GOOD BOOTHS GONE BAD #13: Stay In Your Booth!

Today’s topic isn’t a no-no in the sense that it will reduce sales. It’s a no-no regarding your professionalism, and consideration for your fellow craftspeople.

Stay in your booth.

You have signed a contract for the use of a 10′x10′ space (or however big a space you paid for.) It’s amazing how many people interpret that to mean “….and whatever else I can get away with.”

It’s 10′x10′. Period. Your booth must fit inside this space. Most commercial booth set-ups are actually a smidgen less than 10′x10′ for this reason.

That means if you construct your own booth, any bolts, bracing, floor plates, light bars, etc. must fit inside your own space–and NOT stick out into your neighbor’s.

There’s sometimes a little leeway in the airspace–IF you check first. Even then, you must be thoughtful of what is going to cause problems and what will be okay. A banner above your booth may be fine. A banner that hangs over into the aisle and gently whaps people passing by in the face is not.

Although sometimes shows set height limits for booths, these are often ignored by craftspeople. Sometimes I’m the shortest booth in my row. This usually isn’t a problem, if the backs of the booths towering above me aren’t too ugly. Most of people’s attention does stop at the top of my walls and lights.

Once, though, an artist with a very tall booth behind me got the bright idea to use the BACK of their booth as exhibit space. They put artwork up. (Yes, I know my noun/pronouns don’t match up. I’m going so far to protect their identify, I’m not even mentioning their gender!)

My first clue something was wrong was when a gentleman in my booth looked up, pointed to his wife at something above him–and both of them abruptly left. It happened a few more times. I stepped out from behind my counter–and saw several pieces of artwork displayed prominently above my booth wall.

Not nice. I complained to the show management, and the offending work was taken down.

In fact, this is a good guide for judging if you have crossed the line or not. When someone is in my booth, nothing in your booth should attract them out of it–except, of course, the “regular” view they would have of your booth across the way.

This guideline explains why music could be considered the same kind of infringement, and why some shows ban music being played in your booth.

In a way, it’s too bad–I would love to create a total environment for my booth using music, as I do in my open studio events. But the reality is, it’s hard to do that without at least 3-5 other exhibitors also being able to hear your music (your neighbors and abutters, front and back.) If customers love your music, they will be pulled from your neighbors’ booths into yours. And if they hate your music, you will drive everyone’s customers away.

And if you don’t think that’s a big deal, wait until it happens to you. At another show, someone rows and rows away from me began playing a guitar–and customers streamed from booths all around to go see what was happening.

Also, think how it would sound if everyone played music–even soft music–in their booth. Can you say cacophony? (I can say it, but I couldn’t spell it. I had to look it up.)

Another common “trespassing” offense is exhibitors who use the aisles to display work. If the work is on your booth walls, that’s usually okay. But if you put a rack of clothing out in the aisle, that is usually verboten (or should be.)

Not only does are you taking up more floor space than you paid for, but you are actually affecting the traffic flow of customers in the aisle. People are either slightly blocked by the rack–and pause to look, or even decide to go into the booth. Or worse, they swerve around it–and the swerve can actually move them totally past the entrance to YOUR booth (if you have the misfortune to be next to this craftsperson.)

Even sitting on a chair in front of your booth has this effect. In fact, it can be worse. I’ve stood at the end of a row of booths and watched people apparently swerve nonchalantly around a seated artist.

I say “apparently” because several things are actually going on. They are not only avoiding the artist’s physical space, but his emotional space. When you walk around someone, you tend to avoid eye contact–like maneuvering down a crowded sidewalk. It’s the way we peacefully navigate in crowded spaces. We avert our eyes slightly, murmur an apology if necessary–”…’scuse me, pardon me”–and move on.

Except when people avoid eye contact, they tend to look away–and miss looking at the booth next to that artist’s booth. Ta da! Your six seconds of opportunity to visually attract people into your booth is gone. Six seconds or LESS, because that’s how much time it takes to walk past a booth.

The rack people usually know exactly what they are doing. In fact, at one show I did, the person (not coincidentally, a buy-sell guy) asked to put a rack in my booth and offered me $10 for every garment I sold. (I thought it was odd at the time–I was very green–and said no. Now I know how totally bozo that request was!)

Although usually high-end shows, don’t allow racks in the aisle, the first artist to ever block entrance to my booth was a very famous artist, who does all the top shows. The rack actually extended several feet across my booth. (**fume**)  This person ought to have known better.

Show management is usually good about trying to keep the aisles clear, for fire safety rules if nothing else. If you’ve asked the person nicely to move the rack, and get no response, show management will handle that one for you.

The chair people….I dunno, I don’t have a great solution for that one. Except to ask nicely if they would move to the other side of their booth, away from your side. I’ve done this before, and it works reasonably well. At outdoor shows, it’s possible to sit outside the aisle, and then everyone is happy (and the aisles are clear.) Again, sometimes show rules come right out and say “no chairs in the aisles”, and again, they will handle this if asked.

Another way you should stay in your booth is vocally. When you are talking to your customers, it’s easy to get excited. And some of us do get a little exuberant–and loud. Please, please, lower your voice. Do try to remember that this really isn’t fair to your neighbors who are also trying to talk about their work. It’s a small space–even if you want to talk to one person so that the person browsing in the other corner can hear you, it doesn’t take much volume in a 10′x10′ space. If people three booths down can hear everything you’re saying, you are being too loud.

One artist near me was so exuberant one year, customers came while they were away from the booth–and I could do their pitch for them perfectly. (Okay, that should NOT be read as encouragement to bellow. I’m not going to do that for you if you keep it up.)

Another way to stay in the booth is to keep your bad mood and complaints to yourself. Let me say that again, in big, bold letters:

KEEP YOUR BAD MOOD AND COMPLAINTS TO YOURSELF.

I am astonished at artists who rant at the drop of a hat, especially during a fair. It’s bad enough to have to be around people like this in any circumstances. Set-up and breakdown are stressful enough. We all have our moments, of course. But someone who is unhappy and determined that everyone else needs to know that, is a total downer.

It’s hard enough to listen to this before and after a show. But during a show, it’s criminal. Nothing breaks a happy fair shopping mode than listening to someone else complain.

If you are a show complainer, you may think your fellow artisans are admiring you for your amazing insights and cutting words. They aren’t. They are sitting there wishing, hoping, praying that you will suddenly be struck down with laryngitis. Or worse.

Because you are bringing everybody down, down, down. And “down” people do not buy stuff.

Save it for later. Save it for drinks with friends. Organize a meeting and get your complaints in a row. Hey, bring some solutions, too! Those are always helpful.

If you must complain, do it Q-U-I-E-T-L-Y, so the only shopping mood destroyed is the one in your own booth. Please, please, please, don’t muck up ours.

Which brings me to the last “stay in your booth”, which is simply, “stay in your booth”.

I’m so guilty of this. I’m so used to the flexibility of my life, being able to move in and out of my studio at will. Staying in my booth all day, every minute, especially at my nine day retail show, is really, really hard.

But it never fails. The minute I leave, someone who came in especially to see me invariably drops in. And I’m not there. “Where were you??!!” hisses my daughter when I come wandering back.

It’s so hard. There are so many temptations, so many lovely things to look at, so many delightful fellow craftspeople to catch up with. I love schmoozing with people, and many are folks I only see at shows.

But try to remember why you are here. This is your big chance to see your customers, those wonderful people who think your work is marvelous, and prove it by buying it. Customers are the people who make it possible for you to even make this work, by providing you with income so you can stay home and make it. Customers are the people who come back in with stories of how your work has made them happy, beautified their home, enriched their lives. They are the ones who bring you photos of your work on their mantelpiece, and bring their friends in to meet you.

This is their time.

I’m really trying to make time for fellow craftspeople after the show, getting together for dinner, etc. It’s hard–they are so interesting!–but it has to be done.

Of course, we could always solve this problem the obvious way–and simply go to a show occasionally as a customer!

Make the most of your show hours. And be a good booth neighbor.

Stay in your booth.

About these ads

7 Comments

Filed under art, booth behavior, booth design, business, craft, craft shows, customer care, display, Good booths gone bad, marketing, selling

7 responses to “GOOD BOOTHS GONE BAD #13: Stay In Your Booth!

  1. monrea

    I don’t know if this fits with this post, but you mentioned speaking etc. I was at a festival 2 years ago, going into every booth (it was my birthday, I wanted to!) to look at everything. One artist so totally turned me off, and I loved her work, and would have possibly bought a small piece. She was on her cell phone. Chatting rather loudly. She saw me, looked, and then went back to talking, saying nothing, until I leaned closer to one of her paintings, when she proceded to lean out of her chair and shove a card at me. Not pleasant. Nobody else was visiting her booth either, and I knew why.

  2. I’ve been following your posts regularly, and find myself nodding in agreement. One suggestion about physically staying in your booth (especially on the last day of one of those multi-day, long shows!); I always take a set of walkie-talkies (little ones that clip on your belt, no larger than a cell phone) and if/when I have to leave for a few minutes, my booth mate and I each grab one and turn it on. That way if anyone does come looking for me (and it invariably happens!)or a question comes up that no one but me can answer I’m no further away than a quick call. During the quiet times one of us can go off and shop or visit and then be right in range if needed.

  3. You’ve done it again, Luann. This series has been thorough and entertaining – but this partciular post should be required reading for all of us who do shows. It includes a number of my personal pet peeves. I often feel like channeling Dr. Phil “What were you thinking?” to my fellow vendors.
    This series is so full of important tips and reminders that I’m going to include a link to my guild members in our monthly newsletter. Many thanks.

  4. Monrea, excellent point, and one I totally forgot to cover in my essay. Thank you for your input!
    Beth, great idea on the walkie talkies. I actually bought a set awhile back, but got intimidated about the set-up–something about registering a frequency?? I bet the cell phones would work well, though. Thank you for this tip.
    And Beth, thank you for your feedback on the series, and for linking it to your newsletter. That’s the best gift you can give a blogger!

  5. Jen

    I have also used the family ban walkie talkies. As long as the batteries are charged up you are in good shape. I do a show every year that has next to no cell phone coverage so the walkie talkies are the only option there.

    On numerous occasions I have encountered those negative people that spend the whole day complaining about their last show or worse yet the one they are currently in. Talk about a lead weight to the spirits!

    A couple of years ago we had a neighbor across the aisle that played music in their booth. The same tape/cd ALL DAY! I like a lot of music but not the same songs over and over again. Another show I do allows musicians to have booths like craft vendors, they sell their cd’s and tapes and they play in their booth. One group likes to play live along with their music, it’s very pretty but again they kept playing the same CD over and over and you could hear them from a number of booths away. Personally I can only listen to “Bring in the Clowns” so many times in one day, please! Several other vendors complained and over the years and thankfully they’ve turned the volume down a little and they’ve shuffled their music a little more.

    Thanks again for sharing your insight on this!

  6. Sounds like deja vu all over again…
    Thanks for the walkie talkie encouragement–I can see I’m gonna have to dig those puppies out again! Actually, for some reason, I think they’re under a pile on my dresser in my bedroom…!!!

    Thanks again for adding your thoughts, it makes the series even better.

  7. I wish I could forward your blog to SO many people. The last show I did, one jeweler (across from me unfortunately) was practically yelling that her earrings were half price (or buy one, get one – it kept changing throughout the day) and of course when people in my booth heard that charming bit of news their eyes would glaze over and they’d “subtly” work their way out and across the ailse. Grrr! I wish she’d have “stayed in her booth” and shut the HEL* up!

    Plus it was just a bad show anyway so that didn’t help matters.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s