Tutorial Tuesday - Tips For Show Booths

I recently was a vendor at my first fiber show, and I thought others out there might be looking for some tips on booth setups from the viewpoint of someone just starting out in shows or markets like I am. In planning my booth, I did a ton of searching on Flickr and Google to find pictures of others' booths. I also attended various local craft shows and had been a shopper at the particular show I was preparing to vend at, which was also very helpful in deciding what sort of fixtures I wanted to seek out. A good beginner's list of things to consider:

Alfabette Zoope display, Midwest Fiber and Folk 2010
1. What kind of budget and timeline are you working with?

2. Where is the show... indoors, outdoors? Under a tent (you provide or is one provided)? Will you be out in the open or amongst many other booths? What will the lighting be like?

3. Do you want people to walk into your booth, or do you want a setup where they come up to a table at the front or side of the booth rather than coming into it?

4. What kind of products are you selling and how can they best be displayed so they grab the attention of someone at first glance? What is your biggest draw/product and how can you showcase it?

Early on I had a layout in mind for my booth (which I shared with a good friend... a wonderful way to try something out but split costs and efforts for someone new to the show scene, in my opinion) that turned out to be fairly unrealistic for functionality and my ability to get all the fixtures I had been thinking of without breaking the bank. I had planned on using 8 gridwall panels and nothing else for my half of the booth, with a combination of shelves and hooks to hold shirts and yarn hanks. Thank goodness I had months of time to think and gather display equipment and finally realized changes were needed. I needed a table, otherwise where and how was I going to process credit cards? It probably would have worked out even without, because my booth partner's layout included tables, but had I been on my own, that would have been problematic.

Our booth layout plans. We used the plan on the right.
Traffic flow is important to consider. I found out about a week before show time that my friend and I were actually going to have a corner booth. Score! But scary... because of course all our planned layout ideas just assumed we'd have vendors on either side of us as we hadn't ponied up extra money for a corner spot. Some rearranging and refiguring ensued, but we took advantage of the two sides of visibility we now had and I ended up making use of both sides of my gridwall panels instead of just one. Appearance-wise it felt more empty than I would have liked, but I think the advantages of grabbing people from either aisle made it worth it. And an added perk -- I didn't have to put anything down below waist level, so everything was in reach and easy to touch, pet, grab, and examine by shoppers. We kept the middle of the booth nice and open so people could easily move through and see both our product areas.
BugSnugger's display at MFaF 2010

Variety is one of the best tips I heard while planning our layout. You want things at different levels to draw the eye. If everything is all the same, people are likely to miss things or not be drawn in to look at your products. I've seen display items vary from professional display walls to upcycled furniture and accessories. If it's done well and intentionally, you can make just about anything work! So be creative if you have a lot of lead time and would like to put together a more eclectic display. I ended up going with pretty standard show display items myself, but I lucked into the main structure (4 gridwall panels, as well as a bunch of shelves for them and a knucklebuster) by keeping my eye on my local Craigslist and ended up getting them slightly-used for at least 50% off retail.

Starving Artist Bazaar's display at MFaF 2010
Don't forget details like a color scheme (what color is your tablecloth if you're using one? Shelves? Baskets or containers? And so on. Having too much going on can really distract people -- you do want your product to be the star of the show, but you also want to make sure the background is interesting and helps pull things together. Also, don't skimp on your signage. Prices need to be labeled clearly on the products or on signs nearby that are easy to read. You want your business name to be easy to see and legible. Make sure you have business cards or something similar for people to take away from your booth because they just might look you up after the show and buy something in the future.

Samples in the BugSnugger/Huckleberry Knits booth at MFaF 2010
If you are selling an item that is used for people to make something else, samples are a huge help. I somewhat knew this, but didn't realize how many people would ask me how certain yarns would work up and I found myself wishing I had commissioned some samples as I had originally planned (and run out of time for). Samples sometimes sell the product, and certainly add some nice variety to your display. Definitely consider getting things made or making some of your own -- the expense will be worth it.

Alfabette Zoope display, Midwest Fiber and Folk 2010
I came away after my first show with a laundry list of changes to make, as well as a list of things that worked and I should build upon (not to mention a huge sleep deficit from the late nights taking care of last-minute details). One last piece of advice is to take notes! Ask opinions of friends and other trusted vendors. Seeing things through others' eyes can be such a help in figuring out what works for your products or how to improve upon the things that don't work as well. And also keep track of what sells and what doesn't, so you have a good idea what shoppers are looking for at each show you do and can plan accordingly for the future.
Submitted by Lori, Alfabette Zoope

2 Responses to “Tutorial Tuesday - Tips For Show Booths”

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Earth_mother said...

Thanks so much for the idea on how to set up tables. Sheila