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Backstage in your booth

It’s show time and you’ve got your brand blazing and a spectacular display — but how are things on your side of your table?
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Whether you’re a show pro or just getting into exhibiting, you know — or will soon find out — that a lot of work goes into your display before you even get to the venue. On-site, you’ll have to make sure the focus is on your creations — and not your clutter. “Backstage” organization helps you be efficient, and stellar booth etiquette will keep you in good standing with customers, show facilitators, and fellow vendors. 

Be organized

Consider your show space your “studio/office away from home.” Even if you function best in a cluttered workspace, you have to put your best show foot forward. Just the essentials should be visible — be sure to stash packing boxes behind your drapes or leave them in your car or hotel room. 

Keep your work, supplies, and materials within easy reach — but not in boxes. Storing things in boxes means moving boxes to reach other boxes. Portable drawer units are better, but make sure they are secure. Tape drawers closed during transit and remove the wheels when you set up the unit at the venue. Make sure you know how many drawers you can open before the whole unit pitches forward and dumps your supplies onto the showroom floor! 

Make a show checklist and update it as needed for different events. The version on the next page is one that I use when I exhibit as Sleepless Beader.

Floor mats

 

Be engaging

Be there for your customers. Get up from your chair when someone approaches and greet them. Say something to everyone who comes by — just a simple greeting or offer to answer questions. Make eye contact and smile. Judge if a person wants to chat but don’t talk too much. Don’t get overly engaged with a customer’s personal stories, or worse, regaling them with yours. Be polite and cheery but focus on sales and not the cute puppy in their purse.

Introduce yourself and offer a brief tidbit about your work, such as “We’re selling kits of my original designs. That cuff you’re looking at is peyote stitch for all skill levels.” Help the customer make a connection to your work. “That pattern looks great with the shirt you have on today. If you like geometric designs, check out these.” Point out how prices are marked and then stand back to give them time to absorb everything. 

Eat discreet 

You have to eat to keep up your energy, but try not to eat in your booth. Sometimes you have no option. Bring food that’s not messy so you can sneak bites, or better, get someone to booth sit so you can grab something. I cringe when I see vendors ordering pizza for delivery, and once I even saw someone cooking in a crockpot right in their booth! The bigger the show, the more eating in your booth is not acceptable. Water is fine — you have to stay hydrated — but keep the bottles out of sight, like in a small cooler hidden under your table.

 
Floor mats

Be nice

There will always be at least one person who is rude. They may get annoyed if you are busy with another customer or might have something negative to say about the work. “Hmm, the clasp looks flimsy. I hope it won’t break.” While the customer is not always right, you must take the high road. Smile and say, “I test my materials and trust the vendors who sell them to me, so please contact me at once if you have any problems.”

Regardless of whether you’ve been treated poorly, don’t bad-mouth anyone — customer or vendor — any time, to anybody, at any show. Ever.

Receipts

Be a good neighbor

You live in close quarters for several days at shows. Keep within your area and watch that your cords, stored materials, or other items don’t invade your neighbor’s space. You will know in advance who your neighbors will be at every show. If you’re pals, consider sharing the power costs, just check with show organizers first. Make sure to follow the show regulations — and limits! — on wattage. 

Even if you don’t know the person next to you at a show, you already have the show itself in common. Shows are a great place to get and share information and experiences; ours is a generous community. Watch and learn — but be careful not to spend more time getting to know or catching up with your friend than selling. Asking someone to watch your table is fine for a fast run, but don’t abuse or be abused.

Be prepared

Customers have limited time and patience, so quickly troubleshoot any tech issues with your electronic devices such as mobile credit-card readers, calculators, cash registers, or iPad and tablets. If you can’t find a speedy solution, move quickly on to Plan B. 

At one show, my Square credit card reader wasn’t working, and I had to resort to writing down credit-card numbers to input later. If this happens to you, you must make sure to get every piece of data accurately from the credit card and customer — and be very careful with that sensitive data. Customers can get understandably skittish if you seem to be fumbling with their credit card information.

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