Planning a Successful Show

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Attending an artifact show is easy. You pull up, walk through the doors and spend a few hours viewing the collections on the tables. You can admire and even acquire artifacts to add to your collection. You will most likely run into a few collector friends and perhaps meet a few collectors you have seen on the internet.

But say you want to have a show? Well, creating a successful show is easy… as long as you plan it out and follow the ideas and guidelines in this article.

First, do not think that people would automatically know your show is happening. The key to success is marketing. You have to make people aware through every avenue possible. You must think regional, not local too. Collectors will travel 4-5 hours, and maybe even more, to a show they want to attend. So just putting up flyers in your hometown will exclude them entirely. So think of the BIG picture.

So to begin,  you need is a show flyer. Put on it the date (in big letters), the exact location, time and at least two people to contact for tables. List the price of tables (usually display tables are cheaper or even free). Give the time along with the set-up time so that dealers and displayers can arrive and be ready to go when the show opens. You can design it on your computer or have a computer savvy friend design it. Remember to keep the showdate and location in large print. Table fees, venue, directions etc. should be in smaller type.

Next, you need to inform people of your event. The easiest way is to list your show on a site, such as It will reach collectors far and wide. It is also suggested you buy a banner on the site for a few months. That way your show is viewed whenever someone comes to the site instead of hoping they will look for it on the “Events” page.

Print up a lot of extra flyers and pass them around at other shows. Give them to your friends who attend shows you cannot make and have them pass them around to. Post the show on several FACEBBOK sites. Do this months in advance, and repost every two weeks, along with several times the week before the show. The more people see it, the more they will be inclined to come. By doing this you are making your show “an event!”

Then you need to get commitments on tables. Acquire a mailing list from another show host, and personally contact everyone who set up at their show. Call, text or message! Then check back with those who requested tables two weeks before the show. Then check AGAIN with them two days before the show. Commit them to their tables. Try to nail down their commitment by having them pay for their tables in advance. Acquire a “square” device for your phone so you could take reservations via a charge card. Have a Paypal account so that is an option too. Renting a hall is expensive, so do not set yourself up for financial failure if the vendors do not show up. Most shows that require tables to be paid in advance are the most successful shows. The vendors are financially committed which will really make a difference!

If your show is sponsored by your state or local society, utilize their resources to help promote it. Perhaps they can underwrite it too! There is nothing more discouraging to table displays than high table fees. If at all possible make your display tables free.  This encourages new and old collectors alike to bring their collections to the show. In turn, they bring their families along, and your attendance immediately goes up. The higher the display table fees are the fewer displayers there will be. Just because someone has put a lot of money into their collection does not mean they should be penalized for showing it off. The bigger and better your displays are the more likely collectors will come to the show. Collectors want to see and talk with other collectors, and if the entire focus of the show is buying and selling some of the fun is just not there.

Dealers are important to have too. And not just artifact dealers. There is a host of other things that are collecting related, such as frames, books and artwork. Think of your show as a store. You want to get your customers (collectors) into the store so they will shop and enjoy themselves as well as they will come back the next time.

Try to keep your show from becoming a “flea-market” by limiting what can be sold. Coins, watches and other collectibles muddy the waters as to whether it is an artifact show or just a swap meet. Collectors come for artifacts, not antiques! If your show is full of dealers for other things collectors will disappointed and most likely will not stay long and perhaps never return in coming years.

GIVE AWARDS! There is nothing that thrills a displayer more than receiving a show award. These are relatively affordable and will guarantee collectors return year after year. And give more than just BEST OF SHOW. Suggestions for awards include Best Educational, Best Recent Find, Best Stone, Best Flint, Best Archaic etc. Make your displayers happy! If they are in attendance, the crowds will come, and then your dealers will be happy too.

Do NOT be a sergeant. If a displayer or dealer wants to be somewhere in the room, try and accommodate them.  Have a good attitude towards them and the vibe in the room will be positive. No one enjoys a show with bad feelings.

Rent a building that has enough space, but not too much room. Having a 50 table show in a room that can accommodate 300 tables will make the show look empty even if it is full of people.  A smaller space will give the feeling of success and fun, and a crowd excites everyone.

Invite a local charity to provide food. They make the money from the food and you don’t have to worry about it. Food trucks work great for this. Collectors will also remember the good food they had and that will entice them to return the next year.  Bad or no food at all will discourage them from attending again.

Enlist others to help. A show is difficult to accomplish. Sure it feels good to have done it all yourself, but usually this leads to failure or disaster. Having others assist makes for a smooth event and one that you will want to do more than once. Make sure at the show you give them credit. In fact, a small plaque as a thank you goes a long way.

Giving everyone a name card or tag will help personalize the event. You can have someone at the door fill out tags for people as they people enter.  Also make sure to have tags for all the displayers and dealers ahead of time. People want to know who they are talking to or dealing with.

Have several charts of how the room is set up available the morning of the show. Nothing is more annoying than having to hunt for your tables prior to the show. It is also a good idea to have a list available of all who set up so everyone can connect at the show and/or afterwards.

Free snack food and some help for those loading in and out will make a big difference.  A couple of boxes of donuts, a case or two of water will really bring a smile to your table holders. Their smiles will translate into a successful show.

While some shows charge admission, charging admission can limit your traffic. I suggest you ask for a donation. That way it is not mandatory. If your show is so expensive that you need an admission charge to make it work, you might try to find a more affordable facility.

Start small and grow big. The large shows began as much smaller shows. Trying to create too large of event the first few times may doom its success.

Be aware that most venues now require you to provide a deposit on the venue plus acquire a one day insurance policy of one million dollars. These policies run about $150 and protect you and the event facility in case of an accident. You will get your deposit back if you leave the venue as requested in their contract. Yes, most venues require a contract! This guarantees they will not rent it out to someone else on the same day you have rented it, and lays out in detail the terms of your rental.

Make your entrance look professional! You can buy a banner from Staples, Office Depot or Vistaprint for a couple of hundred dollars. Displaying it will give your show credibility and impress those who walk through the door. Looking and acting professionally will go a long way to making your show a success and more than a onetime event.

The first year you throw the event will be the hardest. The day after, make a list of notes of what went right and wrong, so that the next time you will not repeat the same mistakes. Store all of your materials in a plastic storage bin in that seals so they stay dry and useful for the next year.

Start promoting your event early. The sooner it is on the calendar the better. That way people can plan months ahead of time to attend, and other shows will not be planned on your same day. There is nothing worse than having competing shows just a hundred miles apart. No one wins, and at the end of the day, both events will most likely not be successful.

As you can tell, putting on a show is an endeavor that requires thought and planning. If you work hard and stay on top of things, most likely your show will be something collectors talk about months later. ALL big and successful shows started out small. Who knows, your show may become the event of the year! Do it right and it will have a chance. Do it wrong, and it will not be fun and a failure. The choice is yours.                                                                                                                                  copyright 2019 Steven R. Cooper