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Looking back at this booth, I’m a little embarrassed. I’ve grown so much since this. That said, I did win 2nd place in the best booth contest at this show. I’m using the pronoun “I” instead of “we”, because booth set up is something I heavily obsess over, and is one of the facets of Robo Roku that I take complete charge over. I love trying to create a happy environment. I was fortunate enough to have had merchandise training in one of my former retail management jobs. The company I worked for sent managers on a week long retreat that mostly focused on the Psychology of merchandising. I don’t always use what I’ve learned, because “happy environment” is top priority for me. This post is going to be a little bit more “do as I say, not as I do”, sharing my past retail merchandise training and experience as a former producer for a local craft show with you to help you up your show booth game.
Use your booth as a way to create a memorable shopping experience. Infuse your branding into all the elements. From floor, to walls, to “ceiling” have every aspect of your booth show your colors and style.
We try to bring the outdoors in and remind people of a fun day laying in the grass looking at clouds. We use AstroTurf for the floor and walls, and batting to create “clouds” in the air. We use white curtains on as many sides of the booth as possible to brighten up the booth, and increase the airy feel.
We also always pay for electricity. Lighting is worth whatever they charge you, it helps your booth stand out from your neighbors, and highlights your goods. It can also act as a beacon, drawing people in.
If you have beautiful tables that you’re not hiding anything under, then you can skip the tablecloth. If you bought a standard folding table at Target (or wherever), then you need to cover it up, and class up the booth. Choose a tablecloth that matches your branding, ideally one that is water resistant. Having custom fitted tablecloths are even better. If you’re like me and change up your set up too much to justify paying for custom fitted tablecloths, have safety pins handy to tie back the sides of the tablecloth for a more polished look.
Height in your booth is very important. Having staircase type set-ups gives your customer’s eyes places to continue going, which keeps them in your booth longer, and maximizes your display area. I prefer to have a 3ft tall table, because it helps most people not feel strain bending over to look at your goods. Only having this height can cause issues for people not able to see that high up, so make sure you have multiple levels for all situations.
Make sure there’s room for your customers to move around. Try not to create a dead end or bad corner where they can get stuck. In the photo above I have the tees on a rack near the entrance so people can flip through from the aisle. If you can make a space that’s shoppable from both sides, you gain more space in your booth.
Have a big banner with your name (maybe even your url) so people can know who you are, and can read from the aisle. Pricing signs (if your items are not individually priced); social media contact signage, so they can jump on their phones and follow you right away; payment options, so they don’t have to worry whether or not they can buy something from you. The payment signage is so important. Even with a sign from Square in our booth sometimes people miss it, assume we’re cash only and almost walk out of the booth.
At the very least you want to give out your business card to as many visitors as you can. Have these in more than one place. We always keep some near the front of the booth (opposite of where our checkout is), and some at the checkout. If possible, have freebie stickers, buttons, or postcards to help them remember you. While this is not necessarily a takeaway, make sure your shopping bags have your name on them, this is free show advertising for you. I chose a particular size and color for our shopping bags, and that bag alone (without our branding on it) is recognizable locally. At many shows I’ve had people tell me “I’ve seen so many people with your shopping bags”, it may not be true that so many people have shopped our booth, it’s that we’ve solidified our branding so much, that the bags stand out.
If it’s the holiday season, try adding some garland, twinkle lights, pine cones, snowflakes, etc to your booth to up the holiday shopping spirit.
Keep in mind, even with my past retail experience, my first booth was a sad card table with no table covering. Just packaged jewelry and badges laying on the table. Not much height or interest at all. You can see some past booth set-ups here, and see the growth over the years. We all start somewhere, and even if your last booth was super awesome, I guarantee there’s always room for improvement. Every year I look at my booths from the year before and think “yuck!”, even though I know when I was setting up each booth I was super proud of the time and energy I put into it. I think evolving every year is one thing I really like about booth set-ups. I look forward to finding ways to make the booth better than before. If you have any questions or suggestions, leave them in the comments below. Some people have emailed me asking questions from the last biz chat post, and you’re welcome to do that, too. I just want to share with you what I’ve learned to help make your first time out a little less scary.