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In-person shows

My own tips on how to set up a craft-show booth

There are many, many resources and blog articles giving info on how to set up a booth at a craft or art fair. Rather than reiterate when others have shared I'll add a few things below that I haven't seen others post much about.

#1 Expect that your display will change often due to unforeseen circumstances. Weather will influence your display, furniture will break, etc. After a couple of years of doing shows you will likely have a range of ideas that you can implement on a moment's notice. While you are building these years of experience I recommend practicing a variety of different ways to set up your work. Take pictures of these different booth set ups and keep them for your records. You will likely refer to them from time to time. Plus the higher end shows will frequently ask for a booth photo and it's nice to be able to pick the best looking one!

Here are some examples of situations that happened to me at shows where I was forced to change my display at the last minute. 1) We had a problem with our canopy so we were in bright sun. If you are doing an outdoor show think about how you would handle that situation, or worse yet, rain. 2) There was a large forest fire 40 miles away from an outdoor show I did and ash was blowing into the front 1/3 of the booth. Decisions had to be made about moving inventory further back, cramping the space. 3) A display rack broke and I had to quickly pivot and utilize hooks along my tent walls in order to get important inventory visible.

#2 Photograph everything. Like I mentioned above, photograph different versions of your booth. The photos are also useful if you have a booth helper at set up. A visual diagram of how you want your booth set up is extremely helpful, especially if you have a lot of furniture pieces to arrange.

#3 Make a packing list for your entire season of shows and continually update it. In my email drafts I have a packing list for all of my shows. If I think of items that I'd like to add, my list is easily accessible and I can update it. No matter how many times I've done a show a packing list is essential, and its extremely helpful to have a digital version to keep working on.

#4 Continually develop your skills with setting up your booth. It's tempting to come up with one good display and use it over and over. If you stumble across a good set up I encourage you to try it for awhile but eventually you should be refreshing parts of it. There are numerous resources out there to help inspire you. Be selective about what you use for resources and pick the highest quality sources of inspiration that you can find. Look for the experts! My favorites are the show photos from Renegade Craft Fair and booth photos from high-end shows like the American Craft Council. The goal is not to copy what others are doing but learn from how they are setting up their booth. If you find booth photos you like, figure out what exactly you like about the set up- do you like how they utilize the vertical space in their display? Does the display have a focal point that is inviting and draws people in? etc. If you have one of the higher end shows nearby, I recommend visiting so you can see the booths in person as well. You will see examples of good booth set ups that may not be evident in photos.

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