There is a lot of advice out there for how to make a craft show or convention booth, or how to price your goods, or how to interact with customers. Here’s something a little different – advice on how to behave as a vendor. Most of this will not just work for conventions, but also for craft shows, renaissance fairs, and other trade shows where one is selling goods in a temporary setting.
Without further ado, here are my tips for how to get along with the other professionals at your show – event staff and your fellow vendors – and help everyone have a better show in the process.
What You Do In Your Booth Effects More Than Just You. There is an impact felt from your actions not just by you but often by as many as eight more vendors. The ones across from you, on either side, and even behind you can be effected by what goes on in and near your booth.
Unable to make it to the convention? Your empty space can disrupt the entire flow of an aisle. More vendors means more things to look at, more time that people linger in the vendor’s area, and more potential sales. A gap means a space people are hurrying through, taking less time to look at the vendors before and after your space. Depending on the layout, an empty space might even make some occupied spaces less visited at all. Let your event staff know as soon as you do if you can’t make it. Then the coordinators and your neighbors can adapt and keep traffic flowing smoothly.
Not set up when the convention opens? If you aren’t there at all, you’re harming your neighbors for the previous mentioned reasons. But let’s just say you are there, just not done unpacking. Make sure everything is in your booth space. No boxes or displays sitting in the aisle, waiting to be set up. If you create an obstruction in the aisle, people will swerve to avoid it, and people don’t walk in sharp turns. Not only will they be avoiding you, but they will be swerving wide around whoever is next in the aisle, possibly barely seeing their booth at all.
Spend all your time complaining? Or yelling? Ask yourself who among your customers would want to be near that. You will run people out of your booth as well as possibly the booths near you. People avoid negative situations. Don’t encourage them to avoid your whole aisle.
You Are Part of the Entertainment. Yes, you are a professional there to sell your goods. But to the attendees and the staff, you are also part of the entertainment. You are a draw, and a reason for people to stick around between panels, shows, and other events.
This is actually a specialized part of customer service, and it can change depending on the type of show you are at. Just about any show will have some kind of unique atmosphere, and ideally you should help enhance it. Renaissance fairs and steampunk shows are great examples of this. At either one, a vendor is expected to dress within the event theme and have something of a persona that fits with the atmosphere. Those events have an immersion that you should not pull the customer out of.
But this point can serve you well even without so strongly themed an event. Know your audience, and know what they care about. At pop culture, media, comic, and anime conventions, your customers have things they are passionate about. Your attitude shows whether or not you care, too. This does not mean you need to know minutiae of every TV show. But being completely clueless – and not caring to learn – will in its own way pull attendees out of their immersion. They are there to have fun. You are there to help them do so.
Your Booth Is Your Home. Or at least, it is for the duration of the show.
Think of your booth as your private apartment. You can do what you want with that space within your landlord’s rules. And your landlord’s rules probably include things about how much you can put on your front stoop if any, what you can do to your walls, when to take out your trash, and general cleanliness and safety guidelines that apply to your whole complex.
You do not get to hang things on your neighbors walls. Keep your inventory and your signs within your booth, even if your display is higher than your neighbors. If your display is higher than your neighbors and you choose to use that back space as well, you are essentially asking your neighbor to advertise for you. They will not appreciate it. Also, make sure your displays are sturdy enough to not fall or lean into your neighbors space. That goes with making your rented space safe for all.
You do not live on your front stoop. Or in your neighbor’s apartment. Make sure there is room for you to sit, stand, or otherwise sell within your own space. Being out front all the time is like having your stuff in the aisle – you are an obstruction that will make people avoid your neighbors. Also, don’t block your neighbor’s door. Many conventions leave gaps between booths so people can go in and out. This gap is not part of your space – it is public space, and should be left clear.
Talk To Your Neighbors… And Listen, Too. Selling at convention and fair settings is a very social thing, so you’re unlikely to have unsociable neighbors. Take a moment when setting up to introduce yourself to your neighbors. Make a little conversation. It is human nature that we are nicer to those we have made some connection with, even if it is just a greeting and a handshake. If your neighbor has connected with you, they are more likely to offer a hand when needed or speak to you if they see a problem.
A great thing to do is learn how experienced or not they are at the show you are at or shows in general. More experienced than you, take in any tips you can by listening and watching. Less experienced than you, be friendly and supportive and you may make an ongoing friend. Offer a hand if you are set up before them or notice a problem (like someone small struggling with a display). In return, they might be willing to watch your booth for a bathroom break, or bring drinks or snacks if you’re stuck alone behind a booth, or step in to aid with a problem customer. Being able to watch out for each other will make a whole show go more smoothly.
What about when things aren’t going well? Don’t just let it fly by. If you have a problem with a neighbor, or see one developing, talk to them. It is always best if things can be solved politely between you. And if someone comes to you with a problem, listen. See if their request is reasonable. If you can work together, work together.
Are you talking and they’re not listening, and problems are continuing? That is when it is time to talk to the event staff.
The Event Staff is Your Greatest Ally… or your worst enemy, depending on how you treat them. Remember, these people have put a lot of hard work in to put on a successful show. A staff that wants a show to succeed knows that happy and successful vendors are part of their success.
Guess what? Complaining is okay. It’s how and when you complain that is important. Have a problem? Be polite when you bring it up. But also don’t be afraid to bring it up. Nothing is solved if you are silent, but almost any one is more likely to help if you are nice and respectful about it.
Speaking of respect, respecting your event staff comes up in different ways than you might think. You respect an event staff when you obey the rules you agreed to when you paid for the event.You respect the event staff when you keep the facility clean and safe. You respect the event staff when you let them know if something has gone wrong and you can’t do something you agreed to (i.e. can’t do a demo in the rain, are delayed due to car trouble, etc.).
The vendor who lets the staff know they are appreciated, sells from a neat booth during all open show hours, and leaves the place as nice as they found it is far likely to get invited back and get the locations they ask for. At a good show, the ones who break the rules are not welcomed back, and may even be kicked out before a show is over.
Sure, these tips are not going to work every time. But they will help you get along better with everyone else doing the show with you. It takes everyone working together to make a show great.
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