A Note to People Everywhere Who Run Events or Attend Them

As some of you may know, we are currently at an event. And as often happens, the event, and the things that have happened here, reminded me of running events myself. It has reminded me of the need to say thank you to all of those who give their precious time and energy so that we can have a wonderful place to go to be with our friends. And it has reminded me of the affect that bad behavior, premeditated, or not, can have on people.

To me, one of the most important things that we can do at events is to reward good behavior. The person who follows the rules and cooperates should be rewarded, by at least civil behavior, and perhaps even a thank you. That is not to say that we expect all people to be perfect all of the time. Have I ever forgotten to pre-register for an event? Yes. Have I ever left my membership card at home? Yes. But it would never have occurred to me to harass the people at gate because of my mistakes. I remember leaving our membership cards home many years ago at Pennsic. The people at troll were apologetic that they had to charge us the non-member surcharge, because this was before you could pull up memberships on line. I said it was my own darn fault and that they should not feel bad. They breathed a sigh of relief. What would being mean to them have accomplished?

And then there are the unintentional goofs. A poorly marked boundary line for a camp or shop that causes confusion. People are not mind readers. If we ask for clarification, because we are trying to follow the rules, do not be short with us. We are simply trying to follow the rules. If we assume that we are setting up our shop in the same way that we have for five years, and it is not what you intended, admit that the markings may not have been clear.

My favorite events have the boundary lines for encampments and shops so clearly laid out that there is never any question. That is what I have always tried to do when I laid out merchant areas. I wanted to make sure that every merchant got every inch that they paid for, and there would be no confusion, or difficulty, for merchants who came in later.

In the case of households, they are always free to renegotiate boundary lines with their neighbors, but the bottom line is, you asked for a specific amount of land, and that is what you get. Do not tell me on the day of the event that you have an additional twenty people coming. I may not be able to accommodate you.

And finally, if you screw up, no matter how “important” or “unimportant” you are, say you are sorry. We are all human beings, and we all make mistakes. A simple, “gee, I am sorry if I was crabby” can make all the difference in someone’s experience at the event. No one is too “important” to say “I’m sorry”.

Play nice and help everyone have a good time!

Designing Displays for a Craft Show – The Most Important Component – You!

Last time we discussed the aesthetics of the booth. You, the booth owner, are a critical part of that aesthetic. We discussed the importance of your appearance, but there was one very important thing that I forgot to mention – Attitude! It is all about attitude.

Have you ever walked into a booth or store and been made to feel like you were annoying the person behind the counter just because you came in? Are they busy reading a book, or texting, or talking on their phone?

Engage the prospect or go out of business!

How do you respond when someone walks into your booth? Do you welcome them and offer assistance? Do you say “Good Morning!” or something else appropriate? I pay attention to how the person is behaving. If they seem to be in a good mood and are wearing something nice I may comment on what they are wearing. But BE REAL. People can often tell when you are just going through the motions.

I will sometimes ask how their event has been so far. People generally love to talk about themselves. It makes them feel good. And that is good for sales. If a person is obviously looking for something, I will ask what they are looking for. If I know someone who carries what they are looking for, I will tell them who has it. Why? Why not? If the person is looking for something that I do not carry they are not going to buy that thing from me anyway. People like the fact that I know what other merchants sell. They will often come back for something that I do carry, or bring their friends in to show them what I have. I care about people – I want them to find what they want and need, and I think that people can sense that caring.

I know a jeweler whose attitude is consistently terrible. She is usually quite terse when answering questions, if you can catch her attention. She is often too busy to talk to customers because she is chatting with her friends. I remember stopping by her booth to see what she had in stock. The two men who were watching her booth never even acknowledged my existence, despite the fact that I was actively looking at some of her earrings. I saw her the next day when she was walking to open her booth. I had already been open for an hour. She complained to me out loud about having to go open her booth at this crappy event. I just said “Good Luck!” And she walked off grumbling. Talk about a black cloud! (By the way, I did pretty well at that “crappy event”. To make it even sweeter, my customers were delighted with their purchases.)

I understand what it means to have a lousy event. But, one of the merchants that I know says that he never knows how he has done at an event until he drives away from the site. He makes a very important point. I have seen an event be horribly slow for days and then suddenly on the last day tons of people run in and say something like “I have gas and food money set aside for the trip home, and I am going to spend the rest of my money with YOU!” OK. I can deal with that. I am a professional.

As a jeweler a mediocre event can sometimes pay off weeks or even months later, but only if you make people want to do business with you.

Me Pennsic 2014

A Smile Goes a Long Way!

Designing Displays for a Craft Show – The Aesthetics

Booth aesthetics can make or break your show. There are actually two components to your booth (other than your product of course!) your booth design and you!

Many of the larger art shows will make information about previous years’ attendance available, including the median income of the attendees and the previous year’s sales. If that information is available, use it. I have known people who went to a glossy, glittery, women’s show and used old bed sheets as their table cloths. Their displays were cluttered and amateurish. Their booth appearance was impacted further because the bed sheets weren‘t even ironed. Needless to say, the show was a disaster for them. If people do not want to go into your booth, you will not have good sales.

Your goal should be to create a pleasing, inviting booth, with a good traffic pattern, and enough room for people to move safely between displays. I never make an aisle in a booth less than 3 feet wide, and 3 1/2 or four is better. People generally don’t like to feel cramped and there needs to be enough room for people to circulate in the booth. Even if you do sell knickknacks, you don’t want your booth to look like a garage sale!

Be aware of how lighting makes your product look – ambient lighting can be enhanced with task lighting. Is it too bright? If so, colors may “wash out”? Are there dark corners where product tends to be ignored? Light it up if it’s too dark!

You probably have table cloths, or other colored displays; consider how the color of the table cloths and/or displays makes your product look.

I always try to set up my booth layout beforehand. You can take this to what some might consider an extreme and do a run-through of where everything goes. After years of doing this, I have several standard layouts that I can use. I actually have “maps” of how the booth is laid out. This is MUST if you employ booth labor! It makes setup go much more quickly if you know exactly where your tables and other display items go, and you do not need to move them around. Don’t underestimate the value of having a written plan when “things” are going wrong.


This is part of my booth layout for one of the Medieval events that I do. The table cloth designs were chosen to give a Medieval feel to the booth.

Do you dress for failure? I recently saw a picture of a friend that was taken at an outdoor event. To be blunt, she looked very unprofessional and sloppy. Casual is OK, as long as it suits the environment. I know that there have been times when the temperature was up around 100 degrees and I was soaked to the skin. But my hair was still combed and you could see that I had made an effort to dress nicely to start with. People are generally very forgiving of the affects of extreme weather.

If you are in a building it is particularly important to look good. Choose your clothes based on the theme of what you sell, or the theme of the event. If the event is Western for instance, showing up in a coat and tails is going to be just plain weird.

It is OK to look “artsy” if you are an artist, but generally the burned out hippie artist look is not a good idea. Consider your clientele and ask yourself “If I belonged to that social group, would I want to buy from someone who looked like me?” Your goal should be to make your potential customer feel comfortable with you, as a person and an artist, so that they will want to buy from you.

I hope that this blog gives you many helpful hints that you can use to either design a new booth, or improve and existing one.