05 May, 2009

a tutorial of awesome

Sunday, May 3, there was a Virtual Lab on Etsy about Craft Shows, held from the Summit of Awesome in DC. I learned about it via a Twitter post from Etsy admin DanielleXO just as it was beginning, so there was no time to pass it on! I took diligent notes for 45 minutes until an accidental sweep of my computer’s touchpad cleared my typing and then saved the blank page. Heartbroken! But I will try to do my best to pass on what I learned.

The bulk of the meeting was about display. I’m just going to bullet point for simplicity’s sake.

1. Create a theme, whether it’s within your work or in your display. Work with colors, textures, patterns, etc. They do this within their product, but that doesn’t work for everyone. They gave Orla Kiely’s work as a strong example of this.

2. Make your display unique, but don’t let it distract customers or overpower your product. Give yourself a look that sets you apart, something that gives you enough of a signature that people may recognize your shop even before the product is on the table. Don’t be afraid of vertical display. Most craft show tables are below eye level. By building upward, you can draw one’s eye up to a more comfortable level. When it comes to displaying your product, the conventional wisdom is to display evenly. But if you have some products more densely concentrated in one section of your table, it could be a way to showcase the products you are most excited about. They also mentioned breaking their rule of height, noting that bins placed on the ground can indicate “SALE” to customers. They’ll likely consider what items in the bins to be bargains, no matter what the prices are.

3. Establish brand identity. This can be large or small, and is usually terribly overlooked. From signage to pricetags to business cards (or as they called them, “calling cards”), you want people to know your name and how to reach you after a show is complete. It doesn’t hurt to waterproof your signage, if possible.

4. When building the actual display, it’s a good rule of thumb to make sure it fits in your vehicle. One tip was to bring your items in containers that can be used as show display. Just bring fabric to cover. Use Craigslist, Home Depot, Target, etc as easy sources for display. If you are travelling to a show out of town, consider items you can easily pick up and discard in the town. It doesn’t always have to be a table; find alternate ways to set up your shop. Be flexible. You may not get the space you are promised; a 10’ x 10’ space isn’t necessarily so. Make your display sturdy. Keep in mind the elements. One other tip is bring height to your table itself. Their suggestion was pvc-pipe leg extensions. Something effective but safe from collapse.

5. Find influences all over. Look at the way stores display their wares. Big boxes to boutiques. Bakeries and small markets. Produce vendors. How do they display their items? What makes what they do unique from another business? What draws your eye? Don’t just limit your ideas to retail outlets. Think science, art, museums, design. Draw elements from anywhere, things that can make the most of the shopping experience. They gave a great tip- give your craft show space a point of view. One example they gave was a farmers market booth where the fruit was laid out in wicker baskets, giving a nice design element to an otherwise typical business.

6. Set up your show at home. See what works and what doesn’t. Take pictures, and bring those images with you to a show. It will also help you manage the set-up time a bit better if you’ve practiced. Also take pictures at the start of the show. If it’s a two day show, take a look at the images and see what you’d do differently next time. It’s okay to change your display around from Day 1 to Day 2. Keep images of your booth on file.

7. Put a kit together of necessities, one that is full of supplies only for shows and not used elsewhere. Tape, scissors, safety pins, clothespins, pens, extra paper, sharpies, first aid, etc etc. Make a list, check it off, and pack it.

Here are a couple sites they gave as examples. The first two are the people who were presenting at this lab (thanks to DanielleXO at Etsy for the shop links).

Something's Hiding In Here

Rebound Designs

Something's Hiding In Here flickr images


Rare Device

Orla Kiely

It really was a very informative session. I know I don’t have all their points, as the lab ran about 90 minutes, but I know I got their strongest ones. I hope this can help people as we head into a busy summer!

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