back in touch to chat it through, really explore what your goals are as a business and what you are looking to try and do.

We would share pricing and share stand layouts and as much information as people need to be able to make a really good informed decision about what they're doing. We've even had the case where we'll put people in touch with similar types of businesses so that you can chat to people who've actually done the event.

It's one thing hearing it from us as the organizers, but if you can hear it from your contemporaries, other organizations who've taken part, that can reassure you and also answer lots more questions as well.

In Summary

Talking to Mike has shown that there's a wide range of trade shows available to small businesses and that there's one to fit any business. If the bigger London and Birmingham shows seem a bit too daunting or big for your first trade show, it's definitely worth seeing what else is on offer and fits with your brand.

New students tell me that they're not sure how to know when they're ready to start exhibiting at trade shows. Do you feel this way too?

I'm here to tell you that you don't need to figure it out on your own. I'd love to have a chat if you feel this way. You can email me at or head over to my Instagram @small_business_collaborative and drop me a DM to find out more.

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All photos are from Gift and Living

A chat about the living and giving somerset trade show with manager Mike Anderson


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