, , , ,

Welcome, friends!

This is Part Deux of my two-part series on how to have a great home show. The first article was geared toward home show exhibitor tips. Today, we’ll pull focus on how to host a show.

Detail from the March 2011 Spring Open Studio event at my house

There have been several shows in which I have pulled double-duty as hostess and exhibitor. Here are my tips for being the Hostess with the Mostest:

  • Artisans! Give thought to the talent mix. A lot of people out there make beautiful jewelry, but do you really want a show with nothing but bling? Probably not. In addition to my stationery, prints, calendars and paperweights, I am connected with a jeweler, a stained glass artisan, someone who does beautiful mosaics, another who paints wine glasses, another who makes lovely home-dec accessories, yet another who bakes gourmet dog treats. Variety tends to attract more attendees and keeps exhibitors’ creative toes from being stepped on. Yes. I just ended a sentence with a preposition. Get over it 😉
  • Be realistic about how many exhibitors you can fit! Look around your home and get a grip on how many peeps you can realistically host. Exhibitors need space for their displays; customers need room to circulate. No one wants to be packed in like a sardine. I open up my living room, dining room and family room and comfortably fit two complementary artisans per room (Ok…well. I like to hog the living room to myself….I’ll be honest).
  • Take a good hard look at the calendar. Scheduling conflicts are inevitable. We are all so go-go-go, busy/crazy. That being said: if you’re planning your show, and there’s a huge football game that will clear most of your friends out of town, that’s probably not the best day to schedule your event. Ditto for school vacations, major holidays and the like. On the other hand, use holidays to your advantage. Most people are ready to shop for Christmas any time from late September and onward. My experience is that my winter holiday shows are better (as in “more profitable”) than spring shows. Why? For Christmas, people will shop for multiple friends and family. Spring? They may be shopping just for themselves.
  • Show time. In my circle of show friends, we’ve had a lot of success doing our events on Saturdays from 11a-3p (spring open houses) or 11a-5p (winter shows). It seems to be a civilized enough hour that attendees can get some of their errands or kids’ activities out of the way in the morning and still get to our show. We also wrap things up early enough that we don’t cut into anyone’s family time in the evening. Or, you may want to try a Friday night happy hour. You know your friends! Cater to them.
  • Consider moving things out of the way! I clear as much extra furniture out of the way as humanly possible to open up floor space. My saint of a husband cheerfully moves side chairs and coffee tables and dining room seating into the basement. It makes a huge difference. Same goes for securing breakables; accidents happen. Move family treasures out of the way for the day so you don’t pop any grays.
  • Let your artisans come for a “site inspection.” Seriously. Offer to let your exhibitors come walk your home so they can consider how to best display their merchandise in the space you have allotted for them.
  • Spread the word! Yes: you have a responsibility to get attendees to the show. Invest some time and effort to get people there to support the artists and their hard work.  There are many ways for you to promote the event:
    • create a Facebook event
    • Send out an e-mail blast to your friends and neighbors
    • Use a service like MailChimp (which is free)
  • Allow your exhibitors enough set-up time. Ask in advance how much time they need to get ready. Some of my jewelry friends can do it in under 60 minutes. I’m a slow-poke, so I like to have about two hours to do get my display just right.
  • Set the mood: MUSIC. I always like to have a good music soundtrack going on in the background. During set up, it helps exhibitors get in the swing of things. For shoppers, especially the first few in the door, it is a pleasant, soothing distraction that gets them in the shopping mood.
  • Set the mood: BOOZE. Clearly not applicable or desirable to all folks. That being said, it really works on our friends. We’ve done these shows for years, and there is a Wine:Open Wallet correlation. The best sales we EVER had came from a show in which we served Pink Halos (sparkling wine + raspberry vodka + grenadine = Spending Serum). Know your audience. Use your judgment.
  • Roll out the welcome mat! Make sure your home is easy to find. Put out balloons in the yard or dress up the front door so guests know they’re in the right place:

Front door from 2011 Spring Open Studio

Detail from 2011 Spring Open Studio entrance

What hosting suggestions do you have?