My booth at an indoor show.

My booth at an indoor show.

It’s craft fair season and yesterday I got questions from two people in real life about what’s involved in doing your first show. Here’s a post to answer them, share resources and share that with you too, dear reader.

The first and most important thing about any show is walking the show first. Walk the show before you apply for it, see who is in attendance, who’s buying, what’s being bought (if anything). Yes, this may mean waiting a year before you have a chance to do the show.

Exception: sometimes you choose to do an inexpensive show just as a personal deadline for you to make a lot of work, or get that booth designed and purchased. If you do that, you know that you’re taking a risk with regard to sales and you keep it in perspective.

What do I personally look for in an outdoor show? No music, no entertainment, I want buy craft or art to be the primary entertainment of the show. I look for an entry fee to get into the show. If people have to pay to get in, that indicates a level of seriousness about buying.

So, you’ve decided to do this show, you’ve got plenty to sell, but you need a booth.

Luann Udell, one of my favorite jewelry bloggers, has written a book about booth design:

Good Booth sGone Bad book cover, by Luann Udell

Good Booths Gone Bad by Luann Udell

You can also check out her posts on booth design on her blog.

Another go-to resource on booth design for anyone selling jewelry is Bruce Baker. If you haven’t ever heard him speak at a conference, you can buy his DVDs on booth design and selling.

What about a tent?
Many people start out with an EZ-up (or similar design) tent. There’s a reason these are nicknamed EZ-down tents by craftspeople. While they are perfect for a little sun protection in a backyard party, when doing a craft show, your tent is protecting not only you, but also your work and all those booth elements you so carefully designed.

More expensive tents, such as the Light-Dome, are sturdier, don’t allow water too pool on the roof, and have four zippered sides (as an optional add-on purchase).

Why would you want sides on your tent?
You might want to block the view behind your tent, to help customers focus on your beautiful jewelry. This is almost always a good idea.

At some shows, there is security overnight, and you can move all your display elements to the center (if necessary) of the tent and zip up all four walls, for protection against the weather.

Weights
Many craft shows are held on streets that are closed off for the show, so you’ll need a way to tie down your booth that doesn’t involve using tent pegs. One way to do this is to use containers of water that you tie to each leg, to weigh down the tent.

Some craftshow regulars make their own weights by filling a PVC pipe with concrete and embedding an steel loop in one end, so they can attach the weight to the tent. Remember to also have extra straps to secure your weights so that customers aren’t injured by them.

Basic Pedestals from EasyPedestals.com

Basic Pedestals from EasyPedestals.com

I have a number of resources in the Doing Craft Shows category here on this blog, including foldable columns, risers from the food industry that I think would work well for jewelry, and more!

Once you’ve designed a terrific booth and bought or borrowed all of the elements, and you’ve listened to Bruce’s DVD on selling techniques, you might want to learn how to get troublesome people, who won’t be buying, out of your booth. Luann Udell has that covered in her second book, Good Booths Gone Bad.

And finally, get help! Especially for your very first show, use the buddy system; pay a friend to come along and work with you. Even if it’s not your first show, you’ll need a friend so you can take bathroom and meal breaks.

Final tips
Care for yourself – make sure you’ll be hydrated, fed and will be wearing comfortable shoes.

If you can manage it, and the show allows it, adding flooring to your booth that soothes sore feet, can be a welcoming feature for your customers that may have them wanting to stay in your booth just a little bit longer. Your feet will thank you too.

Envision every aspect of the day and make sure you’ve covered everything. Do you have packaging for once work is purchased? Does the buyer have your contact information, so they can return and collect more of your work?

What else? Do you have any tips, dear readers? What have I left out? Have you ever forgotten an essential item when doing a show?
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This post was published by Elaine Luther on All Things Metal Clay on July 13, 2016.

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