Hints for Outdoor Event-ing


I love doing outdoor events… or I did, at one time!

Back in the day, as they say, I could set up the tent alone, unload the truck and build a display in no time.

I had the picture in my head and knew how it should look.  I dressed to sell, and be warm. I had my words in their place and knew every price, markup and available swap.

I had to get back in the swing of doing my own event, after a 6 year hiatus while working for the company, instead of myself.

Here in the south, we speak to people, wave and make eye contact as they walk or drive by.  I think I forgot how annoying it can be when they ignore me.  Is it that hard to say “good morning”?  I love speaking to people. I love hearing about their lives and families. I really enjoy talking about my business, and I’m pretty good at reading them and knowing when they prefer to talk about themselves.  I can listen, at least until the next customer slips under my tent top.

I like to think the children who run free and enjoy the weather and my wares are learning something. Like how to put it back, don’t touch, and don’t spill your drink there, please. I can teach them quietly while mom enjoys my neighbor’s booth – maybe she will stop here and take them to the next vendor.

Ants and rain, wind and rude people, sunburns and unsupervised children, do not stop dedicated vendors who love the carnival atmosphere and the joy of sharing with others.  There’s a “look” between them. Something akin to the momma “looks” when you slipped and said the bad word or answered inappropriately.  Then, if you watch carefully, you’ll see the smile of understanding spread across the vendor’s sun kissed faces as they empathize.  It’s still fun and always profitable.

So, here are my tips for a successful vendor event:

  1. Buy the great weights for the tent. Whatever they cost… we saw several types.  We opted for the Pinterest suggestion of using Gal jugs of water, tied to the tent. It’s economical and we will be using them in our Keurig.  I saw someone use the judysame type jugs with pebbles.  I have to say with the gusts we weathered this last weekend, they were not enough.  Picture this: my friend, Judy and I were hold the tent poles at one time, like we were water skiing! We really had a great laugh over the wind.  I learned, from the vendor across the way, that using bungee cords to join the two tents together by the legs and top rails gave us the extra support we needed. There are weights made for tents… canvas, plastic and a variety.  The best one we saw was a “runner” between the two side sets of tent poles.  The gentleman had 2 2×4’s from front to back poles and bolted them thru the tent poles.  Then they used the wooden runners like pallets for their stock.  It took him 5 minutes to install and 5 minutes to tear down.  The weight was sufficient and easy to transport.
  1. Set the tables INSIDE the parameters of the tent. Not on the edge… allow room to drop the tent canopy over your products for evening or weather.
  2. A great booth, allows the customer to ENTER , get out of the sun and rain and have a soft spot to walk. They’ll stay longer. They’ll shop. If you have an extra seat or bench – perfect!  I saw where a vendor had purchased puzzle shaped pieces of mat (like for a kid’s room) and created a great floor for her booth. Of course, she was among the last of the vendors to finish packing – but she always had people standing in her “store”.
  1. Keep your money in your pocket, not in a register or money box. Use that for straightening and lightening your load.  You’ll do better if you sell at the product display and make the change right there.
  2. Add the tax into your price and round it to the dollar amountno time for coins at the carnival.
  3. Have a crew of loving family and friends help you break down. Order pizza and beer and celebrate your success. You’ll be exhausted after several days of living outdoors. I use clear plastic tubs with lids to carry product. Most are the same size, to stack easily.  Each tub has a product brand or name on the paper taped to the inside.  Give each helper a cloth to dust the products before packing. They’ll be dusty. Others can help you load tubs in no time, when they don’t have to ask questions.  You can inventory them the next day. Ask them to set the tubs outside the parameters of the tent when they are loaded and snapped shut. You’ll be able to drop the tents while others are loading tubs.
  4. When possible, I rent the tables from the vendor event organizers. This minimum expense and the accompanying service of setting them in place, is well worth the cost.  When I have to carry my own, I use the foldable white plastic type, as they are lighter and travel more compact.  I always buy the 4 foot, making my booth set up more flexible.  I take a thick mat to even the surface between tables.  A piece of cardboard does nicely, too.
  5. Pack the tents neatly! Fold the canopy to lessen the wrinkles, sweep it off, if needed and stand the frames carefully. If the canopy is wet, place a reminder on your calendar to unpack it for drying at home. It’s your home away from home and you don’t want any unexpected issues when you arrive at the next event!  We have seen a number of tent styles used successfully. Your choice depends on your product, space and set up staff.   The guys across the way lifted my top poles because I’m so short.  I appreciate them, but I really need to figure that part out. I will.  I used the quick pop-up type and bought it at Tractor Supply, near my house.  It came with a rolling case and clean, crisp white canopy.  I borrowed a canopy with my booth brand on it and substituted it, giving our booth some clear identification.
  6. Dress in layers and put your hair back! You never can tell what the weather will do, so be prepared. Don’t overdo your makeup, again… the weather.  Be fun, simple and enjoy the ride. 
  7. FOLLOW UP is the key to continuing success in days to come. Be sure to have a reason to collect contact info. Shoppers are suspicious, but if you have a great reason, they’ll give you name, email, phone and sometimes a mailing address.  Then, be ethical with that information.

Vendors like each other.  We make deals and swaps and help each other when the tent blows.  It’s a cool team of people you probably didn’t know 24 hours before.  When vendor neighbors leave, they do so knowing they may never meet again. However, if you are lucky, you’ll have a plan to see each other down the road.

Take time to take it all in! All the smells, jokes, people-watching pleasure, and opportunities that come to you are profit. They are experiences you didn’t have yesterday.  Make notes on your calendar and consider whether it would be good to rebook right now!  The world is small.  There’s always a new inspiration, a new friend, your next potential partner, and of course, the sell… profit comes in many ways- don’t miss out on any of them.

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