Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Simple Plan For A Stress Free Craft Fair

The holiday season is creeping up quickly and it’s my favorite time to discover new local artistic talent. I love spending my weekends browsing both the big and small craft markets for creative gift ideas and a few new small things for myself. It’s nice to treat yourself after a long exhausting day shopping for others!

That being said these shows can be stressful! As a jewelry artist, I have done my fair share of shows and after the years have developed what I find to be as a stress free as possible system to make the event fun for me and everyone else involved. Not only can it be a tough day for you, but for anyone helping you as well. And don’t forget those shoppers. Most of these shows are jammed packed full of people in a space hard to get around with so many pretty things to see. A friendly and totally relaxed designer behind the table can totally brighten a tired customer’s day. As well, a smile seems to help induce an urge to spend so smile big.

Plan Your Display

The first step to a successful show is planning ahead. Sounds easy right? Well believe me this seems to be something many first time craft show participants forget. Of course, my planning starts with a well thought out attractive design. If your first big show is Bazaar Bizarre or Renegade then keep in mind there will be a lot of amazing booth displays. The people that participate in these events are insanely creative and put a lot of time in thinking about their space. These are competitive shows. If you sell jewelry and one third of the artists at the show do too then you will need something to draw in the customer’s eye. There is nothing worse than spending all of that money to be in one of these big shows and then have no one notice you because your display lacks pazazz. Whether you prefer simple, clean displays or more ornate ones, make your space stand out. People often don’t purchase during their first stop. It often takes them once or twice past your booth to pull out their wallet. You want people to remember where they saw that beautiful bag and a striking shop will help them find you again.

I always do a lot of research about current space designs. Hit a show a few weeks before yours to make sure you still feel comfortable with your plan. Look at photos online of last year’s event so you know what is expected. I set up my table in my home a week before the event so I can make adjustments as my thoughts change. Just like with the piece you are designing it is often good to walk away for a bit so you can think about it from a different angle. When I feel committed to my plan, I mark and map where I want things to go so the day of the show, during the hour I give myself to set up, things are easy breezy.

Give Yourself Time

Very important, arrive early! It shows professionalism to the event coordinators, a few shoppers always come early and it impresses the heck out of your neighbors. An easy paced set up helps give me the confidence to deal with the long day ahead. Arriving early also gives me the time to relax, have a cup of coffee or mimosa and take notes in my sketchbook. During this time, I watch what others are doing. What did other people use to bring in their work? What cool materials are they using for their display? This is a great time to pick up new tricks and tips and to walk around and explore. You won’t have much time to do this once the show starts so take advantage of it then.

Ask For Help

So then there is the next 6 to 8 hours. Whoa right? Well again the best thing you can do for yourself is to get enough sleep so 1. You look good, 2. You can maintain a smile all day and 3. You end the day excited and not spent. For very long shows, I set up times for friends to come and work my booth for 30 minutes. For this I give gifts. Who wouldn’t help a friend out for a glass of wine or a free pair of earrings. Shows like Bazaar Bizarre give out things to vendors, food and drink tickets etc so I pass those on to my little helpers. The short break and a visit from a familiar face means a lot. As well, I take more than enough food and beverages so in case my friends run late during lunch time I am all set.

Be Nice

As I mentioned earlier, many people don’t purchase during their first visit to your booth so you need to find ways to make them want to come back. That isn’t always about the fact that you make killer stuff. It is also about being an awesome, friendly person. I have had many people return to my table simply because they said that I was the friendliest vendor there. Keep it natural, not sales person like and make people feel good. My secret ammo, I give out compliments, thank people for stopping by and make pleasant small talk about them. Doing these three things makes the experience about them and believe me people eat it up. Who doesn’t want to buy a dress from someone who just gushed about how pretty the color looks on them? Of course, doing this with grace isn’t always easy, so I suggest practicing on your friends everyday. It’s not a bad way to live anyway.

Take Notes

Gather as much info you can about the people that you meet that day. Send thank you emails to everyone who signed your email list. Make a friend with another vendor and touch base post event to discuss how they felt about the show. There is a lot to be learned here. I believe the smartest thing you can learn about life is admitting and accepting that you don’t know everything.

Be Organized

When you leave the event, pack things up carefully in the proper places. Ideally, when you return home you can just pack things away easily and in an organized manner so for the next show you can just pull everything out and be ready to go. Each show should get better and easier with more and more time for customers and mingling.
Can’t wait to see you there!

Shelly Kerry is co-owner of Lightbox SF and developer of Creating Space, a time and life management program helping people create more conscious and fulfilling lives. Contact her at to set up a free consultation.

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  1. this is fantastic advice!!! shows are definitely one of the the most stressful parts of my holiday season, and I always appreciate new ideas for how to be more relaxed about them. thanks!

  2. Thanks Jen! Shows can be so overwhelming!