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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

More on Craft Show Etiquette

Many things go into a profitable craft show experience and not all of them are dependent on the show promoter or customers. The atmosphere created by establishing a friendly working relationship with your fellow exhibitors, and by maintaining a positive outlook, go a long way toward creating an inviting and happy booth where your customer enjoys staying long enough to buy!  Here are some tips for proper etiquette at a craft show.


Read the Rules - Abide by Them

Be sure to read the terms and conditions that come with your application or acceptance. Sometimes these have a code of conduct included. Of course, you should follow the show rules.  Even if it is not apparent to you why certain rules exists if it's listed in the show policies, it's necessary for the benefit of the entire show.  If you think about it, there must be a reason that professional craft shows, across the world, share these same types of rules. 

Set up Early. Be Prepared

Arrive early. Make sure your booth is completely set up before the show begins. Plan your arrival at the show so that you have plenty of time to set up your booth and display. Remember Murphy's Law; if something can go wrong it will; so be prepared for it to take longer than it should. If you plan on eating after you set up and before the customers arrive, is your meal going to be easy to clear away quickly and not have any potentially unpleasant aromas? Doing any set up after the customers are allowed in is bad for your business and bad for your reputation. Give yourself lots of time so that your set up does not create disturbances for your neighbors.

Be prepared for your show - make sure you have all your supplies so you don't need to rely on others' generosity. Everyone has days when it seems like nothing goes right. The day of the craft show is no exception. Plan ahead and have a well-equipped tool kit filled with the items you are likely to need. Anything that is specific to your booth or display needs to be in your tool kit. You'll also want to consider how you transact your sales and be sure to have whatever supplies you need. Don't forget first aid items, too, such as band-aids and aspirin. Does your display take special screws? How about light bulbs, batteries, safety or straight pins, credit card slips, spare change, duct tape? Make a list, check it twice. Then check it twice more!

Look the Part. Network.

Dress appropriately - casual, but neat. You are a professional and should look like one.
Wear product specific accessories or clothing if you make them. Wear specific clothing to make your craft - apron, etc. - especially if demonstrating your craft. Wear a company name T-shirt or sweatshirt, if you like to dress more casually.

Use down time to network.: All shows have some downtime. This is the perfect time to do a little networking, trade war stories, and catch up with your friends from previous shows. Other crafters are great resources, especially for new exhibitors. If you can, use the downtime to offer to booth sit for your neighbor if they are working the show alone. They'll appreciate a short break and probably offer to do the same in return for you.

Stay in your Allotted Space

If your exhibit space is 10 feet by 10 feet and your display really is 10 feet 2 inches by 10 feet, don't expect your neighbors to allow you to wiggle into their spaces. Talk with the show organizer well ahead of time to arrange to buy the amount of space you really need. There are usually double spaces and corners that are available to provide you with more room. You may find that the organizer has had another request similar to yours and you may be able to work out a space and a half sharing arrangement. Also, don't expect to use any of the aisles for your display. There are strict fire regulations that prohibit obstructions in the walkways. If you don't want to pay for the extra space, redesign your booth. One of the fastest ways to have a miserable show is to start by stealing floor space from your neighbors.

Making sure your display doesn't encroach into your fellow crafter's space is really important. Arrange your booth so that your customers will not be in front of another exhibitor's space. Not only did your neighbor pay for, and expect to utilize, all of their booth space, they have a right to expect that your customers will not block the entrance to their booth. If you demonstrate in your booth, set the demonstration far enough back into the booth that a crowd of customers will not be completely crowding the aisle. Yes, this means you have to give up a little of your interior floor space, but it will pay off in the end. You'll have the edge by already having the potential customer in your booth and you'll have a friendly neighbor. Consider your booth neighbors as you design your own displays as well. Remember that not only do you have side-by-side neighbors; you'll most likely have a backside neighbor too. Your display should not intrude into any of their spaces in any fashion.

Be Courteous and Respectful

Be friendly and courteous - use good manners - after all, you are a professional!
Be respectful of other crafters - don't monopolize their time when they, or you, have customers. Of course it is OK to socialize with other vendors, but don't block the customers.
Make sure to use common sense, and try to stay positive. Negative comments breed negative thinking and gossip.  Don't badmouth the show.  No matter how friendly you become with your neighbor or how poorly one of you is doing at the show, don't stand in front of your booths and talk negatively about anything. This includes other exhibitors, customers, the location, the show promoter, or the town that you are in. You are always in earshot of someone at a craft show and customers are sensitive to the attitudes among exhibitors. Make sure that yours is upbeat and positive.
Visit your neighbors and be respectful.  It's fun to walk the show and see what your fellow crafters are doing. It inspires and educates you but keep your visiting to a minimum and be watchful for customers entering the booth. The friendliest of neighbors will immediately turn unhappy  if you are merrily chatting and keeping them from greeting their customers. Ask before you handle anyone else's items. Be friendly but don't assume that you can critique their work or booth display. Don't take pictures of their work without permission. This is a highly competitive market and while it is  perfectly normal to be inspired by something you see, don't steal designs or ideas. Don't become known as an idea pirate.

When you are unloading your vehicle, empty your car or van in front of your space (for an outdoor show, if allowed), or at the designated area for an indoor show, and then move it IMMEDIATELY! Don't leave your vehicle in the way while you set up your display.  That is a sure fire way to never be invited back.

Don't be a Tattletale

If you do observe bad behavior by exhibitors, politely speak directly to them about it. Don't go running for the show director immediately. The offender may be unaware that they are infringing on your space in some way and be happy to make corrections. Of course, there are times when it is appropriate to get management involved and don't hesitate to do so if you have no other recourse. Most craft show exhibitors are very friendly people who only want to have a good show, just like you.

Honor Your Commitments

Plan to stay the entire time the show is open. If you start packing up an hour early you are causing the other crafters to miss those last minute sales and you are losing them too! It may not be apparent to you, but it is vital that you stay the entire show.

Eventually, you'll find yourself in a really bad show; no customers, bad exhibitor attitudes and even worse, a promoter who just doesn't care. It's tempting to pack up your booth and head home where you can at least get some work done. It's especially tempting if you have a long drive ahead of you and you see a few other exhibitors packing out. Resist the urge to get on the road early. The impact caused by empty booths on incoming customers is incredibly negative. They loose all interest in walking around and looking at the remaining booths. Even if you are selling exactly what they came for, chances are good that they won't even see your items because they will be in such a distracted funk. Keep your spirits up and stay the entire show. You can never tell when your big sale is going to happen.  Most shows have a rule about packing up early, so if you do it, be prepared to never be allowed back to the show.  Ever.

Remember the Golden Rule

The bottom line to being a good craft show neighbor is to just remember the Golden Rule and treat your neighbors as you would like to be treated. It's not a party. The hours can be long and tiring. Tempers can grow short as the temperature outside rises or the cash register doesn't ring, so try not to take a minor slight too seriously. Keep in mind that it's work, not a party and that you are all there for the same reason - to make money.

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