I just completed a whirlwind run of trade shows and craft fairs with 5 events in about 9 weeks. I had 3 bridal fairs where I focused on showcasing my calligraphy and hand lettering services for weddings, then 2 craft fairs peddling my handcrafted goods like the rent was due tonight.
In a short amount of time, I learned what works, what doesn't work, how to be nimble and plan for the unexpected, how to pace myself to last the entire day, how to deal with a successful and not so successful show. This could be an ongoing series, which if anyone is interested in learning more about, leave a question or request in the comments!
Today I'm just focusing on my top 5 tips for a successful booth display.
2. Don't just display your stuff, create an experience! For my craft fairs, I wanted to create a pop up shop, not just a table with my goods. I thought long and hard about table placements and racks and where my product would be, but I also thought about the feel. I use a rug, and put art installations in the draw folks to my area. I use fun signage and if it's a pet friendly event, I have a water bowl and treats for the furry guests.
This is my set up from the Oakland Patchwork Show. I already know what I want to evolve. As I increase revenue and re-invest back in the business, my plan is to continue to build out cool and custom displays to showcase my product and cultivate a unique shopping experience for my customers.
3. Practice your pitch! If you have folks helping you, make sure they know what they are talking about as well! I wish I had practiced more before my first bridal fair. I had brides asking me questions I knew the answers to, but because I had not practiced and actually communicated verbally about my offerings and pricing etc, i just ended up sounding like a dumb hack who was making it up as I went along. You want to be confident when talking to potential clients or customers. Something as simple as knowing how to answer "so what do you do?" in less than 15 seconds is much harder than you think if you don't practice!
4. Prepare for the unexpected! Do as many dry runs as possible before your first show, and if it's not your first show, reflect on what did or didn't work in the last event, and make adjustments. This is so important! You don't want to visualize in your head your set up, and then wing it the morning of. Sometimes, your booth spot can change, the weather can turn (like wind or rain) making your set up impossible to recreate the way it was originally designed, there is no wifi or power accessibility, load in times are delayed... there are a slew of things that can go wrong from one show to the next. Be confident in your set up and have a plan b, plan c, and plan d in place!
5. Pace yourself. I get nervous before EVERY show. The emotions and waxing and waning feelings of self worth are a lot to handle. Will I sell anything? Will I sell out of everything and have to scramble to replenish my inventory? Will brides like my work or will they say mean things about it? I become PARALYZED by hypotheticals, all before I even get the work of setting up, and talking to the dozens and or hundreds of people for the following 5-6 hours...mix that with coffee and we are on a bullet train to bubble gut and fire snakes city!
It can be hard saying the same thing over and over again for several hours on your feet, sweating and having your ankles swell while you take in the aromas from the food truck next door wishing you stuffing your face with garlic fries. Make sure to stay hydrated, tend to the booth to ensure product looks good, and be authentic and genuine.