In the first two posts of my “Doing a Show” series, here on Rio’s Blog, I talked about why to do a jewelry trade show and how to begin and how to prepare once you’ve been accepted. In today’s installment we’re imagining that you’ve gone through all the work of applying and preparing and now it’s “show time, folks.” You’ve spent weeks or months planning your booth, making sure you have plenty of inventory, preparing handouts, and countless other details you need to have a successful show.
Here is a timeline of what you can expect during set-up, while the show is in progress, and when it’s tear-down time:
- You arrive on your set-up day. Park your car in the loading dock or assigned parking area. Go into the show office or desk, register, and get your move-in badges/passes (if needed).
- Move your car to a specified loading area.
- Start moving your booth materials into your assigned booth location.
- Set up your booth.
- Introduce yourself to your new best friends, your neighbors.
- Stand back and survey your booth. What is working well? What needs tweaking? What can you reasonably change before the show begins? And, if you can’t make all the tweaks you’d like to now, what changes will you make for the next show? (Keep notes that you can refer to for next time).
- What did you forget or not plan for during set up? I promise you, there will be surprises that will force you to improvise from your original plan. Always. If everything goes exactly according to your plans, then you are the exception. I know people who have shown up to find their cases are stuck in another city. Once, I watched a neighbor’s booth collapse. One time, all of our showcase glass arrived broken. I have seen lighting systems fail. Someone forgets to order electricity. Flights are delayed due to snow. There are always challenges, so be prepared (and keep notes for next time).
- Show day. Your booth is looking its best. The show doors open. You talk to potential clients. Maybe sell a couple pieces. Talk to more people. Smile. Smile. Smile. Look around at what the other craftspeople are doing. Are they selling more than you? Are they more organized? What would you do differently now that you are on the front line? (Again, make notes while your insights are fresh.)
- Put on your best salesperson face without being pushy. Think about everything you read before the show about selling. But most important of all, be yourself. Greet your customers, make eye contact with everyone in their group, talk about your jewelry (without being too pushy), ask them questions (without being too pushy), relax and have a good time. Sales can be fun if you have the right attitude.
- Your learning curve is an arrow going straight up. You are soaking up everything around you.
- You go home (or back to your motel) in the evenings and, if you are smart, you eat something healthy, watch some tv and sleep. But, usually, none of us are that smart.
- Repeat #8 for the next couple days.
- The last day of the show. You are now an old pro after two or three days. You know tear-down will begin at the end of the sales day. You have your bottle of water, some nibble food and are ready to face the day. Smile some more. Hopefully sell some more pieces. And you begin to seriously think about tearing down.
- Tear-down. This part is obviously the opposite of set-up. Everything should go back into your crates, boxes or bags in an orderly fashion so you can stuff them into your car and drive (or fly, or take the train) home. Tear-down takes much less time than set-up did. You might need to secure a move-out pass from the show management to move your car to the loading dock or secure move-out badges for friends if you’re getting help. You may have arranged to have a freight company pick up your crate.
- Hug your new best friends good-bye. Get to your car/plane/train. Go home and sleep for a couple days.
- Then starts post-show savvy, which I will cover in my next post.
The one vitally important thing I haven’t covered yet is security. You are selling small, shiny, valuable items that can easily be slipped into some jerk’s pocket. Develop a plan for how you will keep your valuables secure while going in and out of the show, while the show is in progress, and when you are heading home after it’s over.
I traveled all over the U.S. with expensive gold and diamond jewelry in a backpack (a smart and inconspicuous way to carry jewelry) and I found it helpful to think of the collection as “my baby.” Would you put your baby in the trunk of a car? Would you set it on the roof of the car when you are getting in and out? Would you leave it in your seat at McDonald’s when going to the restroom? Would you leave it unattended in your booth when setting up? If the show provides a secure jewelry lock-up, you might consider utilizing this facility, especially if you work with expensive stones and metals.
No one wants to have their work stolen no matter what the materials. It is ALL valuable. Be vigilant about what is being handled in your booth, and even more so if you feel like you are being intentionally distracted by a specific person, or if you think something is missing. And when you are showing jewelry, always be aware who is coming up to your booth. Think about security at all times.
Congratulations! You have done your first show. This is the good news. You are not a newbie anymore. You are an experienced exhibitor. You know what to expect. You learned a lot and hopefully you made some money. And you survived pretty much intact. When you get back to your studio you will be ready for post-show savvy. The show isn’t quite over…yet.