We just wrapped up our 9th time exhibiting at SDCC! We had SO much fun and like any convention, it was so much hard work! Many casual con-goers don’t exactly know the amount of work that goes into an event BEFORE it even starts; setting up a booth is an art all on its own. Over the years, we’ve made a lot of mistakes and corrections so we’d like to spread some knowledge onto fellow makers who may be starting out!
Attend lots of conventions.
Attending craft fairs and conventions is a great way to find out what’s popular, what people are buying, booth inspiration (hey, Pinterest!) and help find what kind of craft fairs/ conventions/ expos will best suit your style and size of following. Your first convention probably shouldn’t be SDCC (it’s insane, trust us), and also don’t apply to LA Zine Fest if you have no zines! Finding the right convention for your size and brand is a delicate balance, but exposing yourself to more and more events will only help make those decisions way easier.
We've experienced a ton of conventions both as attendees and vendors and it's always an opportunity to learn. We get a ton of booth inspiration, can gauge the crowd and most importantly, meet loads of new artists. Many times they are candid about their experience with the convention, which gives us a good idea on whether or not our brand would be a good addition to the next year's event.
Join Facebook groups.
Another way to find which conventions are best for you is by joining groups on Facebook! They can be great for finding conventions in your region, knowing when the applications open up and many members even give advice on where to get merchandise made!
The idea of branding goes all the way back to “the old days” when branding cows first started. It was a way to let farmers know which cow was theirs amongst hundreds of cows. That idea couldn’t be more relevant in a convention setting! How do you stand out from other cows? You can do it in a variety of ways: color scheme, characters, fonts, etc. But no matter what, do NOT stray away from the personality of your brand. It’s important that people can look at your booth and immediately know what it’s about. Having a tall sign with your brand’s name on it will also help people see your booth from across the aisle.
Take our booth: you're gonna get the same silly guts, fun, bright colors and fonts throughout our space. The price tags, merchandise, signage and even shopping bags all look very consistent. Even the fun, punny feel of our brand is present within our booth. Our hope is that if a person has never heard of I Heart Guts, they will look at our Penis Plush or our Liver Not A Fighter tee and immediately understand that we like to have fun when it comes to anatomy!
Displaying the goods.
The actual design of your display is pretty tricky. When there are crowds and crowds of people, laying your products flat on your table just isn’t going to be visible. Build up. Crates and standees that don’t take away from your fab products are a great solution. Having new or featured products front and center is also a great way to get the customer to see exactly what you want them to. Also keep in mind that people like to touch stuff. So if you have valuable or easily-dirtied items, maybe keep them out of reach from children or clumsy customers. But any merchandise that can be touched, should be! Touching products does this weird thing to our brain that causes us to think that we own the product or that it can feasibly be ours (Harvard Business Review https://hbr.org/2011/12/please-touch-the-merchandise) . Or if you sell anything wearable, figure out if there’s a way you could possibly have the potential customer try it on (if it’s jewelry, provide a mirror!).
There's definitely a LOT to look at with our display, but we keep the plush in one place, the pins in another and so-forth so that it's easy for customers to navigate through our booth.
Make the shopping experience easy.
If you have a booth, make it easy for customers to walk in and out. If you have a table, make it easy to see all of the products at one glance. Keep in mind that some customers do not like to talk when they shop so be sure to make prices easily accessible and very visible (this will also save you from the zillion “How much is this?” questions). Accept credit card and have lots of change available. There’s nothing worse than having to turn away a customer because you don’t accept their preferred method of payment. With Venmo, PayPal, Square and cold hard cash, there’s no reason to have to do that!
We like to make our price tags large enough so that folks can easily read them and shop with ease! You can't see them, but we have loads of extra inventory so that we can keep stock as much as possible.
You’re just as important— if not more important— than the products you sell. Customers can easily buy your product online, but they chose to stop at your booth in part because of you. This is your chance to tell new customers about your brand and thank returning customers for their continued support. So many amazing friendships have started at conventions for us-- both from fellow creators and customers. It’s truly one of our favorite parts of conventions. So puuuh-leeeease get your face out of your sketchbook and talk to some folks about what you’re passionate about! People support people and things they relate to, but how can they do that if you don’t talk to them?
Busy conventions can be so fun because we're constantly meeting tons of new people! It's always such a nice refresher to get our faces away from our computer screens and in front of the people that make our brand what it is. We've made tons of friends this way from both sides of the booth— both customers and other artists!
Take good inventory.
Be kind to yourself and take good inventory before AND after the show! This will help you determine how much money you made, if you need to reorder anything and also what products did best at which events. Was this event a dud? Will you come back next year? Good inventory will help determine that. And if you’re using Square, keeping inventory is pretty easy!
On one hand, you don't want to bring too much because that's a huge hassle to pack up. But on the other hand, you don't want to run out of anything and wonder how much more of said item you could have sold! This year, we ran out of Penis Plush BUT luckily, our fab team at Disburst saved the day!
Take care of yourself.
Now this seems like a weird point, but it’s one that’s often overlooked: STAY HYDRATED AND EAT FOOD. Since you’re busy tending to customers and talking up your brand (...right?) it’s incredibly easy to forget to drink water or find time to eat a meal. And it’s really important to stay healthy, especially during multi-day conventions!
We could go on and on, we hope these baseline tips help you at future conventions. If we missed anything, please let us know in the comments below!