Hey friends! Today I’m sharing a not so fun post in my craft show tips series, about how to deal when an event doesn’t go so well. These are always hard to go through, and maybe even harder to talk about, but hopefully we can all work through those hard events together and learn a little something from each other about how to deal.
I won’t propose to be an expert about how to deal when events don’t go as well as I’d hoped. I’ve have my fair share of days when the morning goes really slow and I just sit down in my chair, open a book, and call it a day at 11:45 a.m., when there are still three or four hours left in the event. My most vivid memory of that happening is at a Chippewa Valley spring fundraiser a few years ago—it was the first nice day of the summer, and no one in Michigan wanted to be doing anything inside that day (including me, actually).
But even though I’m not an expert, I will share the things that I try to do and keep in perspective when I’m at a slow show. It can be really frustrating to go into an event with really high hopes, just to discover that nothing is going to happen that day, or that weekend, or at least not happen the way that you hoped. I’m not going to pretend that doing any of these things will take that frustration away, because they won’t, but I at least try to practice these things and bring something positive out of what would otherwise be a “wasted” show.
Plan and Reflect
Writing for this blog has helped me a lot, even over the past few months, with reflecting on how events went and how my expectations might have been out of line with reality. I’ve gotten into the habit of bringing a notebook with me and making little observations about shows throughout the day so that I don’t forget the little details of the show (again, mostly for the benefit of this blog), and I wish I’d been keeping that kind of a journal for longer.
Even though I’ve been experimenting a lot this year with different shows and branching out into doing events with new promoters, I have been trying to do a bit more research into the events that I’m signing up for, which is a lot different than how I used to do things. When I first started out, I was very susceptible to promoters who would walk into our booth at a show and say things like “I’m doing an event next month and I love your booth. You’d be a perfect fit! Do you want to join us?” It’s always nice to be wanted, and I did a lot of shows back then that were terrible, because I just went with that feeling and signed up basically on the spot.
Things are a lot different now than they even were four years ago, too—Facebook is a huge way that I do research for my shows, and the event page for a show is usually a pretty reliable way to gauge the projected traffic and figure out if an event is worth doing or not (of course, it’s not an exact science).
When I’m at a show, and it’s slow, I tend to have a lot of time to reflect, because I really resist pulling out my phone when I’m in the booth, other than to check the weather or make a quick Instagram post about the event. I like to disconnect for that time and just be alone with my thoughts, which can be hard, especially if I’m super frustrated. On the other hand, that “quiet” time has also been the source of some good ideas for the blog and for new projects that I want to start.
I did this at the Saline show first thing. Communication had been rough, the show was misrepresented, and I was feeling like not much was going to happen for me that day, especially after I sold my first piece (the only chalk painted piece I had and the one that fit in best for that particular show).
So I set myself a goal—I wanted to make 10 sales that day. That might seem like a lot, but I was expecting to do even better than that when I first signed up for the show, so I was really lowering my expectations. Now, I think I know what you’re thinking—what good is setting a goal when traffic is slow and you have a bleak outlook about what you’re going to do that day?
If I hadn’t set that goal, I might have just sat down in my chair to stew and read and mentally check out of the whole deal. But having that goal forced me to stand in the middle of my booth, to greet the people that walked by, to talk to those who came in even more (I always ask if they are looking for anything in particular and if I can answer any questions), and to offer prices on things that people were eyeing or picking up so that they didn’t have to look at the tags.
The longer someone stays in your booth and the more you talk to them, the more likely they are to buy something. And if I was sitting down in my chair not greeting people or talking to them or drawing them into the booth, I wouldn’t have made half the sales I did. Having the goal of 10 sales really helped me to stay positive and keep my head in the game. And guess what? It worked. I actually exceeded my goal and made 11 sales (I might have beat it by even more if it hadn’t started raining at 2:30). Again, I don’t always make my goal (see the Shed 5 post), but it really helps me to stay motivated, positive, and on task during the event if I have a clear vision laid out for what I want to accomplish that day.
I have to be really careful with this one because dreams often turn into thoughts like “when I have my store I won’t have to worry about [insert show-related concern—like rain, for example—here]…” It’s easy to think about what I won’t have to worry about and see that “obviously” things will be much easier *when* I have my store, but in that moment I’m not thinking about how difficult it will be to deal with increased overhead, employees, the stress of running a retail store, etc. etc.
But if I can avoid getting entrenched in that line of thought, dreaming about the future is probably my best defense against a slow show. I’m doing these events for multiple purposes, after all, and everything I’m doing, even at a slow show, is moving me towards that goal. Making money only seems like the most important part, but other really valuable things are happening, too—I’m expanding my client base, getting exposure, building my email list, and meeting new artists. All of these things fit into my dream in some way, shape, or form, and keeping that in perspective and being positive about the future really helps when things aren’t as positive as they could be in the present.
Talk to Customers
I mentioned this already in the setting goals paragraph, but it’s so important that I’ll mention it again. People will stay in your booth longer if you actually talk to them, and the longer they stay in your booth, the more likely they are to buy something from you.
It’s hard for me to always remember my prices for everything from show to show, so as I’m setting up, I try to look over the tags so that I can just offer prices as people are shopping. Sometimes tags get lost or ripped anyway, so it’s always good to offer so that the customers aren’t searching around looking for the tags on everything.
If they seem interested or comment about how they love the style of the pieces, I tell them about the paint I use and how much I love it. If it’s a newer piece, I tell them that it might feel a little tacky (especially if it’s a hot day) because the wax hasn’t cured yet, and I let them know that it will just take a little time for that particular texture to go away.
Sometimes they will tell me that they’ve tried a certain paint or technique, and I’ll ask them more about that—I’m always interested in learning more about other paints and products anyway, and I almost always ask them where their favorite place to bargain shop is—I’ve found several great new sources for furniture that way, which is always fun.
Work on Your Email List
I put my email list front and center in my booth, and if someone comes into the booth and has a positive reaction to my pieces, I always direct them to sign up. I send a newsletter once a month, so they don’t get totally spammed with useless emails, and I let them know where I’ll be in the coming weeks, what I’m working on, how to contact me, and any other news that I have.
I’ve talked about how important my email list is in a previous post, and I love Jenna Kutcher’s podcast episode on why this is such an important aspect of small business ownership—if you want a refresher on why email lists are so awesome, check out those two places for more info.
How do you deal when an event doesn’t go as planned? Like I said, I am nowhere near the point where I am able to keep it all in perspective, and I have those moments of utter fear and despair that I will ever have a good event again at times, but I’m always trying and learning and figuring it out fresh. Leave a note in the comments about how you deal with slow shows to let me know your tips and tricks!