Friday, April 18, 2014

Bead Shows & Expos - How To Navigate Them and Sell at Them~ Neva

The anticipation of a bead show coming to a venue near you, releases a superfluous amount of endorphins to a beader of any skill level. The mere thought of fondling the colorful glass beads, gems and anything associated with this fine craft, can send the relatively calm person into a frenzy.

There are two major ways you can attend a bead show: As a Visitor, or as an Exhibitor. In this article, we will look at both of these in more detail.

VISITOR: There are a few things you can do to get yourself organised before the show: 

Have A Plan - Transport - Make a List - Go With a Friend - Comfort and Food - Wear your Bling 

Plan Of Attack 

When bead shows are first advertised, especially online, you can rest assured that most of the information you require to make your visit pleasant and successful, will be on the website. Don't just look at the first page.... there are several pages, and each one of them has relevant information regarding the show. Not only will you get a location map, entry costs, class/workshop detail, you will also find a list of exhibitors, amongst other things. 

This exhibitor list is essential! Have pen and paper handy. Visit each exhibitors' website to see what sort of goodies they sell, before you go to the show. Make a note, they are a must see at the show, and what you might buy from them.

Look at the list of classes and workshops. They are an invaluable tool for beaders. These classes are usually run by experienced beaders who have already experienced all the dramas of learning new techniques, and the frustrations, just like you may be experiencing. The benefit you get is that you not only learn something new, but you're also able to chat to these designers, and get valuable information from them. And really, they're not daunting, they're lovely people wishing to share their knowledge to help sustain the craft, and help you along your beading journey.

But you'll need to book early, because these classes are usually filled really quickly.

Depending on the size of the show, if you've pre-payed for your tickets, you wont have to waste shopping time, waiting to buy your tickets. The more time you spend inside the show, with all the beads the better... Right? Also, some shows have a site map printed to give to patrons.... this is also a great tool, because you can mark those exhibitors that have interesting goodies that you want to come back to.

How will you get there? - do they have ample parking facilities? Is there adequate public transport? Have you set aside money for parking etc, that won't cut into your bead spending budget.... (nothing worse than running out of bead money because you need it for transport costs). 
Have a plan, a budget (this one's funny right? LOL) Depending on the size of the show, decide whether you want to go for just one day, or spread your time over all the days of the show. There are always discounts for multiple day entries. (A bonus)
Make a List

If you have a stash, and need items, make a list, it will make it easier to remember them and not go home without them. Your list should comprise of the product code, the shape, the amount of holes (so many beads these days come in various quantity of holes) and the colour. If you know the brand then that will make it so much easier to match correctly. 
I have a friend who buys her seed beads from one particular supplier at Bead Shows, and her solution to always remembering what she has in her stash at home, was to create a choker style necklace with the seed beads she had on safety pins. She would wear this on her 'serious' bead buying days. Very creative don't you  think?

If you like to follow patterns, take your patterns with you... It’s much easier to gather supplies for a project if you have it handy.
The patterns can either be purchased tutorials or patterns from the various Beading magazines floating around in the bead world, keep them handy in your bag.
If the Bead Shows offer classes and workshops, make sure you enroll ahead of time, because places often get filled quickly. Classes are also a great way to meet other beaders. 

Don't Go It Alone

Gather some friends and go together, it makes the experience so much more enjoyable. Bead Shows are always large places with lots of exhibitors. It's fun to be able to share the experience with someone, to discuss beads and colors, and what suits you or what doesn't. It's also nice to have a friend to share lunch, or a cup of coffee/tea.

Your friend will never tell you you're spending too much..... money never enters it. If you like it, then they will always encourage you to buy it. That's what good friends are for. And if your packages are to bulky, I'm sure they will offer to carry some for you... providing they don't have lots to carry too.

In the early days, my husband used to come with me to all the shows, and he would refer to himself as my 'Bag Carrier' although he used a different term. 

Comfort and Food

Most shows have a cafĂ© on the premises, making it convenient to have lunch or a coffee. Or they will hire in a food van, that supplies sandwiches, coffee, tea etc. Some shows though, depending on the venue and the size may not be able to supply these facilities. It is always good to check beforehand so that you are prepared. 

I always take a bottle of water with me, and a protein bar, and sometimes some jelly beans for a quick energy fix. That way, if I'm too engrossed in my shopping, I don't have to stop.. LOL

It is always important to be comfortable at these shows, because you'll be doing a lot of walking and standing. So wear comfortable shoes, tried and tested shoes. Your feet will be happy at the end of the day.

Usually there are also lots of people in these shows, and so the temperature is always different to outside. It is wise to wear comfortable clothes, with a cardigan/jacket that you can take off, if you get too hot. Remember though that this is an extra item you will have to carry.

It may be a good idea if you can bring in a shopping bag with wheels, that will take care of the weight of the beads you'll be buying and anything else you need to carry. It is a good idea though to ask the organizers prior to coming, if they allow these trolley bags to be inside the show. Some venues don't allow it. Either way, have a fold-up shopping bag in your purse, They don't take up much room when folded. Also some exhibitors don't have the need to offer large carry bags, and you'll end up carrying a lot of little ones. If you have one of these fold-ups, you only have to carry one bag. 

Wear Your Bling

Wear your bling! SHOW IT OFF! Everyone wants to see what others' are making and wearing. That's half the fun of being at a Bead Show.

Some venues have door prizes for the sparkliest bling, you may be in the running, but only if you wear it. 

Be proud of your creations.... everyone else will love seeing it. 

Now for the nitty gritty for anyone wanting to sell at a show.

EXHIBITOR: There are quite a few things you need to do to have a successful show. Whether it be at a bead show, an art show, or anywhere you intend to showcase and sell your goods.

As an exhibitor, the responsibility of marketing yourself is yours. The show organizers do their own general marketing, promoting the event, and sometimes may include information or photos about the exhibitors, but the rest is up to you.

Here are a few ways you can assure yourself a successful show:

Start promoting the event yourself. There are quite a number of tools at your disposal - brochures, email mailing lists, your own website, your Facebook page, Facebook group pages if they allow, the local paper, general word-of-mouth promotion. I'm not saying spend lots of money, because most on this list, don't require you spend anything other than your time. But you need to get a momentum happening, make people want to come and see you. Entice them with snippets of photos of what you'll have for sale. Its about generating excitement.

Prepare yourself for the show: 

  • How big is your table/s?
  • Do you have appropriate tablecloths and do they look like part of a complete package, or are they mismatched sheets and pieces of fabric?
  • Do you do a test run at home on display styles, if you know the dimensions you have to work with? This always makes life easy when you start to set up. taking photos of a successful trial also speeds things up.
  • Do you require display stands and cases? do you have them? Do you need to purchase them?
  • What will you be selling? One type or several styles of items? 
  • How many items have you available? Will you have enough to make your display look full? (Full displays always attract customers and keep them there for longer, as they spend time browsing.
  • Do you offer 'added value' items? 
  • Do you offer quantity discounts?
  • Do your have business cards? Do they look professional? Do they give the customer an idea about what you do?
  • Do you have a banner for your stand? Is it large enough to be seen from a distance? Are the colors attractive? How will this banner be mounted - on an easel, on a stand, attached to the front of your table? On a wall behind you? If you don't have one, how do you expect your customers to find you, or remember where you are?
  • Do you display finished items using your components? This is a good selling point when a customer can see the exact potential of your product.
  • Do all your items display a clear price? Some customers don't feel comfortable asking what the price of an item is.
  • Will you require extra lighting to highlight your items? and if you do, are they acceptable and compliant with the Show organizers standards?
  • When a customer goes home with their goodies, will they know easily that they have bought items from you?
  • Do you supply bags with your details on them?
  • Do you just place items in a bag, or do you carefully wrap them first?
  • Do you have a mirror on your stand so that people can check color, style, length on themselves? If you do, make sure the mirror is always clean of fingermarks.
  • Do you have a helper? If so, do they know your product as well as you do? Will they be able to sell the product comfortably, without having to ask you about the details? Will they be able to manage your table, if you are called away or have to have a loo break?
  • What clothes will you be wearing? Is it professional? Does it reflect the product being sold? Will your helper be the same?
  • Do you offer credit card facilities or are you cash only? Credit facilities are easy these days with PayPal and Direct Debit over a mobile phone.
  • Do you offer your customers the ability to join your mailing list, so that they may learn of new products you have and also of future shows you'll be attending?
  • Do you have promotional material about you the artist, or your business and its foundation and goals? This makes you and your business a bit more human, and approachable.
You are at a show to not only showcase your goods, but to sell them. That is the aim. You have spent money on your stand, and you need to know that you will recoup this money and also make a profit. Sitting behind your table, on your phone, or doing other things, doesn't make the customer want to do anything but pass your table quickly, generally they don't want to disturb you.

It is your role to engage the customer in conversation, make them feel special, make them feel like they've had the most enjoyable experience visiting you. They will remember this. They may not buy on the first round, but they will return.

Talk about your product, be proud of it, explain how it can be used. Let the customer touch, and try on if needed. They will remember this.

Whatever you do, DO NOT EVER DO THE HARD SELL. They will remember you as being pushy, and be hesitant about visiting your table again.

Wear your product! Talk about it. If you aren't proud of what you're selling how can you expect a customer to want it?

Get to know your fellow exhibitors, thats very important. Some may be your competitors, but they can also be you greatest allies. You can send customers to them, asking the customer to say who sent them, and they in turn may look after you as well. 

Whatever you do, its about the customer having the best experience, because that is what will keep the bead shows in existence. And that is what will sell your product in the future.

I hope I've put all this in an easy-to-read nutshell for you. I am very passionate about this craft, and only wish for it to grow exponentially, globally. I wish you all a happy and auspicious Bead Show experience, both as visitors and exhibitors.

Happy Beading!


  1. Neva, I think this was a wonderful article for those of us who don't have experience visiting bead shows or exhibiting at shows and if I ever do get the chance to do either one of them, I will definitely take all the above into consideration. It seems very comprehensive and good guidelines ! thank you for putting so much effort into your explanation and details. It is not obvious for less experienced people.

  2. Thank you so much Linda. I truly hope you do experience a bead show soon. :)

  3. Fabulous Article by a talented artist... Wise words Neva.