Tuesday, December 13, 2011

December 13, 2011

I was all set to talk about the fabulous three shows I just completed back to back, when I changed my focus on how I wanted to cover those shows - not as a vendor, but as part of the management team.

I'm not sure how many of you are into the art/craft show scene. It's a wonderful way to interface with the public and come away from the virtual office and "hawk your wares". You also get the chance to talk, face to face, with fellow vendors/artists, trade ideas and even, sometimes, products. Many of these shows are produced by local development authorities, community programs, civic centers, arts organizations. Some are produced by companies that specifically look to create these type of events. I am part of one of those type of companies.

As an event coordinator, your staff's job is two-fold. One part is to get the show up and running, keep it running and then take it all apart afterwards. Sounds so simple, doesn't it? It's not. The other part is to keep the vendors and artist happy during the set-up, run and tear down of their individual booths. Sounds so simple, doesn't it? It's not.

Let's say you have decided to do an outdoor spring event over a three day weekend. You apply, get accepted (Yea!) and receive all your important documents in the mail - load in schedule, parking passes, booth sign, name badges, show hours, pertinent phone numbers, etc. According to the schedule, you may arrive as early as 11:00am to start setting up your tent. You arrive at 11:30am, running behind because you forgot to pick up receipt books and had to stop by the Five and Dime (yes, I said it!) to pick up a few. You stop by the check in desk, and are greeted by a smiling individual who welcomes you to the show, hands you a few last minute instructions and points you in the direction of your booth. Off you go. On the way, you pass two people carting around a wagon full of extension cords and carrying a ladder. They smile and greet you. There is another person distributing trash cans throughout the site. Another smile, perhaps a wave instead of the verbal hello. You note that you are near a food trailer, (great no long walks for food), and next to an artist who's work compliments yours wonderfully (mmm, maybe some display collaboration or vendor to vendor trading). Happy? Good.

Let's cut back to those smiling, greeting and waving people. They have been on site since 6:00am. They have marked out the booth spaces, accepted deliveries of equipment (generators for the electricity, barricades to close the streets, port-a-potties, tents, tables, and chairs, oh my! They have collated paperwork, reviewed site plans, directed traffic, answered questions (where do I catch the bus, what's going on here, how long is this going to be here, why is that tent set up outside my store, are you all supposed to be here, I forgot my tent, do you have an extra one, can someone help me unload my car, can you ask the driver of that van to move so I can drive up to my booth, on and on and on). These same people are there when you can't get your electric outlet to work, when the booth across from you needs a potty break, when your neighbor needs trash bags. They are emptying garbage cans, directing customer traffic, finding lost children, removing unauthorized vendors from the site and more. At the end of the day, there they are, helping to close artist and vendor tents, cleaning up the site, powering down generators, directing walking and driving traffic for vendors who just have to get the car onsite to take some things home for the night. When you leave, they're still there. When you arrive the next morning, there they are already, smiling and greeting you.

I'm not rambling, I promise. I say all this to say, consider the background folks when you do or decide to do your next event. When something isn't quite the way you expected, don't bite off the head of the first event person you see - explain your issue and listen to the answers and/or reasons why things are the way they are. Also, don't expect instantaneous results. Remember that you are not the only person in the show.

For any weekend show, with Friday, Saturday and Sunday hours, you can bet the show crew has put in at least 40 hours of work that weekend, per person.That's a week's worth of hours in three days.Not to mention what has occurred prior to the event.

As you prepare for your 2012 show season, I just want you to be aware of the other side of the picture. I'll be touching on various aspects in Tuesday's Getting To Know Who posts. I'll include "Show Do's and Don'ts", "Being Prepared", "What To Do When There's Weather", "Finding Accommodations When Staying Out Of Town" and other show type topics.

See you tomorrow for Wednesday's Anything Can Happen Day!


  1. It's awesome to learn about how the shows run through the coordinator's point of view. Thanks for sharing!

    I think a lot of vendors can get grumbly all-too-easily is the sales aren't what they expected, and are quick to blame the easiest target. Thanks for reminding us how much more complicated it is than that!

  2. Its great to know what goes on behind the scenes. Most people think the show just instantly appeared.

  3. Yes! Very interesting to think about a craft fair from the other side of the coin. So much work goes into a show from all different angles.