I talked with David Murray of Seibei a little bit about setting up at Craft Shows. Here are some of his words of wisdom. You can check out all my comments in red.

In reality my setups aren’t that crazy, usually. Just hang up some shirts, display your banner, and have all of your ducks in a row so finding any item is a snap. I definitely got the shelving idea from Eric Terry, which REALLY changed the way I did things. I’ve done shows where I was VERY disorganized and it definitely lost me some sales – I remember back in 07 I was doing Stitch in Austin, and I was selling out of cardboard boxes I’d shipped to the event and the suitcases I came with. Over the course of the event, digging through and putting back shirts, I got super disorganized and had to spend a good few minutes looking for shirts, not even sure if I had any left in that size or not. Absolutely awful. You’ve got to put yourself in the customer’s shoes – when you go to a regular store, would you rather have a clerk know almost immediately whether they have your size or not (and pass it to you to have a look), or have to make small talk while digging through bins? Even if it only takes one or two minutes, that’s an ETERNITY in the mind of the customer, and only gives them reasons to not seal the deal in the end. You want to make it as easy as possible for someone to exchange their money for one of your products.
You can get some basic shelves at Home Depot or a local hardware store that you can assemble at shows. I agree it is a must to stay organized.
You want to extend the spirit of your brand into your booth design – I try to make my booth as bright and fun as possible because you want what normally attracts people to your brand to attract new fans into your booth. Even when sales are looking meager, you have to try your best to stay energetic – this is still a problem for me sometimes, because ALL shows start off slow or have dead points, and you can’t let these get you down, but it’s very easy to think “oh no, we’re not going to make any money, everyone is finally tired of my work, etc” during slow points in the day. When a booth is dead and the person running it is letting it get to them, it just radiates a cold vibe, a sadness, that turns your self doubt into a self-fulfilling prophecy. When I take breaks at shows (which is why it’s vital to have a friend at least help you out for a while), I usually walk around and check out other booths to see what’s working and what isn’t, to say hi to my road doggs, etc, and sometimes you’ll see sights that just bum you out. I was at Renegade Brooklyn, and I walked by a booth of handmade glasswares (which, it seems, is always a hard sell at craft shows – they are not nearly as durable or ubiquitous as t-shirts). The stuff looked gorgeous, but, at the time, the booth was empty, and the one guy running it was sitting behind his table, looking super desolate, and practicing yo-yo tricks. You’ve got to have a smile on your face. Commiserate after the show. It’s tough, and even I let it show sometimes when sales drop or it just seems to be a cold day, but you’ve got to try.
It’s hard to stay focused when stuff is slow but you have to find ways to have fun even when your shit isn’t selling. At warped tour I brought a super soaker and soaked passers by. At craft shows I usually just try to give people high fives or show off all my slap on wrist band tricks. If you can keep yourself entertained and others enterained at the same time you’ll put out a positive vibe and the sales will come everntually.
If there is any way that you can display all of your main products at once, and within one clear field of vision, do it. I try to cover the walls with my shirts so whenever anyone comes into the booth, with one easy sweep of my arm I can show all of our products at once – “These are our current shirts, and we have them in all of these sizes.” I also like to have a bin of discontinued items on sale for super cheap, so once someone is in the booth, there’s an incentive to hang around and dig through products. The discontinued items bring in a decent amount of money on their own, and if there are already people in your booth staying there and digging through stuff, they will attract a larger crowd. At a recent show I set up a “Doodle Wall” – I had a big tub of pencils, pens, and markers and covered half of the booth in paper. This gave people a reason to stay and hang out in the booth, and if someone was a hard sell I could usually convince them to at least have a look at the wall, or draw something themselves. This sort of setup would be impossible at an outdoor show (you have to assume that it will be too hot, or too windy, or both).

Test your position of items and find out what your bestsellers are and put them front and center. It’s weird how the same show at different locations has different bestsellers. Just pay attention to the products that are doing well or which ones people are stopping to look at. Make sure everyone can see your products, a product they can’t see is lost revenue so make it easy for them to see everything.

In repsonse to my article on peacocking David wrote this, and we had some back and forth comments about it.
Peacocking is good, but if you can, you want your whole booth to peacock for you. Certain booth layouts put out a certain vibe – I overthink this a bit, but certain layouts say certain things about how you want to interact with your customers. For instance, you’ll see some companies encircle the edge of their booth with tables, and they will sit inside with their stock. To me, this implies a divide between the consumer and the creator. This may make things easier for you and allow you to kick back and relax a little and have a place to eat in private or whatever, but my philosophy with selling at shows and SEIBEI in general is to LET PEOPLE IN. Let people into your world. My aim with SEIBEI is to make it feel like it’s a secret world that my fans and I share, an inside joke that I’m happy to let anyone in on. This carries over into my booth design philosophy. I keep it open to let people inside (this is great at outdoor shows, too, because people typically want to grab a little shade at summer shows), and have one nice table out of necessity (to hide drinks and sandwiches behind, to set my credit card machine on, to display signage, to have one person sit at when they’re tired). My favorite part of shows is making new friends and meeting fans and other artists, so I let people in the booth to encourage this. “Let people in” is my general policy – I share bits of my personal life on my blog and my Twitter, show works in progress, ask for opinions (but not to the point of seeming directionless or begging for attention – I think some owners ask so many questions of their fanbase that it starts to seem like the captain of the ship is unsure, that the ship is lacking a rudder, as it were).

I think it’s also good to put stuff up front. I think I have over analyzed all of this but so many people don’t even look into your booth. I like having stuff up front so it’s in your face when your walking by, there is no way you’ll miss it. It’s always nice to build a crowd around your booth. This year I am thinking something like doing both. Having my display with all the shirts up front then a table in the middle in the back with a bunch of stuff. Have people see it from the outside and also come in and check more things out.
That’s true too, but if you can build a crowd inside the booth by interacting with fans and having shit for them to look through then that’s going to help draw a bigger crowd. You want to make coming into your booth seem like the easiest thing in the world. It’s good to have something that stands out and catches the eye from a distance and brings them in closer – a big banner over the top, a sign that sticks out, something. When I set up for shows, and during the show, I typically walk by my booth from every conceivable angle of approach and try to make sure there’s something to catch the eye and draw people in at every angle.
Also, I have a pretty decent memory, so it is ALWAYS good to remember people. If you’re unsure, say so. No one will be mad if you think you saw them at the show last year and it turns out you’re wrong. People are always stoked if you can recognize them – if one of your Twitter followers says they’re coming to the show, and they use an actual picture of themselves as their Twitter icon, recognizing them first and welcoming them and thanking them for coming and saying hey is HUGE. Even if you can’t recognize them first (it’s not like this opportunity presents itself all the time, and your brain WILL get totally wiped out from being sociable all day), thank them for coming when they do introduce themselves. Thank people for coming anyway. Politeness and kindness cost nothing, and making a good impression is everything.

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