Vendor Networking & Craft Show Etiquette
Vending at craft shows has always one of my absolute favorite past times. The air is electric with excitement as the first wave of potential customers flows down the aisle, stopping to check out your booth. It is simply invigorating chatting with potential shoppers and making those hard earned sales. But setting up at a craft show can also be nerve-wracking. Running your booth surrounded by vendors you’ve never met can feel like a tricky social situation that is difficult to navigate. How do you make great impressions and successfully network with other vendors? Here are just a few Craft Show Etiquette tips to help you put your best foot forward when vendor networking.
Why is vendor networking important?
It is easy to look at fellow vendors as competition, especially ones with similar products. Some vendors will intentionally put a cold shoulder forward in an attempt to lock out competitors. This approach is not only detrimental to the creative community, but also to the growth of your own business. In shutting out other vendors, you are essentially robbing yourself of an extremely valuable networking opportunity.
Vendor networking is a great way to make local contacts who understand the ins and outs of running a small business. There are many advantages to having connections in the same arts & crafts community. These include having someone in your life who understand that small business hustle, sharing community and event connections, encouraging each other on social media, and maybe even friendship. So how can you get started?
Break the Ice
The worst part of meeting someone new is that awkward silence in the beginning. It seems like everyone is super busy, unloading their cars and getting ready for the big show. Breaking the ice doesn’t have to be painful or time consuming. Introduce yourself to your booth neighbors and wish them luck at the event. There, the worst part is over, and you’ve removed any weird social tension from the day.
Everyone has worked really hard to get to this moment. The big day is here and it’s time to reap the rewards of all your hard work! So how can you help assure that everyone has a pleasant and enjoyable time while attending the craft show? Be polite. Avoid the following behavior:
- Loud music, singing, or purposefully distracting noises
- Rude comments about other vendors’ products or pricing
- Harrassing other vendors or shoppers
- Blocking or redirecting traffic
Don’t get me wrong, it’s okay to greet shoppers as they pass by, but there is a difference between overenthusiastic yelling and simply saying hello. Whatever you do, keep in mind that Craft Show Etiquette is about being polite and respectful of the event atmosphere your event coordinators have worked hard to create. If you are being disruptive, loud, or distracting, you could be negatively affecting the experience for everyone else.
Lend a Hand
Craft Show vendors encounter plenty of obstacles during the day of an event. From forgetting one of their vendor must haves, to running out of change, or being shorthanded, you may find yourself in the position to lend a helping hand to your fellow vendors during the event.
One of the easiest and most influential ways to help each other during a craft show? Bathroom breaks! Simply getting to the restroom can be complicated when you are manning a booth on your own. Ask one of your booth neighbors if they want to do a bathroom break swap. Offer to watch each other’s booths during slower periods of the day so that you can both get a much needed bathroom break.
The interest of shoppers can be impossible to predict, and you may find yourself at a show that hasn’t successfully captured the attention of your target audience. It can be hard to accept the quiet of your own booth when you can see other booths are packed.
No matter how slow things get for you, no matter how busy your neighbors are, it is NEVER okay to harass shoppers or attempt to redirect them to your booth. This is one of the most effective ways to cast a negative light on your own business and sour both potential customers and vendor networking opportunities.
If you do happen to have downtime during your event, you may find conversation comes easy with one of your booth neighbors now that you’ve introduced yourself and/or helped each other out. Take advantage of this time to swap business cards so you know how to stay in touch. This can also be a great time to trade stories about your favorite events and share resources, like DFW Craft Shows (wink wink)!
Craft Show Drama
You’ve been on your best behavior, implementing all our Craft Show Etiquette Tips, but you still find yourself the victim of craft show drama. It happens to all of us sooner or later, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. Craft Shows can manifest all sorts of awkward social situations, both with shoppers and vendors, and it’s hard not to take it personally.
Feel your feelings.
It’s okay to be disappointed, angry, or sad. Something happened that stirred up negative feelings when you were otherwise engaged and enjoying your event. That is an uncomfortable situation to be in, and it is always disappointing when someone else’s behavior changes the way you are able to experience the world around you.
Always try to give others the benefit of the doubt. You never know when someone is nervous and unintentionally overstepping a boundary in an effort to survive an uncomfortable social situation. If the behavior is benign enough to show some grace, I encourage you to do so. Some behaviors, however, feel direct and malicious. Those are harder to ignore and even harder to navigate, especially if they escalate.
Assess the situation.
You may be tempted to address the behavior directly with your booth neighbor. Assess the situation and consider both what the best and worst outcome of that conversation might be. If you do decide to address the issue with your booth neighbor, wait until you can go into the situation with a clear, level head. Imagine this calm headspace as your home base and anchor yourself to it. Use whatever tools you have to hold yourself in this space, no matter how the conversation may escalate. When you look back, you will know that you handled the situation professionally and respectfully. Nearby shoppers and/or event coordinators will notice and appreciate it as well.
If you decide that there is nothing positive to come from addressing the situation, do not give this other person any more of your mind, heart, or mental bandwidth than you must. The sting of this craft show drama will dull, the sales will keep coming, and your business will continue to shine.
You got this
My mom used to always tell me, “You can’t control what they do, you can only control yourself and how you respond.” You probably know better than to argue with my mama, so we will just leave it at that. You always have the choice to model perfect Craft Show Etiquette, and you always have the choice to disengage from drama. No one can take that away from you.