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Lysenis

Creating a respectable booth for events

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Booths are a rather subjective topic as there really is no one answer for everyone, yet everyone often has insights that can be useful in many situations.

My personal needs are for a booth that fits the space constraints of the events I regularly participate in. Most of these are juried artisan shows and the standard spaces are 8x8 feet of which I always acquire two, allowing me a space of 8x16.

My setup has evolved over the years based on what I had to offer and my allotted space. I started like most would, sitting behind a table where I laid out my wares for the passing shoppers to see. This might include a canopy tent for outdoor shows and eventually some freestanding racks that could showcase some items from behind the table. In the beginning this made sense as I was likely to have fewer than 100 pieces to sell. With limited stock space isn't as much a premium. Usually we find ourselves doing whatever we can to add perceived value to each piece to maximize profit. Some folks drape items over driftwood and furs. I used a lot of glass for displaying individual pieces. Whatever made the table seem alive instead of a just a flat surface.

Evolution two was going from the one table in front to the horseshoe setup where you use up to three tables to be more efficient with space. Now you have customer walking into your space and having access to a larger sales space assuming you have the stock to fill it.

Evolution 2.5 was the horseshoe setup with the addition of steel lattice panels erected behind effectively making walls behind the tables that I could hang even more stock from as the tables were no longer sufficient.

For context I sell 95% jewellery and items of similar size.

Eventually I had numerous rods hung from the backdrop for which I would then hang chains. The tables were used for earring racks and items not suited for hanging.

At that point I was hitting critical mass it seamed. I was having a herd time making room for new products and also finding that my setup times were becoming a challenge? Taking hours to get up and running can really dampen the enjoyment of the event. I also was dealing with the different space limitations of each event and would be hauling around too much material for the booth just in case I could make use of it.

That led to evolution three. Coming up a standard setup that would fit in my most limited show yet be just as effective for the rest.

I went to the house/garden/automotive store(here it is CanadianTire) and purchased a couple of tent car ports. The kind that use two inch thick white enamel tubing a white tarps for the roof and sides. Now the tents were designed to be 10x20 but I mixed and matched until I had a structure that was 8x16. This became the skeleton for my current setup. I don't use any of the tarps unless I am doing an outdoor show and then only the roof and back wall for wind and weather resistance. So what I end up with is a skeletal structure that has 8 posts and a peaked roof with four gables. Looks a bit like a white longhouse.

This structure has allowed me to maximize my space and display large amounts of products. Most of my stock is now hung in some fashion from the structure which can take a great deal of weight. From rods fasted to the posts of the structure hang hundreds of bracelets, pendants, and neck chains. I have racks that were originally cooling trays for baking that have been fastened together to hang from the cross members that hold hundreds of earring cards. It really is effective when you can get your products as near to eye level as possible. I still use some narrow tables for heavy and specialty items. The setup also affords me some space to have a mini workshop where I can do all my adjustments, make custom orders on the spot, and do demonstrations. From the top gables I am able to hang clip lamps for proper lighting. The booth currently holds about $30k( not counting showpiece items) in stock with room to double that.

Now the bulk of what I described of my current setup is not likely a great deal of use to most other of you folks simply because everyone tends to evolve based on their own needs. People focus on different products so have different display needs and limitations.

Now Lysenis started this topic I believe because I was bragging about my "sexy" booth. I didn't mean that my booth was in any way lewd. I meant that it had appeal and not for the reasons already described in how it is constructed, although the structure certainly allows for adaptation and presentation.

So what makes a booth sexy? A sexy booth is one that is designed, presented, and visible in such a way that you will maximize the most attention from passing traffic. My goal is always to get every single passer to take one good honest look at something even if it is just the hat I am wearing(been known to sport a leather Fedora). I bait and switch. Not the negative kind. My booth is set up as a carnival of showpieces. Most of which are not even for sale. I have a few large armour pieces like a chain hauberk, scale vest, numerous bikini tops, bar tops, etc. There are larger sculpture pieces along with the smaller ones available for purchase, larger demonstration pieces made from shower curtain rings, and some elaborate expensive precious metal pieces.

The goal being that a passing customer will see something that will intrigue them. There are very few folks who can resist a second look. Usually just the seniors who likely have very shallow vision. Typically a customer will have a gushing conversation about the larger item that has attracted them, and when they concede that they likely would not be able to afford the price I would ask to make the same for them they proceed to purchase a more affordable item as if to remember the experience they had while visiting my booth.

The larger armour pieces make the boys weak in the knees, the bikini's and fashion wear make the girls squeak, and the sculptures fascinate the kids. On top of that I have one secret weapon. I always have an open vibe tumbler full of rice running with various item swirling around in it. Every single person who gets in range notices it, the kids play in it, and it generates so many conversations it's ridiculous. The trick is to add new attractions each year so that even my regulars know that there will be new surprises in both product selection and showpieces.

So that is what I believe makes my booth work as well as compete with vendors of similar craft.

Edited by Borealis Metal Works

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I'll offer these tips:

-Tablecloths and backdrops. This helps keep things out of sight that you don't want to show, like your personal bags or the space behind your booth, which would draw attention away from your wares.

-Displays. Put your items (or at least some of them) up on displays that will give the customer some idea about what the item will look like when worn. Before we got hand displays most customers thought our hand flowers were kinky underwear.

-Different levels. Rather than having all your wares flat on the table, bring some of it up closer to them. The outlay will be more dynamic and hold the customers' interest longer.

-Have a 'Wow'-piece. Something extravagant to capture attention.

-Signs. Your brand, prices, interesting details about your wares, services you offer.

-A consistent colour scheme. This ties your booth together and will help keep customer interest.

-Business cards. Not specifically part of your booth, but very important for anyone who does not want to get anything just yet. Also give one along with each sale you make, since they might lead to follow-up sales.

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For me I start by scouting the event booth size, utility access, are tables/chairs provide or available ect.

Then I search the web for pictures taken at last years event, layout booth style/size stage or performance areas.

renfairs and cultural festivals may have restrictions on the kind of booth you have, some require canvas tents or more permanent looking structures.

 

Then I use chalk and tape to block in my booth space in the basement/shed and play with layout of the furniture lighting and display.

 

After that its mostly building stock, fine tuning the display/lighting and making plans, how can I make the space comfortable for the customer, me and how can I deal with problems.

 

I have a few pack lists that varies with the venue. indoor shows with tables and chairs, indoor with no electrical access, outside in the rain for 3 days.

 

It helps to keep a notebook and SD card just for your display/setup.

I'm constantly taking pictures and notes about how I setup the display and what I need to change for next time around.

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My draw factor since I am new and in the 1st Evolution as Borealis Metal Works has put it, are my Scale Ties. I wear them, lay them out and people love the "dragon" or "snake" look of them.

 

Hmmmm what methods would you guys recommend to "layer" a booth?

 

How much space in a vehicle does a setup that each of you use takes up? (I am looking at getting a subaru for the space in the back for this reason. . . well and LARPing in Amtgard and SCA. . . )

 

I would also LOVE to see some example pictures!

Edited by Lysenis

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Hmmmm what methods would you guys recommend to "layer" a booth?

When I started with a solo table I went to the nearest dollar store and found numerous items useful for display. Having mostly bracelets in the beginning I need ways to feature them. I purchased black foam sheets, cut strips and made loops that I could place each bracelet on. Much the way you find that plastic ring a watch comes on in many packaging. Now my bracelets would not lay flat and have definition. I purchased some wooden project trays and lined them in the same black foam. I could fit a few bracelets mounted on their foam rings in the trays. I would make a row of trays and then behind the first row I would make a second row. The second row would be a couple trays stacked so it was raised twice as high as the first. In the end I had three layered steps of trays all with a handful of items in each. At the very back of the rows I placed some slender fluted vases that would hold a few more elaborate bracelets that at the time represented my higher end products. All these supplies were dollar store finds. Later on I purchase an inexpensive wooden wine rack, the countertop kind. I filled it with the fluted vases and pouring from them were necklaces.

My current setup fits in a minivan with the seats removed and stowed away.

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I've done a few shows now, and taken pictures of the front and the rear.  I'm curious what others think about my booth here.  What I could improve, do differently?  I'm currently limited on space (since I don't yet want to pay for a bigger booth) so I have a 6 or 8 foot table. 

 

My plans for the new year are designing/purchasing a banner, buying backdrop stuff with ways to display more jewelry and getting my own fold up 6 foot table.  Any thoughts on how I can possibly improve my current set up?  I can currently fit everything into a Saturn VUE with a little extra space.

 

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.390715164397033.1073741830.221274888007729&type=3

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@WXdruid:

It definitely looks like you are hitting critical mass. I can see that you have invested in plenty of display gear.

Unless you state otherwise I would assume the events like the one in the pics allow you about equal depth for your space as well as the width shown. If it were me I would invest in two 6' tables. The plastic ones that fold in half. In an 8x8 space you can near double your sales surface by just making an "L" shape with the two tables. If you still need more space you can use three tables to make the full horseshoe.

The horseshoe is two tables along the sides of your space and one across the back. The "L" is just the same minus one of the side tables.

Having your own tables lets you control your setup and you won't be at the mercy of the venue. Some don't offer extra tables, or have the size we want. With the "L" setup you can then make yourself a small workspace off the the side. I used to have a nice wooden TV tray I used as a work desk in those situations. In my current setup I have more space so I have a 2x2 card table that once covered with an appropriate cloth serves as a good work desk and place to hide my supplies under.

When I used the three table horseshoe I often just used the end of the third table as my workspace.

If you make sure to have table cloths that are large enough to nearly reach the floor you can store most of your supples underneath.

Building a backdrop is a different challenge especially with your vehicle limitations. What I have used are the 2x6 steel lattice panels. However that is a fair bit of length and weight for you currently. Another option (assuming the venue allows it) is to invest in a cheap garden canopy. They tend to be 8x8 and can be erected in your space to allow you to have material both at the back and sides of your booth if you wish. Most canopies can also handle some portion of weight allowing you to hang merchandise from it. This can easly add a table worth of space to your booth. Be aware of what yo buy. Some canopies can be built without needing the material cover, others need the tarp portion on to help hold it together. Having the option to go without a cover means you may not need lighting. With a cover you may want lights to compensate for the shade. Mind you lighting is always a benefit.

Edited by Borealis Metal Works

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How do you handle commissions? Do you use a folding dinner table or something?

There are two kinds of commissions. The kind you do there, and the kind you do for later. Usually at a show I am very busy. People are just inquisitive and I have little downtime. I do however usually end up doing a few pieces on the spot but I pick an choose what those will be. By that I mean if the request is something I know I can put together quickly( like most sets of earrings) then usually it gets done. If it is a bracelet or more then I will look to see of I can scavenge the bulk of the work from an existing piece I have in stock. More than that and I just take an order for later pickup/delivery.

Yes I used to use a small folding TV dinner tray or just the end of one of my tables as a work space. I still size and alter anything on the spot as well as do demonstrations so work space is essential. I use a folding card table mostly now, all dressed up with a tablecloth. The customers are fascinated by both the process and the materials. They love the open containers with pounds of rings. Puts the products in perspective when they realize there are over a million woven rings on display and they were all individually attached by one person. I have mentioned in other threads that I am not selling just a piece of jewellery or novel creation. I am selling myself and an experience that hopefully results in the purchase of a memory of that experience. The mistake many folks make is to allow the customer to be underwhelmed by the craft. Some of my most successful shows( usually outside events with room to spare) are the ones I can bring as much of the process with me. When they can see you make a titanium coil on a gig, toss it in the anodizer, and then snip the coil into rings just blows their minds. Old hat to us here, but an episode of Ripley's( dating myself a bit) to civilians.

Another trick I have enjoyed is the ring overload. I used to carry way to much supplies to a show. I always want to have access to everything I work with. To eliminate the hundreds of pounds of rings I was breaking my back on I purchased some storage bins that are 6" deep and 1.5' x 2.5'. My wife is in health care and she got me hundreds of urine sample bottles. Clean ones. I filled all the bottles with samples of each of my supplies and in the bins they went upside down so the contents can be easily seen. The ring overload comes when a customer asks if I have or can make an item they like in a certain colour. So I say "lemme check" and proceed to slide the bins out forum under my tables, pop off the lids, and give them a good look at the sheer absurd variety and volume of rings to choose from. This is almost a guaranteed sale. Not only are they impressed by the materials, but psychologically they already have the impression you have put in a great deal of work to make them something. By that point I should be asking them if the piece they liked on the rack was a suitable size or would they need an adjustment and I have a variety of clasps if they should prefer a different option.

A good booth is presentation. Not always the professional physical display hangers most of us buy. I have in the past bought all the pro jewellery hangers, felted busts, acrylic hands, etc. My basement is full of them. Don't use them anymore( well they are good for taking photos of your work) for a couple of reasons. First is everyone has them. Go to an event with lots of jewellery crafters and every booth had the same pro display pieces. That makes the customer gloss over your booth when they see the same thing over and over. They don't even see the items hung there. Same "T" stands, same busts, same shelved cases. I think all I use now aside from what I make myself is the half moon felted humps. They are low profile and don't distract from what is important. Oh, I do have a styrofoam head with a coif on it, and some mannequin bits for the garments.

My point being is the importance of getting messy and it can be very beneficial if you customer thinks your bats**t insane.

Edited by Borealis Metal Works

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Never underestimate the power of a chainmail dress or other unique piece. I also almost bought a portable green house this past week .it had clear sides, roof and built in shelves and was a pop up. If it had been just a bit larger It would have been a perfect outdoor set up. It would have need a modified roof to create shade though. I get displays at Home Depot and always look at things thinking "how can I make that into a display?". We made hanging displays for bracelet out of shelves using the brackets for the stands and putting hooks on the opposite side to hang them one.

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I have two main set ups pending on the event. If I"m at Fetish Circuit I have one long table with spinning displays for bracelets. Plus a static hook display for bags, some bracelets, and earrings. then on another table I have the more hardcore items such as my bra top, scalemaile, etc. Also at that table I have a violet wand. I'll do demos with the wand (the sound is great for drawing people in.) and that's how I show off items such as my flogger. I also use this table as my work area if I need to work on something.

 

For events such as MetroCon I have to keep everything pg13 and under in rating. So my hardcore table isn't even there. I have the displays around me/infront of me on a long table; and in the center a work area for on the spot custom jobs. Most of the stuff I bring here is under $35 so there's a lot I wont bring. I'll have some stuff there just to show off I can do complicated work. My main "got ya" to bring people in here is my replica Portal Gun from Think Geek.

 

For both set ups I have a sign with my business name, a QR code to my facebook, and hobo codes. The hobo codes are symbols of different groups/lifestyles that I am a member or supporter of. Such as SCA, Furry, and GBLT. If you don't know the symbol you wont understand what it's for. So I have no fear about having it anywhere I go. It also means that when I ask questions like, 'what will this be used for?" I'll tend to get a more honest answer.

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Just like to thank all of you willing to share--there is a boatload of helpful info/insight in this thread. Awesome!

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How do you guys handle money when it comes to shows? People are bound to pay with larger bills, and you'll need change. Do you just bring a bunch of smaller bills and change with you? How much usually?

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I have a cash box with change, small show usually $50 in fives and singles. Sometimes more for large ones, will add a few tens. Also have several rolls of quarters, dimes, nickles and pennies.

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How do you guys handle money when it comes to shows? People are bound to pay with larger bills, and you'll need change. Do you just bring a bunch of smaller bills and change with you? How much usually?

That will depend on a number of factors. The easiest being how you price your merchandise. All my product is priced to the nearest five. So $5, $10, $20, etc. That eliminates the need for any coin. I used to have to also charge taxes on each purchase so I would figure out in advance what the price would be so they could be included. The laws chaged allowing me to just declare the sales as income up to a cap that allows me to avoid the extra steps. I have never need more that $300 in small bills for a float, usually 20 5s and 20 10s. 90% of my sales are $20 items and typically customers have exact bills for most purchases. I do not recall ever being short on change. More often I will gather more through sales.

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Because of school and work I have neglected to mention that I am very thankful of all the people who have contributed to this thread.  If there was an exponential way to measure how much your ideas would help my business and a tool to quantify that measurement I would use it.  Thank you for all your advice.  I recently went to a show and didn't bring in my motorcycle vest covered in jap12-2 blackened stainless and regular stainless because I didn't feel it belonged there.  Now I have it mounted on a mannequin and it has helped bring in customers ever since.  Thank you.

 

Whitesmoke

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I find that raunchy people WILL FIND YOU even if you have zero raunchy items on the table.  So we never advertise collars or leashes or loincloths, but we still get plenty of requests for them.  And if we do have anything racy out, it will drive away all the other customers.  Once someone gets it in their head that what you sell is sexual, they will see EVERYTHING you sell as somehow sexual and as something they can't wear every day. 

 

Your booth needs to cater to your demographic.  Do you want customers solely into kink or do you want geeks or do you want biker guys or...? 

Your demographic will determine your display.  It's good to be flexible from event to event.  Something as simple as changing your tablecloth can change the entire look of your display and it makes you versatile as well. 

 

I also have a Youtube advice column for newbie crafters called "Don't Craft Angry" (they get better after the second episode): 

Edited by steampunkgarage

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I don't have that kind of stuff, but for some of my shows the bikini tops are usually a big draw. and I tell them most of my girl customers wear them as part of their costumes and over something which most of the NERO girls do except when it it is very hot.  my set up changes show by show too , so you have a good point though, what I make in preparation for Weirdfest was very different from what I make for an Easter or Christmas craft show.

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