Doing craft fairs, art shows, and the like can be intimidating, especially for those who are new to the whole thing. When I started out, I had been making jewelry for years and selling it at school, at work, and wherever I went, but I had no experience with shows and I didn’t know how to set up an appealing booth. When I did my very first show, I was completely clueless. I was by myself and didn’t know a soul (which can be deadly if you need to go to the bathroom and have no one to watch your booth!). I had no canopy, and not much of a display. I had my necklaces tacked to a corkboard that I had covered with bright purple satin, propped up by a box. It was pretty lousy, I must say. My sales were decent, considering I had absolutely no presentation. I was, however, quite literally fried by the end of the day due to lack of cover.
Over the years I have done a number of shows, from small to large, and I’ve tried to pay attention to what works and what doesn’t, so that I can incorporate those things (or discard them) as I move forward. I often encounter newbies, and the most common thing they ask about is booth setup, display, and basic things they should know starting out.
To Start With
Before you start, consider your location. Will you be inside or outside? This will determine what you need to bring with you. If you’re doing an outside show, you’ll want a canopy. In fact, many shows require you to have a canopy. When buying a canopy, get one with a white cover. Why? Because some show organizers will specify that you must have a white canopy cover for purposes of uniformity. It creates a more professional and cohesive presentation. So save yourself some headache and just buy white to start with. Otherwise you may find yourself scrambling to get a canopy cover at the last minute to conform to a show’s requirement.
Try to check out the location beforehand to determine where you’ll be setting up. Take into consideration the weather, whether you’ll be setting up on grass or dirt of concrete, etc. You may want to bring a tarp (if it’s allowed) to keep down dirt or other nastiness. You may also want to bring sides for your canopy to keep out the sun. You can always fashion some from curtains or material if you don’t want to fork over for canopy sides. If it will be really hot, you may want to bring a fan. Alternatively, if it will be cold, make sure you wear warm clothes, gloves, etc. And always wear comfortable shoes and clothes. It’s a long day, and it will only be made longer if you’re uncomfortable.
If the show is inside, then things are considerably easier. Bear in mind that you may need to change a few things around for inside versus outside shows. For instance, many people like to hang things from their canopies for better visibility. However, you won’t have that option inside, so think about how/where you can hang things for an inside show.
Everything Else You’ll Need to Know
I am attaching my checklist, Musts for Outdoor Shows, with explanations for all of the items listed. I’m concentrating on outdoor shows, because it’s that season, but you can always make tweaks as needed. If I’ve forgotten anything, leave a comment and let me know! I’ll add it to the list.
I will say that the single most important component to having a successful show is a good attitude. No amount of preparation can beat a genuine smile and a healthy outlook. If things go wrong, and they will, don’t let it ruin your day. If you forget something, make the most of what you did bring. Don’t let a bad mood ruin other people’s day. Paste a smile on your face if you have to, because that’s what you need to do. No one wants to buy from a whining sourpuss or a prima donna with a superiority complex. So get out there and make some sales already!