Historically, I have not been a great strategizer. I tend to dive headfirst into projects and assume I’ll figure things out as I go. As you might expect, though, that’s not the most efficient way to run a business – even a creative one! Nothing has made that clearer to me than my path for learning how to prepare for a craft show.
Several times a year, I take the studio on the road to craft shows in the Grand Rapids and greater Ann Arbor areas. I’ve had mixed success at these shows; sometimes I go home with some extra money to feed back into the business, and other times I haven’t even covered the cost of the table.
New and Improved Look
Obviously, I’d like to find ways to increase the likelihood that I’ll go home with a profit. I’m not satisfied with leaving it up to chance. So I started researching how to prepare for a craft show, and it became instantly clear that my display DEFINITELY has room for improvement. After coming to this realization, I spent the vast majority of one of my daughter’s naps experimenting with set-up ideas on my coffee table, and came up with this:
I’ll have more space to work with at the craft show to alleviate the cluttered effect, but I at least have better ideas to work with now!
For context, this is where I started:
Not the most visually appealing collection in the world. It’s hard to gauge jewelry from a distance, no matter how beautifully that jewelry is crafted – I noticed a lot of eyes simply sliding past my table. Not ideal! So, my new goal has been to draw people in close enough to see what I’ve created. I tested this design at the last craft show I attended, and even though I was stuck in the back corner of the show, I still went home with double the cost of the table. Score!
I am now going to share with you the highlights of my research. The following elements stood out to me as most important and effective when you’re preparing your display at a craft show. If you want this list as an easy-to-read infographic, it’s available here:
This is the #1 tip for how to prepare for a craft show for a reason. A flat table does not draw shoppers in from across a room. A flat table says nothing about your brand. I had the necklace stand and the earring trees at first, but 90% of the table was a vast expanse of tablecloth peppered with necklaces. Now, I have a vertical necklace display to bring more of them up to eye level, leaving table space open to showcase my crochet work. I also added books under the earring trees to catch the eye – I like the personality it adds to the table.
2. FOCUS ON YOUR PRODUCTS
This sounds like a no-brainer, I know. But as you can see in that original photo, my first set-up included a bunch of knick-knacks that I brought along to pretty up the table. Bad idea! Shoppers were confused about which items were for sale and which were just display. In fact, the stone pears I bought to use as door-stops were some of the most popular items on the table; I could’ve sold those five times over (*facepalm*). Now, I find ways to decorate with my products, not random knick-knacks; the books are the only things not directly related, and they’re being used as an intentional prop. After all, if you love what you’ve made, why hide it from potential buyers?
3. CREATE FLOW IN THE COMPOSITION
This idea is applicable to any artistic endeavor, really. It’s important to guide the eye toward whatever you want to showcase. Too much blank space is bad (i.e. a flat table), but too much to look at is also bad (overstimulation isn’t just for toddlers). Therefore, the flow of the products on your table is a very important aspect to consider when you’re deciding how to prepare for a craft show. You’ll notice in my revised arrangement that I have the earring trees set up extremely tall to catch the eye, then the necklaces, then the crochet pieces. There are three clear types of products and three clear levels on which they sit. (You’ll also notice that the background is too cluttered, which couldn’t really be helped given the coffee table situation, but it does serve to highlight my point!)
4. PRESENT YOURSELF AS THE BRAND REPRESENTATIVE
I rolled in to my first show wearing a typical jeans-and-tee combination, looking relatively indistinguishable from my high school photos save for the laugh lines I’ve accumulated since. But the more I’ve started to take myself seriously as a business owner, the more I’ve spent time polishing my look as part of my preparation for each craft show. It’s not like I glam up for a day in the office or a night out, but I do make sure that I’ve covered up the bags under my eyes, and I make a valid attempt to tame flyaways in my hair. After all, customers won’t take you seriously if they can tell you’re not invested in your own brand.
Whew! List over, at least for now. If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with me. I hope you feel like you have a better handle on how to prepare for a craft show!
Again, if you want to see the list as an infographic, it’s here:
I’m sure I’ll make many revisions and/or additions to this list as time progresses, but everyone has to start somewhere, right? And remember, just because you’ve already started doesn’t mean you can’t perfect your approach. Change is the only constant in life, after all.