New to the craft show scene? Feeling a little overwhelmed? The Hive is here to help! Whether you’re a show new-bee (see what I did there!) or a veteran Queen (did it again!) of the fair, there are a ton of tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your event. In my Craft Show Essentials series I’ll help you figure out what you need to do before, during, and after your craft show to help you get the most benefit for your business!
As a big, giant, anxiety-filled introvert, I have a small confession to make – I love to do craft shows! I mean it – I LOVE them! Selling at shows gives me a chance to meet my customers face to face. While I generally shy away from such terrifying interactions with strangers, it’s actually an excellent opportunity for me to conduct easy, informal market research, grow my customer base, and learn what consumers really like about my products. (More on these topics in Part 2!) That said, I know that the thought of prepping for a show can seem more than a little overwhelming, but have no fear! I’m here to help ease your worries and lower your stress levels! After years of exhibiting at craft shows, and learning a lot the hard way, I’d love to share a few of my best tips and tricks for having a successful, and (mostly) stress free show…
Choose your shows wisely.
Over the years I’ve learned that all craft shows are not created equal. When I first started out I signed up for every show I could afford within a 50 mile radius, but in hindsight, I should have been A LOT more selective!
If you are considering signing up for an event, and this is your very first time exhibiting at a show, you may want to consider picking a small local school or church craft show just to get your toes wet. They usually have lower table or booth fees and lower attendance rates which gives you the opportunity to essentially do a practice run of your craft show set up without spending a ton of money and getting totally overwhelmed if something doesn’t work the way you planned. Doing a small show first also gives you the opportunity to tweak your displays and optimize your “behind the scenes” procedures before you move up to the big time shows and are inundated with shoppers.
Show Tip – When choosing which shows to apply to, make sure you’re looking at more than one aspect of the show. How much does it cost and will you be able to recoup that cost from your sales at the show? Where is it? How easy will it be to unload and reload your vehicle? Where can you park? How many people are expected to attend? What are the demographics of the attendees and are they your targeted customers? (Will it be the parents of school kids? Empty nesters? Elderly church-goers? Affluent philanthropists? Who are the people who will be at the show?) Is there a rain date if the show is outside? Are there any other major events in the community that are scheduled the same day as your show? If so, will the community event add to your show traffic or detract from it? Make sure you only chose the shows that you think will work best for you.
Test your set-up!
Before you get to your craft show, experiment with your set up and displays. Even the most veteran of exhibitors will tell you that their displays are constantly evolving from show to show. Testing your set up beforehand gives you the chance to try different ideas to see what works best.
“The photo with the gray tablecloths “is a show I did last fall, my set up is much better now. The
“The [photos with the tan tablecloth] are my very first craft show setup two years ago. The [photos with the white tablecloth] show my current booth setup that is still evolving. Over the years I’ve learned a lot about staging and product height displays. Also having great signage and pricing tags helps inform buyers.” – Nicole – Nickel Creek Stitches
When designing your set up, consider ways to optimize your use of vertical space and make sure your set up reflects your brand and overall style. Having modular displays that are easy to transport and that can be set up in a variety of configurations is optimal. This way you can change up the arrangement depending on the location, but you still maintain the continuity of your overall brand image from show to show without lugging a giant display to every venue.
Kim, of Kim’s Artfully Cottage Designs has a beautiful display. She uses vertical elements to show off her handmade wall art, her entire booth display is reflective of her branding style, and she even coordinated her outfit to complement her brand and logo colors!
Show Tip – Taking pictures of your practice set ups makes it easier to compare your options (and to get friends’ opinions) and it makes easier to duplicate your arrangements the day of the show, especially if you have someone helping you set up!
Testing your set up lets you see just how much of your product you can have displayed at one time. Consider packing your products so that your main items to be displayed are all together with back-up stock stored in secondary bins or containers. This style of packing generally makes it easier to maintain your materials in a neat and organized way with the least amount of unpacking and repacking and you can store them out of the way but still find extra stock quickly if you need to.
Show Tip – If you can, use stackable plastic bins with labels to help organize all of your materials and supplies. Stackable bins are more stable during transport, and they can double as tables, shelves, and work spaces while at the show.
Whenever possible, don’t do a show alone! It’s always nice to have help with set up and take down, but don’t forget you’re human! You’ll probably want someone to help out when you need to eat (and you need to remember to eat and stay hydrated!) or have to take a potty break. (I’ve done many shows while I was in my third trimester – both of my kids were born right after Christmas Craft show season – and my poor husband dutifully manned my booth during all of my pregnancy potty breaks!) It’s also nice to have someone to talk to during the show and help out if you get slammed with customers.
Show Tip – Be sure to train your helper! Make sure your helper knows the basics of pricing, packaging, and selling your goods before your show starts. Chances are, your helper will be nervous when you aren’t available to tell them what to do. You don’t want your friend to panic and accidentally make a mistake on an order, so help them out! Kindly show them where to find everything they need and how you’d like them to make your sale if you aren’t available – and maybe buy them lunch or dinner for being such an amazing friend!
What to bring – some of the essentials…
The obvious essentials:
- 10×10 ft. Tent and Weights (If it is an outdoor event and tents are required.)
- Tables and Chairs (If not supplied by your event venue.)
- Table Coverings (Most shows require your tables to be covered and tablecloths are a great way to hide your supplies out of sight but within reach!)
- Shop Signage (Make sure your shop name and contact info is clearly displayed on your banner, bunting, or framed signs in your booth!)
- Displays and Power Cords
- Business Cards or Postcards (You want your shoppers and customers to have a takeaway item with your shop information!)
- Product Signage (Make sure all of your items are tagged with prices or have a nearby sign that clearly states the item description and price.)
- Products (Always bring more stock then you think you’ll need!)
- Money (Bring a card reader, 10s and 20s – inevitably someone always wants you to break a $100 or $50 bill – and lots and lots of ones and fives. Make sure you have a secure place to store them too! If you have a counterfeit marking pen, you may want to bring that as well.)
- Receipts, Spreadsheet or Notebook (For taking orders, recording sales, keeping track of inventory changes, and taking notes on customer comments and suggestions.)
- Pens or Pencils
- Email Sign Up Forms (Either electronic or paper – this is an excellent opportunity to grow your email list.)
- Packaging Supplies (Stickers, tissue paper, bags – bring whatever you need help create a beautiful buying experience for your customers.)
- Food and Beverages (The event may have food available, but long lines and a busy booth may prevent you from getting a chance to eat it! Bring a tasty, easy to eat, non-messy food stash with you just in case!)
The not so obvious essentials:
- Sun Protection (If it’s outside, bring a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and any other sun protection you can get your hands on!)
- First Aid Kit (I once sliced my hand wide open on a broken glass display and had only a tiny band aid in my handbag…needless to say, I now carry a small first aid kit everywhere I go…)
- Tape (Masking, washi, duct, doesn’t matter. You’d be surprised just how often tape comes in handy during a show.)
- Scissors (You’d be amazed at how many times a pair of scissors can come in handy…)
- Extra signs/tags (There are a zillion ways your signs can be damaged during a show, or maybe you just want to change your pricing, for either reason, having extras on hand is always a good idea.)
- Paper Towels and Tissues (For little spills, messes and sneezes!)
- Hand Sanitizer (Even if you aren’t a germaphobe, you’ll want to have some of this handy…)
- Candy (Helps to keep your blood sugar up, it can freshen your breath, and when displayed on your table it’s a great way to draw people into your booth!)
What am I missing? Add your favorite pre-craft show tips, tricks, and words of wisdom in the comments!
***If you’re a maker, artist, creative, or handmade shop owner looking for a little friendly entrepreneurial support, join The Hive’s exclusive Facebook group!! Learn some tips and tricks for selling online or in person, bounce ideas off of other makers and small business owners, and be social with other positive and supportive maker-types just like you! Click here to find out more and to request to join!***