One of the most difficult concepts to absorb about booths is where we (the seller) should be and what we should be doing.
Again, building on Bruce Baker’s advice, I’ve come up with a great metaphor that may help you think about this more effectively.
We know we shouldn’t “hide” in the booth. For one thing, it feels weird, and for another, it is weird. Bruce suggests getting right out in the aisle. But why is it okay to stand in the aisle, and not sit in the aisle? (I mean, sit in a chair on the aisle, not sit in the middle of the aisle…. Oh, you know what I mean!)
We know we should “look busy”–but busy doing what? Bruce suggests “appropriate store behavior”–dusting, tagging–but why is that okay and talking on your cell phone not okay?
I think about this a lot, and I think I have a metaphor that will help you get a handle on this. Please don’t take it too literally. It’s just meant to give you a framework for how this works.
Pretend you have been invited to a party to someone’s house you don’t know very well. They are said to be a consummate hostess. You’re looking forward to an enjoyable evening.
You show up promptly at 8:00 p.m. You’re not sure it’s the right house–the number is correct, but no porch lights are on, no other cars are around. There is no indications the owner is expecting you. Maybe you’re too early??
You ring the doorbell.
No one answers. Hmmmmmm….. Are you sure you have the right house? Yep. You ring again. Still no answer.
Then you notice a little sign on the door that says, “I’m upstairs, just come in!” So you go in the house, but you feel a little awkward.
The hostess is nowhere to be found. Now that makes you both nervous and intrigued. You get to look around the house for a bit–it’s fun to snoop a little!–but it also feels weird to be in someone’s house with them not there.
You find their book collection, note some good titles, pick up one to read, when suddenly, out of nowhere, the hostess pops out! You gasp, either in fright, or in embarrassment to have been caught going through her books….
So there’s why you should not hide in your booth.
Now let’s rewind the tape and go back to the door. This time when you ring, the door is opened. But the hostess mutters, “Oh, it’s you” and walks away. You are a little dismayed (“Hmmm, is there something in my teeth??”) but you follow her in. She seems disgruntled about something and ignores you. You’re not sure what to do, so you start making small talk about her home. You notice a photo on the fridge, and, thinking it might be a picture of her kids, ask her a question about them. She rolls her eyes, heaves a sigh, and says, “What a stupid question! Do I look old enough to kids?? Those are my NIECES!!”
See? There was the stupid question we talked about last week. How do you feel now? Not good? I didn’t think so.
YOU are trying to be nice and make conversation, and SHE is determined you are being a jerk. Not appropriate party/booth behavior, either.
Let’s rewind once more. You’re back at the door and see the same note. You let yourself in. This time the hostess is not disgruntled. But she’s busy. She’s on the phone with someone. She nods at you as you come in, but she stays on the phone–for another fifteen minutes.
Don’t you feel special?
Was that an appropriate way for your hostess to behave? Nah. Don’t do it in your booth, either.
Rewind again. Door, note, come in. She greets you, and she’s still busy. She’s in a little side room, sewing curtains. And doesn’t stop–she’s just got so many curtains to sew. Make yourself at home! There’s beer in the fridge, she says.
Does this kind of “busy” seem appropriate for a hostess? Probably not. More on “appropriate” busy later.
Rewind one last time. Door, note, come in, some other guests are there, she’s not busy. In fact, you are the object of her affection. She can’t leave you alone! Wherever you go, whatever you look at, whatever you pick up, she chats away. “Oh, I see you like carrots! Have you always liked carrots? Those are good carrots, aren’t they? I picked them myself! I made the dip, too! It’s a great recipe–in fact, I made the recipe! In fact, I grew the dill in the recipe, too! Isn’t it great dill? Why don’t you try this cheese spread? Guess what–I made that, too!”
How do you like that cheese dip? Does the whole situation feel a little, well, labored? Do you feel a little hounded? Do you wish she would just go away and leave you alone?
So how do you think your booth visitors feel when you “share” everything about your art before they even ask?
We have most of the inappropriate party/booth behaviors. Now…how would you like this party scene to go? What could the hostess do better to make you feel “just right”?
Rewind one last time (I promise!)
You arrive at the house. The lights are on, there is a welcome mat at the door, a pot of flowers on the steps, and a little sign that says, “Welcome, guests! Come right in!” But before you even have to grab the door handle, there’s the hostess meeting you at the door.
“Hey, you must be Donna’s friend! I’m so glad you could come! I’m Jill, and this is my home. Welcome!”
She brings you inside and says, “I have a few things I have to finish in the kitchen. Just relax and make yourself at home here in the living room. Would you like white wine or red? Red? Coming right up!”
She hands you a glass of red wine and settles you in. “Back in a few minutes! If you need anything, I’m right here in the kitchen–just holler!” she says cheerfully.
Sipping your wine, you look around you and take in the surroundings. Such beautiful things! So much to look at! You roam around the living room, looking at her eclectic art collection, the lovely paintings on the wall, the comfy furniture, the handmade rugs on the floor. The rugs especially are outstanding. Wow, did she make them?
Soon, you wander into the kitchen where she’s busily….
….cutting up carrot sticks, making dip, pulling out more wineglasses. Doing all those little tasks that you do to get ready for a party. Oh, it smells good in the kitchen!
“What’s that lovely smell? Is it sauteed garlic?” you ask.
“Oh, you’re right! That’s the secret ingredient in my my special handmade carrot dip–sauteed garlic, with a little curry powder thrown in. Isn’t it wonderful? Here, have a taste!” She hands you a carrot with a dollop of dip, you taste–and you are suddenly in love with this carrot dip. You must have more!
“Did you make all those wonderful things in your living room, too?” you ask, wanting to get to know this amazing and talented person better.
“Why, yes, I made some of the things. What caught your eye?” she says. You ask about the paintings and the rugs. She explains that the paintings are by a friend, but yes, she did indeed weave all the rugs on the floor.
She tells you the wonderful story of her aunt who was also a weaver, and how when she was a little girl, she used to go to her aunt’s house and help her set up her loom, and how much she loved the yarns, and how sometimes she got to help dye the yarns….
She takes you back into the living room and shows you one of the rugs, the one that caught your eye first. She shows you the beautiful finishing details, points out the interesting interplay of colors, and tells you about the quality of the wool yarns she selected specially for this rug. She tells you that a rug of this quality is heirloom quality–with the right care, it will last for generations. “This rug will be around for our children’s children’s children to enjoy,” she says.
And before you know it, you are wishing you could have one of those handwoven rugs for your home, too. You know if you had one, you could capture a little bit of the warmth, and exuberance, and passion and artistry of this woman in your own life.
You beg her to make a rug for you, too. Better yet, will she sell this one? Because you know it is the perfect rug for YOU.
Whew! Sorry, I got carried away there.
But I hope this little exercise has helped you understand better the booth behaviors that are appropriate for you.
Be the party. Not the pooper.