Setting up a booth or a table at your first craft fair or trade show is super exciting. How many visitors will show up? Will they like my products? Will they buy from me or from my competitors?
With so much uncertainty around, we like to plan ahead as much as possible. Follow our guide and see how we got ready for our first event!
2 Months Before | Get Health Department Approval If You Sample Food
First things first. If you are sampling any sort of food or drinks, you need approval from the local health department. Only In very rare circumstances (e.g. large trade shows), will the show organizer take care of this for you.
Your show host should inform you about the procedures and deadlines when you sign up. If you don’t hear anything about it, ask them! And make sure to send your documents in time, deadlines are often 1-2 month before the event.
1 Month Before | Get Marketing Materials Designed And Printed
Whether your marketing budget is small or large, you’ll want some signage at the booth to spell out your business name and maybe a business card or small flyer for visitors to take home and remember you by.
If you don’t design things yourself, beware that it might take a week or so for your graphic designer or agency to have it done for you.
You also need to account for production and shipping time. Vistaprint’s economy shipping, for example, takes 10 business days. Although we’ve never actually had to wait that long, you’ll want to make sure you’re not stressing out about this.
1 Month Before | Get Liability Insurance
Many events won’t even let you participate if you don’t have liability insurance. Even if they do, it’s best to have some for peace of mind.
You can get insurance for one day only, or, if you’re doing more shows, an annual insurance might be more economical. PAL Insurance offers one-time event insurance and you can even book it online.
As we found out though, it is worth shopping around. We contacted several “standard” liability insurances that were not specialized in events and were lucky that one offered to include events in the contract at a very good rate.
2 Weeks Before | Get A Credit Card Reader
Maximise your potential income by giving people more payment options. A Square Reader is a small device that plugs into your phone and allows you to process credit cards for a small fee.
You can order the readers online or get them at Shoppers Drug Mart or Staples. They cost $10 but Square will actually give you a refund if you fill in their online form.
2 Weeks Before | Research Your Competitors
This point make sense if you have a wide portfolio of products and are flexible about what to take. Often, show organizers will try to make sure not too many vendors will offer the exact products but you never know.
If the event has a website or Facebook page that lists the vendors, have a look to get a better idea of who else will be there.
2 Weeks Before | Determine Which Products To Take And How Many
Depending on the theme of the event, you’ll want to make a good selection. For example, it doesn’t make sense to take Christmas themed products to a summer event.
As a retailer with a wide assortment of products, we have to be really realistic about how much actually fits into our booth. Also, it helps to look at your sales numbers to determine best sellers and slower items. You might want to reduce the number of slower items to have more room for your bestsellers.
Lastly, make sure to include sample products. People love testing, smelling and trying on products before they buy them.
To keep an overview, we recommend making an Excel sheet with all the products you want to take, the amounts, if samples are required etc..
2 Weeks Before | Calculate Show Prices & Special Offers
Most of the time, people are expecting to see some show specials when they go to trade shows or craft fairs.
Try to come up with a well-balanced mix of regular priced items and some good deals that’ll make people happy. Instead of a plain discount, try to increase your sales volume by offering things like “Buy one, get one half off” or “Buy two, get one free”.
As an online retailer, we charge HST at checkout when you shop in our webstore. So for us, it is only logical to charge HST at events. However, we would recommend calculating a show price that already includes HST. Visitors will know the final price and you don’t have to stand there with a calculator to try to figure out what the total is.
1 Week Before | Do A Mock Setup At Home And Take Pictures Of It
This step has been extremely valuable for us as we tend to try to fit too many things into our booth. Presentation is everything at these events and depending on the show’s organization, you might only get an hour before the show to set everything up! How will you make it look beautiful if you’re totally stressed out?
Whether you only have a table or a whole booth, set it up at home. Take your time to find the ideal spot for everything and make it look as good as you can. Also, think about where to put your backup stock and your samples.
Lastly, take pictures of your setup and make sure not to miss any details.
Two Days Before | Pack Up Your Products
Many people do this the day before, but if possible, we’d recommend to do it a day earlier. This way you still have a chance to get some last minute items if you realize that you’ve forgotten something.
The actual packing is tricky because you want to make sure your products are safe and sound but also easy to transport.
When you’re starting out, you might not want to invest in boxes and a dolly. What worked out surprisingly well for us, was using our regular suitcases. They’re roomy and the wheels allow for easy transportation.
One Day Before | Make Sure You Know The Loading Procedure
The bigger the event, the bigger the procedure will be. We’re talking loading slots, marshaling yards and so on. Read the documents carefully to avoid stressful situations.
Even if you’re going to a smaller event, make sure to know where the loading dock is or, if the venue doesn’t have one, where you’re supposed to stop to unload. You don’t want to get a ticket!
The Day Of | Setup Quickly Using Your Pictures
This part will be super easy if you’ve done your test setup at home. Pull out your pictures and start setting up accordingly. Make sure everything is clean and tidy before the show starts.
The Day Of | Have Fun And Don’t Be Too Pushy
We get it, you’re there to sell and to promote your business. But coming on too strong can actually mean you’ll miss out on sales.
Let people browse your booth and when they actually seem interested, try to initiate a conversation. You could, for example, explain the product they’re looking at, mention a special deal or ask them who they’re shopping for. Just don’t be too pushy and have a good time yourself!
What to bring to the show:
- Furniture & tools to set up
- Risers & booth decor
- Tape (you’ll never know when you need it)
- Marketing materials
- Business cards
- Pen & paper
- Hand disinfectant and gloves for serving food samples
- Cash (a mix of bills and coins)
- Square reader
- Lip balm (the air is often very dry in venues and you’ll talk a lot)