Show organizers have a tough and sometimes thankless job. There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes in pulling everything together to make an amazing event. The purpose of this article is to give some food for thought as to what vendors think. We posted on our social media accounts asking for vendors to come to us with their grievances, thoughts, and praises – this is the result.
Be Conscious of Your Vendor Make Up
The number one thing that vendors note, time and time again, is frustration of turning up at shows just to find they are one of many in their category. This is not just a problem for vendors: events that are oversaturated with particular types of vendors give a poor overall experience to shoppers and vendors alike. This happens particularly frequently with bath and body products and jewelry. Limiting replication within categories will make for a much better, well-rounded event. If your event has direct sales representatives – avoid duplication entirely.
Communication, Communication, Communication
It goes without saying that vendors care about the shows they are attending. They want to know what to expect, the plan for the day, and any pertinent event-specific details that are relevant. This communication starts before they even apply. Having your vendor call out and/or application form as detailed and explicit as possible is your first step. Not sure what to include? The most requested information is included in the “Submit an Event” form – this is a great start (and submitting the form means your event will show up even quicker on our calendar). Being explicit with details regarding the size of space, whether tables and chairs are provided, the type of vendors you’re looking for (handmade, direct sales, fine art, etc) and if individual insurance is required puts everyone on the same page.
Great communication continues with the timely notification of accepted vendors and emails in the weeks or months leading up to the show. In the week before the show, sending out an email with a floor plan, load in and parking instructions, WiFi information – everything necessary for a smooth event is instrumental. Providing this information up front means that vendors can focus on setting up, and you can take the time to greet everyone – as you won’t need to answer the same questions to every vendor.
Labelling tables and/or spaces so that arriving vendors can find their spot and encroachment is minimized is a great way to continue this standard of communication on the day of the show. Reducing guesswork for vendors as they trundle in laden with bins of products and supplies is always a plus. Ensuring that there is adequate wiggle room around vendors (not cramming them in too tight) will give everyone the space they need to have great interactions with shoppers.
Example: 613flea has a great habit of taping the corners (with booth numbers) of the 10×10 squares onto the Aberdeen Pavillion’s floor. All vendors know exactly where their space is!
A follow up email after the event with a thank you and a solicitation for feedback is never amiss. Vendors have often collected feedback from shoppers as well as their own impression – which could likely help improve your next event.
It is also incredibly appreciated when you let vendors know when they were not successful in their application to your show. Vendors put a decent amount of time and effort into applications and are often holding the date for your event – letting them know when your decisions have been made allows them to move forward with their planning. A generic email, BCC’d to all unsuccessful applicants, is more than fine.
The onus should not be solely on vendors to get the word out. Part of what vendor fees are for should be advertising (if your vendor fees are solely covering the venue/rental costs of your events – consider raising them!). Facebook ads in the weeks leading up to the event, physical signage by the venue (especially the day of) and vendor spotlights on social media are all ways to get the word out and shoppers in.
If Possible, Have Volunteers
Some shows (particularly ones at schools) have armies of volunteers – some shows have none. Volunteers are a welcome help to vendors – and you don’t need armies to make a difference. Simply having a few posted to the doors to hold them open and give directions before and after the show creates a welcoming and helpful experience.
Example: All Saints High School in Kanata has an army of students at the ready for their event. Greeting, giving parking directions, helping unload cars and bring in supplies with carts – it’s a great way to start off an event!
Small Gestures Matter
Vendors are people. Taking the time to go around your event – at any point in the day – and say hello and introduce yourself to everyone makes a world of difference. If you are able to check in at the beginning of the day and ensure everything is going well – even better.
Organizers and vendors all aim for shows to be successful, with happy vendors, organizers, and shoppers. By working together, cutting each other some slack, and remembering that even the smallest of gestures count – shows can be an even more resounding success.
ShowWiz.ca is an online resource that offers a comprehensive calendar of craft and vendor shows and a vendor directory. Currently serving Eastern Ontario and the National Capital Region, ShowWiz.ca works to connect vendors, organizers, and shoppers with opportunities that work for them.