Is Being A Vendor At Events Worth The Trouble?

I get asked quite a bit if attending expos, festivals, shows or galas as a vendor is worth it. There is no specific answer other than, “check out the dynamics of that event.” I’ve attended quite a few. So here is what I can tell you.

  • Are they your audience? – You want to check out who their (event) target audience is. If you’ve read my materials then you understand market segmentation. Not because there’s a bunch of people gathering in one place means you will make a lot of money. What exactly will you be selling? Push the expo organizers to give you detailed information on the profile of their expected attendees. If they can’t, that’s a sign. If they won’t, that’s another sign.
  • Is it free to attend? – Here’s the clincher. Organizers diminish the “perceived” value of their event when it is free to the attendees. It’s easy for organizers to fill up event halls with people if they can get in for free but will this translate into sales for you? Many of them will show up to see what else they can get for free. Depending on what your item is, this can be a problem; which leads me to my next point.
  •  Do organizers support the vendors? – Sadly. And I mean very sadly, novice organizers view vendors as revenue rather than partners. They put events together, announce to the world that it’s free then charge the vendors to participate. So in actuality, the event isn’t free. Someone is footing the bill. That’s right, the vendor. This isn’t so bad. There can be light at the end of the tunnel. It becomes criminal when the event is funded by vendors and organizers don’t make regular announcements encouraging attendees to support vendors or create purchase requirements of attendees. Organizers benefit greatly from events. They get publicity, endearment from the local community and build their contact info of attendees and vendors for easy marketing the following year.

What I look for is organizers who encourage attendees to support the vendors and organizers who share the contact information with the vendors they obtained from the attendees. As a vendor, you paid a fee! You should be given the opportunity to market to attendees of the event at a later date.

I know the feeling of making an investment and wanting to see a return. There are a lot of pop-up events that take place organized by folks who see dollar signs from vendors and spare creating a true economy at the event. With a naked eye, events seem like a great way to get out there and make some money. All I can say is be careful. If you are not expecting sales but just would like to get exposure, go for it. If you want your cash register to ring after you spent hundreds or even thousands on an event, vet the event.

Avoid being taken for a ride. Don’t get drunk off hope when organizers show you pictures of seas of people from the previous year. We are all in the business of entrepreneurship but you need to watch out for the entrepreneur cannibals. They simply lookout for their own bottom line, take from other entrepreneurs and disregard if you are able to see a profit from doing business with them. I’ve been to so many “free admission” festivals, events, banquets, shows, expos, etc. across the country. They typically attract a lot of attendees, but sales for vendors…the jury is still out.




  • Professor Devin

    Professor Devin Robinson is the founder of Urban Business Institute, host of “Class is in Session” podcast, former economics professor at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, GA, an author of 11 books, including, "Blackpreneurship: 50 Obstacles Black Entrepreneurs Face and How to Overcome Them". He resides in John’s Creek, GA.

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