In the first installment of my “Doing a Show” blog post series, I talked about reasons to consider exhibiting at a wholesale or retail jewelry show and I reviewed the application process. Now, let’s imagine you’ve gotten the good news…you have applied and been accepted into your first show (or your first real big-time show)! You call your friends to share the good news and you do a happy dance. But soon there will arrive a moment of sheer panic. What do you do now? You have a sinking feeling that your life is going to be crazy until the show ends. How much preparation you do will make a huge difference in its outcome. I am not promising that you’ll rake in scads of money if you prepare well, but not being prepared almost always guarantees a poor show.
This is a wonderful opportunity to practice and hone your organizational skills. First, grab a notebook for your show’s to-do list. I have done hundreds of industry and craft shows and I still make a list before each show because, I promise you, there is always something you will forget to bring or do. Always! Making a list will narrow the number of possible catastrophes.
Here’s what I recommend you do before a show:
- Start a file folder just for shows. (Yes, you are going to need hard copies of some information.) You will use this folder for pre-show preparation, take it to the show, and file it in case you need information from it later.
- Record the dates of the show on your calendar and on the cover of your show folder.
- Record your booth number.
- Note your set-up or load-in time.
- List the products, services, and forms you will need for the show and check them off as you complete them. This could include electrical service, security lock-up, booth furnishings (poles, drapes, cases, chairs, tables), Wi-Fi service, and cleaning. You also need to order badges and guest passes if you are inviting guests.
- Read carefully and highlight what is included in your booth package, such as poles and drapes, carpeting, or hard walls; you should order whatever is not included. Find out if the venue has booth restrictions and requirements. Some shows require that the fabric used in your booth must be fire-retardant. Some do not provide any furnishings, while others provide quite a few things. Do they have overnight security? All shows require you to be fully set up and ready for business by a certain time. Write that time down. Does the show have Wi-Fi access? There are often rules about moving in and out, playing music in your booth, blocking aisles during set-up, the number of people who can help you set up, and undoubtedly a zillion other things you would never think to ask about. If you have any questions, you can always call the show management or the service provider.
- Plan your payment options. Do you have credit card capabilities?
- Plan your booth design. This is one of the biggest challenges of doing a show! My advice? Talk to many hard core show exhibitors beforehand to get their words of wisdom. Here are some important questions to ask yourself about your booth:
- What will the booth look like?
- Will it include displays at a scale appropriate for showing jewelry?
- Will it have enough lighting to show jewelry well? Appropriate and focused lighting is important and I am a firm believer you can never have enough of it!
- Will there be a place to conduct business, write orders, have a guest book, store water and a coat, wrap or package pieces, store business cards, line sheets, and marketing handouts?
- What signage will be most effective to get the attention of passing buyers?
- Is there a place to sit down in the booth for a few minutes?
- Will the booth’s displays and signage clearly identify and promote your brand? Does it send a strong, cohesive message to attendees? Are the colors consistent?
- Is the booth arranged so that people can walk into it, or will the cases be the ones you stand behind?
- Will the booth be easy to assemble and tear down? Is it lightweight? How much time do you need to set up the booth?
- Is it possible to do a dry run to work out potential bugs before the show, either in a garage, basement, or living room?
- Is carpeting provided? If not, is it required? If so, find carpeting that is cheap and lightweight.
Here is a list of questions to ask yourself prior to the show:
- Will you be able to enter and exit the booth easily without disturbing neighbors?
- What booth displays and furnishings can be purchased and what can be rented?
- If driving to the show, can everything fit easily and safely into your vehicle?
- Do you need assistance with setting up the booth? If so, who will help you?
- Do the booth and displays show off your pieces to their best advantage? Keep displays clean and simple! Remember, “Less is more.”
- Do you have a corner booth or an in-line booth (not a corner) and how will your booth design be affected by this?
- On your list of things to do, make a separate list of booth items to bring to the show and mark them off as they are packed. I have always kept a list on my computer that I can print before each show so I don’t forget the necessities. Remember there will undoubtedly be an office supply, lighting, and home store you can go to in an emergency.
- Create a list of things to bring, such as marketing, business, packaging and set-up materials. See my recommendations below. Your list might be a little different depending on the venue, your product, and your business.
- Business cards, post cards, CDs of your work, and any promotional materials.
- Staplers, staples, pens, sales order forms, paper clips, scissors, computer and computer plug ins, a notebook to attach business cards to, scotch tape, a guest book, and a calculator.
- Extension cords, power surge protectors, extra light bulbs, duct tape (duct tape will become your new best friend), pliers, a screw driver, a water bottle (you will drink lots of water), plastic zip ties, a Dustbuster, Windex wipes or paper towels.
- The show file folder.
- Boxes or bags for sold products, gift boxes and tissue paper, and care cards.
- Your booth and all its furnishings.
- Food that can be quickly and easily eaten, a couple pairs of comfortable shoes, clothing that can be layered, and like I said before—plenty of water.
This is a good starting point for doing a show. Remember, if you are nervous, panicky, and sleep deprived, then you are normal. Use all that bundled energy for good! Then find a few minutes to relax and review all the terrific pre-show things you have accomplished. And congratulations, you got into your first show!