April 2018 marked my first foray into the big wide world as kk.editor – the London Book Fair! It was the first-ever fair I attended as a professional, not just an excitable audience member, and it was an exhilarating experience. I did, however, prepare myself beforehand. Here are my super-practical hot tips on how not only survive, but also enjoy, the London Book Fair as a freelance attendee.
Before you go
- Think of whom you’re likely to know at the fair. Perhaps your former employer is exhibiting? Is your professional organisation there? Reach out to them and see whether they’d like to meet at the fair. They may be busy (a lot of trade is happening at the fair), but it may also be a great opportunity to reconnect and introduce them to your new business.
- Consider volunteering at the fair. Perhaps your organisation needs someone at the stand for a couple of hours or your former colleagues need a hand distributing leaflets/free merchandise? You will not only meet a number of people, you will also have somewhere to gravitate towards at quieter moments of the fair.
- When registering, make your job title as short as possible as it will appear on your badge. (Cue me: “Freelance copy-editor and text designer” – who can take in all in in less than a second?! (The time you’ll get to glimpse the badge discreetly before the person starts to take interest in you staring at their chest!) – a simple “Copy-editor” would’ve done the job just fine.)
- Print out your badge in colour: black & white badges aren’t as readable, particularly at a distance.
- Bring a clip or a lanyard if you have a spare one at home. The plastic badge holders are handed out with safety pins, which can damage delicate fabric, if that’s what you’re wearing.
At the fair
- Make sure you bring your business cards with you. As old fashioned as it may seem to some, business cards are still very much in use and the easiest way to exchange contact details. And while we’re at it, have a small notebook and pen on you as well.
- Wear comfortable shoes. The halls of the fair are vast and you will walk a lot, so comfortable footwear is essential.
- Think of what you’d like to wear and dress comfortably but smart. The fair is a professional event and a great majority of visitors, not to mention exhibitors, come with business goals in mind. Impress your potential client/employer/business partner by looking your best professional self.
- Wear layers or bring a scarf/pashmina. It gets quite hot in the halls, but it can also be chilly in places – make yourself comfortable (and keep up your good mood!) by having something to cover your shoulders when it gets cold.
- Pack light.
- Bring some cash. Some exhibitors offer merchandise for sale, but not all will be able to process card payments. Having cash on you will save you unnecessary trips in search of an ATM (I didn’t see any in the exhibition halls) and thus, time.
- Pack a light lunch and a bottle of water. While there are several cafés where you can also buy lunch in the hall, prices can be an unpleasant surprise and you may not have enough time in between appointments and sessions to queue in cafés.
- Be open and friendly. Chat to people – if you go to the fair alone, you will have to make the effort to engage with others, or else it will be a very quiet 3 days.
- Get a massage! There is a mobile massage station and the wonderful masseurs and masseuses will make the stress from all that networking and “book fairing” go away in an instant. It may hurt though!
Before you go, check out this blog post from bookcareers.com. They have great tips on what the London Book Fair is all about and what to do if your goal at the fair is to look for a job. I read it before I went and it made me think how I fit into the whole shebang as a freelancer.
Have fun and drop me a line if you're going next year!