I consider myself a fairly seasoned craft show exhibitor. I sell my jewelry at juried craft shows which last two to three days and make the majority of my money during these shows. I used to do about twenty shows a year, covering territory from Virginia to Connecticut, both indoors and outdoors, and boy do I have some stories to tell!
Like the time we broke down the booth and packed it into the van during a massive thunder and lightning storm (with a 3-year old Zack placidly watching a movie on the van's DVD player... best. money. spent. EVER.) Or the time a woman loudly proclaimed my very very very simple pale pink gemstone necklace was "TACKY, y'all!". The irony? She was wearing Daisy Duke cut-off shorts, a belly-baring tank top, and a straw hat with a vivid assortment of dangly roach clips. Oh, and she was at least 60 years old. I have to admit to laughing out loud when she said that.
But now I only manage two to four shows a year, and this year I had to cancel my two spring appearances, so it's been a full YEAR since I've unpacked all the gear and set out to occupy a 10x10 square foot piece of real estate. When you a) haven't done things for a while, and b) fail to go over the checklist you normally peruse every time you prepare for a show, golly-gee-whiz mistakes and a whole big box of WTH tends to show up.
Take today. Rick unpacks the heavy-duty dolley to cart things in and ....
... the wheel falls off and goes rolling merrily down the parking lot.
This is when it's awesome to have a GPS to show where the nearest hardware store is! Before we go to a show, we always make sure we know where there's a Lowes, a Walmart or Target, (and, of course, a Starbucks). Know where to go when things you thought you packed decided to take their own road trip. I've had to race out at 9pm to buy everything from wood shims to socks. You just never know what you're going to forget.
But then there are things that happen just from sheer stupidity.
I have a check list, specific to each show I do, and I always check it. Always. But not this time. Why not? I have no clue. But neither Rick nor I checked it so there are some things missing in my booth. Business cards, for instance. I have about, oh, 30. Yeah, stupid. Unlike my normal two-tins-of-two-types of business cards shown above, I have... thirty. So I'm glad my box stickers have my web site on them! Do you have stickers on your boxes? Make sure you put your web site on them!!! Ditto for your invoices. I forgot those, too, but luckily found some stashed in my chair's side pocket. Holy cow, what a nightmare if I forgot those. So add knowing where the nearest Staples is to your list!
Finally, allow for your own comfort. I have a tackle box I carry with an inhaler, antibacterial stuff, lip balm, mints, all that sort of thing, and I'm good about replacing stuff as soon as I run out. But when I last did a show, I had short hair. Now, it's long.
What does a girl with long hair need when she gets hot? A hair tie or rubber band. I had -- duct tape. And that was NOT going to work, although I did look at it long and hard.
Duct tape can't quite fix EVERYTHING.
What works? A zip tie! I kid you not. So lesson learned -- pack for contingencies. Hair ties, band aids, water bottle, safety pins. Things like that should go in a kit that never leaves your tackle box. (Just remember to take the tackle box WITH you).
I'm still missing some things. We have no idea where my butterflies (to clip on the curtains) or the flowers (to put in blank spots on the table) or the sign for my book went. But all in all, the booth looks great and will look even better if it fills with people this weekend!
So if you don't have a checklist for show preparation, my strong suggestion is MAKE one, and oh yeah, be sure to, you know, CHECK it. When things go wrong, just take a deep breath before you run screaming down the street waving your hands in the air. Chances are there's a solution nearby, whether it's the closest Home Depot or the next-door neighbor at the show. As long as you remembered to bring your jewelry, you're fine.
(Wait. Did I remember to pack the jewelry? Aw man.....)