It's Time For Your First Show!

By Jamie Dobiesz

Plan ahead!  Make sure you have everything you need for the show.  Tables, displays, tablecloths, tape, a money box, signs, trash bag, a comfortable chair, jacket or sweater, and drinks.  Have at least $75 worth of one-dollar bills and 5-dollar bills for change.  Larger shows consider doubling that.  You would hate to turn a customer away because you don’t have change.  Consider signing up for a credit card service like Square.   If you sell items over $20 it usually helps with sales enough to pay for itself.  Bring a small cooler.  Food and drinks are expensive at shows.  Wear comfortable shoes!

Plan out your display.  Do a mock-up at home.  There are many displays that work well.  You just need to think out of the box.  (You are an artist so you should be familiar with this.)  You can use frames with window screen stapled to it, wooden boxes stacked up, portable clothes racks, PVC pipe, anything clever that is lightweight and sturdy.  You don’t have to spend a lot of money but make sure it looks presentable.

When I was starting out I bought some picture frame backs (the kind that have the little foot that makes them sit upright on the mantle).  I put a ¼ inch foam piece the same size as the backing and pulled it tightly around the board then hot glued the edges around the back. (Like you would upholster a kitchen chair seat.)  The foam in between allows you to use pins to hold your items in place so you can pin and price everything before you get there.  At set up all you have to do is set out your displays instead of individual items.  Maybe you could transport your product in wooden boxes that you can use to build a display.

Think about your colors.   Make sure your booth is neutral enough to show off your product.  You want the customer to look at the product, not the displays.  Have items on different levels.  If everything is flat on the table, it is wasting a lot of space and people could walk by and not even notice your items.  Try using tiers or hanging some items behind the table.  

Allow plenty of time to set up your booth.  If you think it will take you an hour, allow 2 hours.  Maybe you could be slowed down by a line of vendors waiting to get in or a traffic jam.  If you plan ahead you can streamline the set-up so it goes quickly.  Maybe they forgot to assign you a space.  Anything could go wrong, so get there early, don’t get frustrated and go with the flow.

Cover up your mess.  Consider long tablecloths that can hide your transport boxes, trash, coat, etc under the table.  If you have a bunch of junk sitting around how is the customer supposed to know what is for sale.  Don’t look like a garage sale.

Relax.  Take a deep breath, smile and have fun.  Enjoy the customers, chat with them.  Get to know your neighbors.  Make it a positive experience.


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