My top 15 tips for a successful craft show

Hi everyone! :)

After a quick poll in the Etsy forums, I realized many of you had a strong interest about craft shows. I read an awful lot on the subject and tried many new approaches to my fairs when I became more serious about my practice during the last 3 years. Although some tips are not new, they are very effective and I'm compiling my best craft show tips so that your next fair will be a success! :)

1 - Research the craft show

Wichever the show, may it be because you heard about the event and really want to attend as a crafter or if its because you got invited, do some research about the show. Do they make a lot of publicity? Are they involved in social medias? How many visitors attended last year? What are their demographics? Do they have pictures of last year show...?
It is best if you can attend the show before you apply so you can see how the crafter's booth are set up, the traffic flow of customers, what type of craft is popular at that show etc. But if you can't attend whatever the reason, make sure you know at least the basic information so that you can see if the fair is a good match for you. There's nothing wrong with taking a chance, but from experience, the craft show organizers that only tell you that the show is very popular but can not give you numbers for their past year traffic to back it up, well, it doesn't usually end up in an awesome craft show experience. It could be simply because there's not enough customers for your expectations or they are simply not into your target market. You want to make sure you are getting the word out there for your business to potential customers. Don't hesitate to politely contact the craft show organizers about these info's if they aren't available on their website. Make sure you leave them a few days before you follow up on them, setting up a show is a lot of work!

2 - Make 3 inventories

Yay! You did your research, applied and got accepted to the show, congrats! Then what? First make an inventory. Check how many finished items you have left and compile the info. Do you need to make more necklaces? If so in what color, what style and how many of those. Make sure you are very specific as this list will serve as a checklist for your second inventory. Check your supplies stocks for your handmade goods and for the craft show. Do you need more beads, business cards or bags?
Ok, now you made your list, worked everyday to make your inventory happen and the show is in a month. Now is the time to make your second inventory. Check out your handmade items and see if you managed to stay on track of your goal. Oh shoot, you forgot to make more earrings? You have a month left to fix it, you have enough time to get back on track. A week or a few days before the show,  make your third and last inventory so you know exactly what you are bringing with you.

3 - Label everything

You want your customer to know at first glance how much your item costs. You have mere seconds to catch their attention, you don't want that to go to waste over looking for your price, Maybe you won't be able to direct your attention to them the second they get to your booth. It is best if you do acknowledge them as soon as they get to your table but sometimes you are  busy on something else, like wrapping up an order or already with a customer, what then? Clearly state your prices and specials for the show.

4 - Stand up and smile

Even if it has been a long day, that your feet hurts and its so darn cold in the venue, stand up either behind or in front of your booth. Standing up tells the visitors that you are available, as if you we waiting for them. Keep a smile on and your most positive mood at all time so that people will be drawn in by your lovely personality. You spent months to create all that is on your table but don't forget that
the visitors took some of their precious
time in their tiny weekend to come see
handmade artisans and that is not nothing!

5 - Don't confuse your customer

This one is tricky as you don't want to leave your table empty nor too full. Too many items on the table will make your customer look everywhere without focusing his or her attention on one thing in particular. Too little items will look like you have very little in stock and even make you look non committed to your craft. I have not myself found the exact formula and I noticed that it even changes from show to show. Do a mock up of your booth an ask yourself if, as a customer, you see too many or too little of your craft on your table.

6 - Do a booth mock-up

 Like I mentioned above it is important to do a mockup of your table before the show. You will see where you will place your displays and items and might even decide to spruce thing up a little. Get all your stuff out as if you were at a show. I did another kind of mock up for my last show and ended up regretting it. I did the opposite, taking out everything and packing it in my brad new bag after my mock up was complete. I'm an expert to pack luggage fully but taking it out is another story. All was tidy in my shiny new bag and when I got to the show and started unpacking, it slowly grew out of proportion. I had stuff everywhere to be able to get to my items in the order I needed to placed them and I lost valuable time looking around for my stuff. So pack first and then unpack for your mock up, that is the best way to go. When you are all done, take a picture of your booth so you can replicate it at your show. Try also to time yourself so you have a better idea of how much time you need to set up before the show.

7 - Bring tons of spare change

I don't know how it works everywhere so my tip will be more Canada oriented but the point is the same. Take a look at your price and calculate what change you need to give back the most to your customer. For instance, I always bring a ton of 5$ bills with me when I make a show because my customer almost always pay me with 20$ bills. Most of my items prices are around 10$-15$ and its not always convenient for both my customers and myself if I pay them back their 10$-5$ with 1$ and 2$ coins. Make sure you have enough to cover all the duration of your show. There might not be any bank around the fair and the shops or restaurants around you can't go around giving you their spare change, they need it as well. Whether you leave that cash on you or in a small metal box, never let it out of your sight. I strongly recommend that you have it on you at all times. You can make or buy pretty pouches especially made for that purpose.

8 - Bring tons of business cards

Craft shows are all about getting the word about your craft out there and hopefully, turn it into sales. Leave some business card on your table so that if people are interested but can't stay to chit-chat, they will know where to find you. I also add them to every bag so that my customers at the show know where to find me online if ever they want to purchase another of my jewelry later on.

9 - Say thank you

It might sound silly but you would be surprised to know how many times another seller haven't said that to me after my purchase or I didn't hear my seller neighbours say thank you to their customer during the entire show. Even if you didn't made a sale, thank people for stopping by your booth! They took the time to come and greet you, maybe even chat with you and got to know your creations and your story behind it. It is also very important to thank the organizers of the show. Without them, you couldn't have pulled this off. Take a minute to greet them and thank them for making you a part of the show before setting up your table and once again when the show is over. You can also tell them what you enjoyed the most out of the fair and that you look forward to see them the following year. 

10 - Have fun and share your passion

Enjoy your time at the show! You might meet some awesome sellers that will become close friends or adorable customers that will become your best follower. Share your passion with all your visitors, explain them why you started making your craft and let them hear that passion in your voice. People want to know your story and get to know you. Chit chat away but make sure you focus your attention on every customer. Some of the people that will stop by are super sweet, but they are only there to chat with you and aren't interested in your business. Craft shows are all about getting visibility, make sure you don't loose that focus.

11 - Sleep

It is a point I personally have a hard time putting to practice, but I saw a huge difference when I did. I made 3 craft shows last year in plus of my Etsy jewelry business and my full-time graphic designer job. And I must admit, for my last show, I lacked an awful lot of sleep. My head was foggy, my energy levels were low so when I got back home after the show ended, I just crashed down and slept for hours. Having a good week of sleep before the show - not just go to bed early the day before - will make a huge difference. Your mind will be clear, your face radiant and your lovely energy will attract more people to your booth. There's too much to do before the show? Break the list down in small steps and do a few tasks every day the week before the show. It will bring you peace of mind and a great restful sleep.

12 - Bring a change of clothes

I started doing this very recently after I had a mishap the day of one show. I had just got in the car, grabbed my drink and didn't realized that some orange juice had just fell on my white shirt. Obvisouly, it was on the top of my shirt and there was no way I could hide this and pull it off. I was lucky enough we had enough time to turn around for me to change since we had just left the house, but that was a close one! The day before another show last year, I was getting ready to leave the house and I ripped my pair of craft show jeans just as we picked up our last luggage to put in the car. You never know what might happen. Bring a change of clothes that you can easily roll in your bags or leave in your car and that doesn't wrinkle easily so you will still look professional all day long.

13 - Always have a plan B

All right, you are prepared for your show, all your stuff is neatly packed, you did an awesome booth mock-up. You are ready to rock this show! Awesome. You get to the venue, and then you have a shock when you see your table, it is not at all like you had imagined! It happened to me that the table was too thin to clip on my vinyl banner, that the electric plugs were way too far from the table despite having an electric extension..... Make a plan B for those kind of situations or at least pack something that can get you out of it. For example, have too many electric extension so distance is no problem, have a roll of low tack tape to make your banner fit on your too thin table, etc. You are a creative person, so use your creativity! You might find an awesome solution you would have never thought of in the first place that you will keep for your upcoming shows.

14 - Get there early

Make sure you get to the show early so you can thank the organiser and set up your booth peacefully. Also, most of the shows will let the early visitors in 10-15 minutes before the show opens  it's doors. You want to take advantage that your booth is ready to go and start greeting the visitors properly instead of having your hands full and your head buried in your bag in a hurry to add the finishing touches.

15 - Lay out ur goals and write down everything

Before the show, lay down your goals. Is it to sell 20 pairs of earrings? Distribute over 400 business cards? Make at least 30 sales? Whatever they are, write them down for each specific show and bring that sheet with you. Write down also every piece you sell or exchange during the show to keep track of your inventory. It will make it easier after the show when you'll count down your cash box and your inventory and see if everything adds up. You can then compare your goals to your actual results from the show and see if it was a good fit for you or if your expectations were too high.

On this everyone I hope you enjoyed the post and that it will help you rock your upcoming craft fair! :)  What is your best tip for a successful craft show? Leave me a comment below! :)
* M*

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