The Business Chat – let’s build a booth

Several of you have written me lately to ask about building
your first booth. (You do know that you can email me questions?, always
happy to share information). You have asked about where to buy a booth, and
where to get the parts. Well, let’s talk booth.
You must create a booth that is a showcase for your work,
not a stand-alone fabulous booth. Some booths are so pretty, so creative, so
much a work of art on their own that the product is secondary to the display.
Your display is the supporting character in your act. Without it the show can’t
go on but it should never get a starring part.
What makes a booth successful?
  • They make a great first impression. They can be seen from a distance and provide an overall sense of the artist’s sense of style before you even enter the booth.
  • A great booth is wide open with no little bits of furniture or display racks blocking the entrance. There is also plenty of room to move around in the booth
  • They use colours to enhance the products, not overshadow them
  • The display fades into the background, they are not the first thing you notice. The products are the first things you notice when you look around the booth
  •  Items are, for the most part, displayed in the prime area between waist height and eye level
  • The items are displayed at a variety of heights. Rows upon rows of straight lines are a sales-killer
  • The display is solid and functional. All parts can stand being manhandled by a large number of people

Make a great First Impression
As you think about your booth it’s important that you keep
your brand in mind. Think of an overall colour scheme and the mood that you
want to set. If you haven’t yet done the One Word Challenge now is the time.
Imagine being at a large outdoor craft show with 200
vendors. It’s a sea of white tents. Indoors you are faced with a sea of bright
colours, or if it’s a smaller show just a sea of tables. Your first job is to
stand out from the crowd and attract the customer into your booth.
Curtains are one of the easiest ways to set your mood. I
always have bright blue walls and from a distance they stand out in that sea of
white. Curtains also define a space.
So what if you don’t have any walls? Maybe you only have a
table in a sea of other tables. Try 2
coat stands placed behind your table, now string a curtain between then. Voila,
instant wall that places a visual barrier between you and your neighbours
(competition).  If you have more space
use 2 ladders. Hang a curtain rod between the ladders, not only can you hang a
curtain, you can hang posters. Use a large swath of fabric to cover the ladders
and use the steps of the ladder as display shelves. These suggestions also give
you something to clip lights onto.
Use your walls. Imagine standing at a craft show and looking
down the aisles wondering what to look at next. From a distance shoppers can’t
see work on a table, nor can they see tiny small work (such as earrings).
Makers of large work such as sweaters or artwork have a big advantage here. If
you make small work get yourself some posters. I also have my posters laminated
for weather protection.
TIP: check your local printing companies. Rather than paying
for actual posters I use The Printing House for 11” x 17” photocopies. Full
colour – $2 each. Bargain! For laminating I use Staples, there’s also Kinkos.
Picture frames are a nice way of making a piece of jewelry
look extra special. Try putting a piece of foam core covered in fabric in the
frame so that you can pin the jewelry on. Or you can use screen or mesh in the
frame to hang earrings on. You can either hang the frames on a wall or stand
them on a table.
Speaking of tables, if you are using tables you must use a
tablecloth. (Unless you have gorgeous wood tables instead of the folding card
tables most of us use). Always use plain coloured tablecloths. Screaming bold
patterns simply distract from your work. For the same reason avoid super bright
colours unless your work is even brighter, and avoid metallic cloths.
TIP: Use double-sided tape to make sure the tablecloth
doesn’t get pulled out of place.
Use risers for vertical height. People look at eye level,
not down. Putting your work flat on a table is not only visually boring it
doesn’t attract attention from a distance. There are many crafters who use the
boxes they bring their work in as risers. Simply unload your work and then
cover them with fabric to match your tablecloth. Use double-sided tape to
secure your risers to the table.
How to design your booth and how to build your structure, be
it walls or tables, is completely your decision. There are companies that sell
trade show booths however they are not only very expensive, they are generic
and geared towards corporate trade shows. Besides, you don’t want a display
that looks like someone elses. A lot of people use grid walls (large metal
grids) as they are versatile and you can easily hang shelves or hooks from
them. (King Displays on Adelaide St W in Toronto is a good source). Me, I build
my own (make friends with the people at your local hardware store). We are creative
people, we know how to use tools, make it special.
As to the actual props that you use, let your imagination
run wild. Kitchen stores are a great source of props. Mug stands make nice
earrings stands. Check out home décor stores such as Winners and
Homesense.  If you look closely at other
people displays you’ll notice that most of us are very well acquainted with
Ikea. Whatever you decide to use make sure it’s sturdy. It is one thing to look
cute but can it be bumped and jostled by a crowd without breaking?
If you are looking to create a booth visiting several craft
shows for ideas is your best bet. A great source of inspiration online is
searching through Flickr ( You will also find that as your career
grows your booth design will change. Do not invest a lot of money in your first
booth because in 2 years time you will have a lot more work and it may be
different style. Start off with something that you can change or expand as your
experience grows.
One last tip, take a photo of your booth at every show. They
are great not only to reference back from one show to another, but 10 years
later you will look back on your first booth and laugh. Trust me.

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