By fivetonine, originally published on UNIIMI, November 15th 2011.
Congratulations on booking a show! If you are new to the world of art and/or craft shows, no doubt you have a million questions. Some of the thrill of getting into the craft show may be quickly followed by panic when you think about everything you need to do to prepare.
There’s a lot more to participating in a craft show than just throwing your stuff in the car and showing up on the assigned day, but fear not. After you’ve gained some experience by participating in a few shows, you’ll practically be a craft show pro.
- Before and after you’ve paid for the show, read over the craft show promoter’s rules. There’s information in there that you’re going to need such as whether or not to bring your own table and chairs; what time you need to arrive at the show (usually an hour or two before the public); where to park if you are driving, etc.
- Always cover your table with a tablecloth that reaches the floor in front. Some craft show promoters insist on this. Even if they don’t, it’s good practice because it allows you to hide boxes, bags, your handmade craft overstock, and other assorted flotsam and jetsam that you will accumulate.
- Practice your setup the night before. Set up a table that approximates the size of the table you will be using at the show. Place your items on the table in the way you’d like them displayed. Vary the heights of items to add visual interest, especially for featured hand crafted items. (No need to buy a fancy display if funds are tight. Cover a small box with fabric, set it on top of the table and set your featured handmade item on top of it.) Move your items around until the display feels right to you.
- Be sure to take enough business cards and signage with you. Place the cards near the edge of the table. Some craft show visitors may not buy on the day of the show, but will be interested in checking out your online shop or contacting you at a later date. Place the cards where they are easy for passersby to grab. (There are surprisingly cheap deals on business cards online or make your own simple cards with some cardstock and a printer.)
- Change your big bucks into small bucks. Go to the bank before the show and get lots of $1 and $5 bills so that you don’t have to scramble for change at the point of sale. If you take credit cards, don’t forget your credit card slips, machine and a few extra pens.
- Pack something quick and easy to eat. Most craft shows run for six hours or more. Pack a simple sandwich — nothing too messy — or some trail mix, candy bars or granola bars, and plenty of water or other beverages. There may be food you can buy at the show but if you are doing the show alone, you may not get a chance to do much exploring or with any luck, your booth will be so busy, you won’t have much chance to wander off. Important: find out where the rest rooms are as soon as you arrive.
- Pack your wares in clear containers whenever possible. This may seem like a small thing, but when you’ve got 7 or 8 containers and assorted bags, boxes and beverages to pack and unpack, you’ll be very glad to be able to see through those containers rather than having to keep opening and closing boxes to find stuff.
- Make a checklist of everything you plan to bring to the show and check it once, twice, three times before you leave the house. You don’t want to get all the way to the venue and find that you left your best item sitting on the kitchen table.
- Take notes during the day. Write about the location, the types of customers, the weather, the setup, whether the promoters had anyone to greet you or if you had to find your setup on your own, and anything else that strikes you. Even if you don’t sell a thing, taking notes helps you to improve things the next time. You always learn something when you do a show… and sometimes you learn not to do that particular show next year!
- Smile. No matter how rude people are, smile. Even if no one buys a thing, smile. If you’re the quiet type, don’t feel you have to run after customers or do a hard sell, but don’t stick your nose in a book either. Customers find it off-putting if you don’t make eye contact and some won’t approach you if they feel like they are bothering you. Just smile, greet customers as they approach your booth or table, and let your wares and your attractive display do the selling.
Finally — I guess you could call this the 11th tip — relax and enjoy the experience. Don’t be afraid to ask your table-neighbors to watch your table if you need to take a quick bathroom break. Most vendors are as nervous and anxious as you are and are more than happy to share information, keep an eye on your table, and chit-chat with you during slow times.