10 Tips for Effective Vendor Shows

Effective vendor shows are possible.  They come in a variety of forms. Some have hundreds of vendors while others have less than five.  Some cost a small fortune (like thousands) while others are $20 or free.  You will find vendor events at church’s, community centers, schools, hotels, businesses, parks, outdoor festivals, etc.  Every event is different so it’s important to “vet” the event before committing your time and money.  “Vetting” simply means investigate; ask questions.  Even if the event is $20 or free, make sure you know how it’s being marketed and who is running the event.  Also, I’ll share some of the mistakes I made choosing vendor shows.  Not every vendor show is for you.  

Questions to ask before committing to an event:

  1. How many years have you done this event?
  2. What is your foot traffic?  (How many guests attend the event?)
  3. Is the event free to guests or do they charge?  If so, how much?
  4. How many vendors?
  5. Where do you market?
  6. When do you start marketing?
  7. Do you have a social media package for me to share?
  8. If over 100 vendors in multiple rooms/floors, does traffic flow to every location and how?
  9. How much does it cost?  (This is usually listed but the cost of the event should coincide with questions 1-8.  If this is a first year event, the cost should be low.  If they pre-sold hundreds of tickets then the cost will be higher.)
  10. Is electricity and wifi offered?  And if so, how much?  (This may seem obvious but electricity is usually extra and negotiated in the application.  Wifi is typically free but be careful because in certain locations, it doesn’t work well. ____________ See This post for options for taking payment at vendor shows).
  11. How many vendors with similar products? While this doesn’t matter to me, I know some people don’t like having similar competition at events.  If it’s a large event, there will be multiple companies within your industry.  For example, Christmas Shows bring in a million jewelry vendors.  While this is an exaggeration, of course, sometimes a large percentage of the vendors are some sort of jewelry vendor where there are artisans, direct sellers, and crafters. 

Don’t let this bother you IN ANY WAY.  It’s to your advantage.  You can check out their displays and see what might work for you.  You can collaborate and chat with them about the good vendor events/craft shows in the area and so much more. 

Once you decide that the vendor show event is completely worth your time and money, use the following *checklist* to make your event profitable, engaging, and value-added.    

Vendor Checklist – How do I Have a Profitable & Engaging Booth?

  • Share the event with your tribe.  You never know who can make it.  Use social media, email, handouts at shows or people you run into every day.
  • Show up at the earliest time they give you!  When they tell you setup is between 7 am – 9 am.  Show up at 7 am…as much as it might be brutal to get up that early, you paid money for this so make it worth your time!
  • Make sure most of your presentation can be wheeled in with one or two trips.  
  • Create a system that is easy setup / take down.  This is easier said than done sometimes.  Be purposeful with what you have to show at the event.  Inventory is good but too much is overwhelming.  I hope this makes sense.    
  • Once you are all set up (hopefully by 8 am with our example here), walk around with your business card and give one to every vendor at the event in attendance.  I include a monetary discount for anything purchased at the event today and share that I have a referral plan.  I mention this after I talk with them about their business and ask them several questions about their business.  Ideally, they have your contact information and may either purchase today, in the future, or offer a referral.
  • Balloons.  If you are at a large event, I like to have a set of happy face balloons (or whatever goes with your theme).  As I am walking around introducing myself to other vendors, I mention I’m “at the table with the happy face balloons”.  This brings a smile to everyone’s face.  
  • Remove all chairs.  There is no reason to sit at a vendor show.  Everyone is moving around and you should too!  Stay engaged with everyone whether it’s just a quick “wave” or “hello” to those passing by your booth.    
  • Demonstrate your product.  Demo the entire day.  Oh, it gets tiring but people will come to your booth over your neighbors!  Try it.
  • Offer simple payment method(s).  With so many payment options on our cell phones, it’s easy to take payment now.  Offer services such as Paypal, Square, Venmo, Apple pay or Google pay.  They all charge a small fee.
  • Capture Information.  For solopreneurs, they attend vendor shows to meet new people, build their list, and meet potential customer or business partners.  In order to do this, it’s important to have a small questionnaire to capture their information.  Contact information can include some or all of the following:  name, email, phone, address, interests (For example, Interested in sample product?  Interested in hosting?  Interested in new business opportunity?  
  • Know your competitors.  Talk with your competitors.  Ask them questions.  They may become your business partner someday.  You never know.    
  • Smile and be kind.  
  • Dress professionally.  Frumpy doesn’t cut it when you have five seconds to represent you and your business.
  • Take water and food / snacks.  Refuel while you are standing, demoing, and chatting all day!

Let’s talk COST of a Vendor Show 

1.  You will see events from free to thousands of dollars!  Typically, the cost is based upon previous foot traffic or anticipated foot traffic.  It seems like wedding shows are the most expensive.  Depending on your average service or product will determine how much to pay for the event.  

2.  Be careful of events costing $100 or more.  Figure out how much you need to sell to pay for the cost of the event and cost of your time.  Make sure this isn’t a “1st Annual” event because foot traffic tends to be lower.  And, just because an event is on the higher end, doesn’t mean it’s beneficial to you.  For example:  I signed up for a bridal event because I was referred by a friend.  I thought, “Awesome…it’s close and I know the venue”.  What I didn’t know was the event planner.  She was MEAN.  She was UNORGANIZED.  She was not a marketer.  About 5 people came to the event with 20 vendors.  Yep.  Over $100 in cost and a waste of time.  Ugh.  What did I learn from this event?  Always talk with the organizer and find out all the details before you commit to spending your hard earned money, and spending your precious time.  

3.  In many businesses, one booking covers way more than a $100 table fee.  However, vendor shows are a crapshoot.  A gamble.  

4.  While every vendor show is different and based on multiple variables such as weather, local events, and marketing efforts…I find vendor shows under $100 to be the most profitable (personal opinion here…).  

Let’s talk COVID19 & The Virtual Vendor Show Experience

Personally, I enjoy live vendor shows because I learn about new products, meet competitors, and gain new prospects.  Of course, COVID19 put a tailspin on all large gatherings so we have to be creative.  Recently, I was involved in a large (13 vendors) online, week-long vendor show.  It was incredibly organized, informative, and successful.  I love the thrill of a challenge!  Do you?  I encourage you to find vendor shows that interest you whether they are in-person or online.  

For the fall selling season, many craft shows are booked by September; however, this may not be the case for 2021.  Reach out to the event coordinator with questions, or to see about availability.  If the event is full this year and it looks like one amazeball event, then ask to be put on the “wait list” for next year. 

Organize your calendar, do your research, and happy selling!

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