Shows & Events Tips for exhibiting

by Pete Mosley

Pete Mosley, craft&design's Business Editor, talks about...

Shows and Events
12 important things to think about

It’s the time of year when thoughts turn to the whys and wherefores of selling at shows and events. These represent an enormous investment to make in the success of your business, so getting things right is of paramount importance. This applies both to your choice of event and the ways in which you use the opportunity.

How do you make the right choice?

I’ve spent years talking to people both pre and post show and it still baffles me why some people do extremely well at some shows and others whose work is of equally high quality fare less well. One the face of it, it seems to be a bit of a lottery. However, I think that there are certain things you can do to increase the chances of success.

Choosing the right event is tricky, but I think the quality of research that is done prior to booking can make a huge difference. It’s not a decision that can be made by pointing a dampened finger at the prevailing wind.

Know who you are selling to.

Who is your ideal customer? Do they attend the show you are thinking of attending?  Some people go to shows simply to research the marketplace, others to buy.

It strikes me that the makers who stand the best chance of success are the ones who have taken the time to talk to other makers, talk to organisers, test what organisers are saying about their shows by talking to past exhibitors, and talk to people that have attended the show as a buyer.  Get an all round view.

What turns buyers on or off?

Buyers can tell if someone has misjudged how their work fits in the space they have been allocated.  Think ahead, customise the way you select and display your work specifically for that environment.

Stay clean and clutter free.

Show just enough – the stand should be neither too minimal nor jam- packed. There are loads of things you need to have easy access to but which you must keep out of view. And make sure thesethings fall easily to hand when you need them.  In a small space this can be tricky – so plan ahead.

Light your stand well.

Lighting makes a huge difference. This needs to be tested in advance. It’s not just about people being able to see what’s on sale. The light needs to complement the work itself and provide the right level of illumination without dazzling or forcing people to squint.

Visual height.

Think about how your stand will look from a distance. How will it look as people move closer to it? Have you thought through how you will catch people’s attention when there may be other visitors between them and your stall? A bit of height can work wonders.

How you behave.

What you do between your conversations with visitors can be key to whether people stop or walk by. If it is possible to do something that relates to your craft, but which can be put down between conversations, so much the better, If you can’t, maybe a short video on a loop could fill that gap. We all tend to walk past stalls where the vendor looks like they are ready to pounce, or are looking bored and disengaged. Or reading a magazine. Or openly eating sandwiches.

Opening lines.

How will you welcome people to your stand? This is much easier if you have an open space rather than a stand with a countertop. The latter is easier for the customer because the can begin to have a good look without having to make eye contact. Folk may come and go a few times before you need to say anything at all. The other thing to remember is that not everyone is bold when it comes to talking to makers. A simple ‘Hi, have you travelled far today?’ is a better opener than a sales oriented question.


Copyright and theft of intellectual property is a serious issue but it's wrong to regard everyone who wants to take a snap as a potential thief. Increasingly, mobile phones are used to help make buying decisions – especially if the key decision maker isn’t present.  A discreet ‘please ask’ sign is better than ‘no photography allowed’ which will simply encourage people to walk away.

Every visitor is different.

If they seem to like you and your work then the conversation is really an opportunity to create a long-term relationship. And this opportunity is there irrespective of whether the person buys on the spot or goes away to think about it.  Leave the door open, metaphorically speaking.

Have something nice to give the casual enquirer, but better still get their email address too – it is now possible to download an app onto your tablet to automate this process.

Attitude and body language.

We all know what constitutes a good attitude.  We all want to feel welcome without being hassled, to be greeted with a smile, to be given time to browse and ask questions in out own good time.  Body language is trickier to keep under conscious control. If you are anxious or have just lost a sale you can end up looking a bit out of sorts. Prepare yourself for this and rehearse a 10 second routine that involves a few deep breaths and a reminder to yourself to remain positive and put the smile back on your face. Also, wear the clothes that you feel right in. If you don’t like wearing suits – don’t – you’ll end up feeling out of sorts. Be true to yourself. Think about how you can make things comfortable for yourself and you are more likely to appear confident.
If you are a potter, there’s nothing wrong with looking like a potter. I think you’ll know instinctively what I mean.

Terms, conditions and paperwork.

If you expect to be dealing with trade buyers, get your terms and conditions, order forms and business stationery sorted out well in advance and get advice on this if necessary. You will look much more professional if you can talk about your own terms with confidence and people will be less inclined to try and exploit apparent naivety or inexperience. Clear simple forms encourage people to sign on the dotted line.  Be clear about production timescales and delivery. And don’t forget to be clear about invoicing and payment arrangements from the word go.  Making the sale is sometimes just the start of a much longer chain of events.

All the best for a prosperous future!

craft&design Magazine - Issue 238

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