The Art of the Fair : The Psychology Behind Vendor Events

The Art of the Fair : The Psychology Behind Vendor Events

I'm in countless vendor groups, which includes everything from art festivals, craft shows, antique shows, conferences, to farmer's markets. I see the same questions over and over again and some of the answers I see make me cringe. 

Example: "What do you wear?" Answer: "T-shirt and sweats! I'm not there to sell myself, I'm there to sell my products. If people don't like it, oh well." 

If that's your attitude, then great! But I'm not sure why you're in these groups if you have no interest in improving your presence as a business. 

And that's just it, you're not if that's how you feel. All of it hinges on the difference between treating what you do like an actual business or treating it like a hobby. If your goal is the latter, then skip this blog post because that's now what I'll be addressing. And if that's how you feel, good for you! Truly. You know what you want, you're happy, and that's what matters. But this is for the people wanting to improve and grow their 'side gig' beyond and be a thriving growing business. 

The number one question you have to tackle before anything else is "What's my brand?" 

Deciding Your Brand

What are your favorite stores? When you walk through a mall or a craft fair, which boutiques do you find yourself drawn to? What clothing stores do you like? What restaurants? We often think that we're drawn to these places for their products. But there's so much more to that. If you take a step back of all the places you're drawn to you'll see there's a theme. That theme is your brand. 

Why's it your brand? If it draws you in then it'll be easier to stay "on brand" when building your business. You won't be constantly battling the aesthetic you love. My brand is what I call Contemporary Boho Chic. It's a bit of a dichotomy, but so am I. I love organic products - and not organic meaning "no chemicals added". I mean something that naturally fits in with the environment around it. (There's so much to say on this alone that I'll make a separate post about it down the line). Contemporary meaning - I like clean lines, spacial awareness, and things to have their place. The opposite of clutter. And then chic because I like the finer things in life. So my products will be geared toward quality more than quantity. I do like lighter colors as well - creams, wood colors, muted mauve, chocolate, etc. And there you have my brand colors. 

I love Canva and recommend getting the upgraded package if you can. You can create your brand board there and when it comes to building flyers or graphics you'll be able to select your brand elements without having to find it, it makes life easier. Once you decide this - then I recommend creating a mood board. (also can be done on canva) and see how it feels. Does it feel right? Is it missing anything? Does it need tweaking? Without knowing your brand every step of the way after this will be an uphill battle. 


Tina Williams Art Mood Board

Deciding your set up 

There's a hot debate in all my groups about whether to set your booth up as a U-Shape, Z-Shape, walk-around, walk-in-front... I read these and I can imagine how overwhelming it must be to read if you're brand new. So here's the simplified version - do you want people walking INTO your booth, or just being in FRONT of your booth? 

Here's my opinion - If you're selling food or beverages then it should be in front. And I mean, food that people are buying and eating there. Otherwise, I think it should always be walk-in. 

Why? The idea is to emulate a typical/comfortable shopping experience that people are used to. Because then people will spend money because that's also what they're used to. (that's the psychology of it) 

How many stores have you been to where you only walk in front of it? The only time this is a thing is with fast-food or coffee. You don't want people skimming your booth - you want them to come in, linger, look around, and then shop. Also, it gives them a chance to escape the crowds, the sun, your booth neighbor who's trying to shove their perfume samples down everyone's throat... the weather, or whatever else is going on in the aisle. 

It's easy for people to get overwhelmed by crowds, make your booth their sweet escape. This is also why I either have a heater or outdoor cooler in my booth as well, depending on the weather. 

How to set up your booth 

Now that you've decided whether you want a walk around or walk into booth how do you set it up? 

I didn't even know there were names to the different types of set ups when I started. Lo and behold, how I set up my booth doesn't have a name. Which is a win for me, because it's different. This is where my interior design background came in handy though. I wanted to create a flow of traffic. Ideally, I can have 2 walls up in my booth and have two sides open for egress and ingress. (getting in and out). This isn't always the case and you'll find that no matter how much you plan, depending on where you are at the event you'll need to make some small adjustments. Some people have their set up so concrete that making these adjustments aren't possible and this ends up hurting their business for their event. Maybe not noticeably, but it does. 

I wanted to create a path for people to come in and either go to the right or left. Why? Because that's what people do when they shop. Typically, people naturally go to their right because most people are right handed. But, and here's the big but - if that's the only flow you have in your booth, if someone steps in and is lingering at the beginning of your booth area, other people walking by won't come in because they can't. So I've created a way for them to go either direction and I have 3-4 points of interest in my booth so if someone's looking at one area others have 3 other areas to look at. 

Bonus tip - I also do this when I host parties. I have 3-4 different 'stations' so not everyone is stuck around the food and drink area. The food is in one area, snacks in another, drinks in another... it encourages movement and movement means: mingling and no awkwardness. 


Pay Stations - to have, or not to have?
 I have a checkout stand. This is something a lot of people in my groups find "dumb". But it's been my favorite add-on, and here's why. 

Again, I'm emulating a natural shopping experience. People don't like to ask questions. People don't like to step out of their comfort zone. They're in your booth and they're already out of their comfort zone so try to make everything else as naturally flowing as well. 

When they see a checkout stand they never have to ask "Do I pay you?" or whatever question they feel is silly. (We know these aren't silly questions, but people doubt themselves frequently) 

My check out stand is a 4' table. I love these 4' folding tables because they're just wide enough (23") to get the right amount of products on and not have to lean over things. They also don't take up foot traffic area and you can reconfigure your booth as needed. (remember when I mentioned making adjustments) 

I love these tables because you can adjust the height to be counter height, etc.

Ideally you want to have a director's chair - or something of that height, so you're closer to eye level of people when you're sitting. It makes it seem more like you're ready to chat with them and do business instead of sitting and relaxing - where they don't want to disturb you. But director's chairs aren't cheap so this is one you can hold off on since it isn't a priority. I've also added a fur throw to mine that's on brand with my colors. and last but not least, my checkout stand has a clear "drop" part of the table. Where people can set down their things to look through their purse, wallet, etc. I didn't realize what a need this was until I had it set up. I could say that easily 9 out of 10 people use this part of my table to get themselves situated, which also helps them buy things because they know it's there, it's easy to get their wallet out, and they're not struggling to search through their bag. I have my payment options open there and a few of my smaller, lower priced 'add-on' items that people often throw in - especially around the holidays - which we, as vendors, of course love! 

My checkout stand is near the part of my booth you leave so it just works out. People aren't saying "excuse me" to get out or get in people's ways. 

As you can see from the photo above, my tablecloth is wrinkled. Even though I ironed it right before we left, it still became wrinkled. I'm looking for a great portable steamer so if any of you have suggestions please let me know in the comments! 

What to Wear 

BRAND BRAND BRAND! This doesn't necessarily mean wear an actual branded shirt. But, if you can and want to, go for it! I'm indifferent on whether you should wear branded clothes. I have a branded white apron I can slip on over my clothes depending on the event but I dress in what I call 'casual cute' in my brand colors. I make sure I'm comfortable (which you can do but still be dressed casual professional!)


Stay Tuned! My next blog post will be about "what I pack in my magical tool box!"


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