We exhibited at DLExpo and it was epic!

I decided to exhibit at DLExpo last week. It was our first time exhibiting anything, anywhere, so there were a lot of unknowns.

I really enjoyed it, although it was by turns stressful, fun, exhausting, painful, and interesting. I learned things I didn’t expect, and was inspired by some of the conversations I’d had.

What to exhibit?

First off, what does a PAT tester exhibit at expos?

I’ve seen a few PAT testing stands, and they’re normally really boring. There’s often a guy behind a table, with a bunch of leaflets, a tester, and a couple of adapters. Huh. That looks like a day of dull to me. That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with that – but I wanted to do something different for ours.

I know from visiting expos myself in the past, I like the stands where there is something to play with. I like to get my hands onto things. (Yes, I’m an overgrown child!)

Now somebody told me there was no point exhibiting, because PAT testing isn’t a visually appealing subject. But the more I thought about it, the more I disagreed. It’s not pretty like cakes and crystals, or fun like VR headsets, but the bulk of my job is visual. After all, we estimate that up to 90% of PAT testing failures are faults that can be found visually.

So I decided to exhibit, but not with the aim of giving out leaflets. I wanted to show people what to look out for to be safe. And this applies as much in the home as in a workplace.

Preparing to exhibit

Firstly, I needed failures. Ade and I started asking customers if we could take their failed items away for a safety exhibit.

Nobody had an issue with this – after all, it saved them getting rid themselves!

So I ended up with a box under the stairs full of power leads and heaters and plugs.

Then I needed a couple of bits that were safe, for comparison – easy! I pulled them out of the things I have at home.

Next, I needed business cards. Not a problem – we’d used the same company since we launched. We loved their work, just needed a couple of tweaks and away we go. They did next day delivery, so I didn’t panic about it. What a mistake-a to make-a!

I found out, a week before the Expo, that our former business card supplier had closed down. I couldn’t get our business cards reprinted! So I had to quickly run some up online, which I wasn’t happy with but at least had the correct details. There’s nothing wrong with the cards, I just don’t like them as much as the old ones.

Then there were the bits I wanted with me just in case – tester and tool bag, because I was testing for exhibitors who needed it. Snacks and drinks, because it gets warm in there and I’d heard it could be a long day. Code of Practice, the PAT tester’s bible, in case I needed to back anything up or check a minor detail. My laptop, for generating reports while I was there, to save time later. And printouts for anyone who wanted additional information on some of the lesser known niggly bits.

Setting up

The night before DLExpo setup began, I checked my emails. Somewhere in there was one with the sizes for my stand. So 10pm saw me taping out an area of my living room floor and playing with layouts until I was happy. A lot of the items we’d collected didn’t make the cut, but I didn’t care. I could pick up an item and handle it, show it to people, find it easily. I knew where things needed to be.

Laying out the DLExpo exhibit
Exhibit preparation for DLExpo – excuse the clutter, dust and dog toy!

But I still didn’t have any business cards…

On the Tuesday morning I was nervous. Setup started at 2pm and I was meant to be there, but my cards weren’t arriving until the afternoon. There was nobody to sit in for me to collect them, and it was a courier delivery. I couldn’t just get them from the post office in the morning.

I packed and repacked everything until it all fitted neatly into my toolbag and a collapsible plastic crate. Then I fidgeted. I popped into town and found a little community garden on my way home.

Community garden near the Buddhist Centre in Darlington
Community garden near the Buddhist Centre in Darlington – what a lovely idea!

I even put on makeup (not a common occurrence!) and laid out my clothes for morning. I’m really not good at waiting when I’m nervous!

Then, finally, the cards arrived. I threw them into my bag without looking at them, and dashed off. I was an hour later than planned, but hopefully not too late to catch anyone who needed me.

There was no need to worry. Barely anyone arrived to set up on the Tuesday afternoon, but because I’d said I’d be there until close of setup I stayed until 8pm.

Tired, hungry, and slightly nervous about what would happen in the morning, I went home.

A funny moment

There was a moment that made me giggle, shortly before leaving. If you attended DLExpo this year you may have noticed that I’m rather pregnant at the moment. Well, I was chatting to Chris, one of the Business Club’s committee members and a lovely guy, about how there was a lot of work but it would all be over tomorrow.

As we chatted, two exhibitors walked past me and one said “How long, Emma?”

I, not realising what he meant, replied “24 hours, all being well.”

The three men exchanged very worried looks, before he asked “how long until you’re due?”

Oops…

The big day build up

Wednesday dawned dreary and grey, with clouds that threatened rain. My alarm went off at 6am, and I was heading to the Expo by 6.45.

There was a definite low buzz in the atmosphere. Suddenly, there were people everywhere, mostly faces I recognised but a few strangers too. An hour before DLExpo opened fully, Jayson, the chair of Darlington Business Club, got me a coffee and an apple to make sure I had breakfast. He did the same for Vanessa from Business Central, who had the stand opposite mine. There were jokes and chats between nearby exhibitors, and I tested equipment for a few more people who had left it until the last minute.

Everybody was looking out for everybody else and I began to relax a little – at this point, I was there. I couldn’t change anything. I had to go with the flow.

Read part 2 to find out what happened…

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