You’ve decided you’re ready to host and run a vendor event. You know it will be difficult, but having a guideline to create a smooth and effective event is key. While creating an event has far more detail than even these steps will offer, mastering this list will ensure that you are destined to create an effective, well-attended event.
- Have a Theme and Purpose. It’s pivotal to have a reason for having the event. Whether it’s for charity, holidays, seasonal, or to bring focus to specific types of businesses, like handcrafted, antiques, etc., an event purpose will be appealing to the right customer and the right vendors. Sometimes having too much of a variety is detrimental because shoppers may feel like there is not enough geared to their interests, and vendors may feel that their products will be ignored.
- Location, Location, Location! Knowing where you want to have your event, from the city, to the town, to the physical space, is pivotal to understanding your target market. For example, if you plan on having a flea-market, it’s probably not wise to pick an elegant ballroom because of the difference in connotation – people who are shopping flea markets are looking for bargains and they may not feel they will obtain that by visiting a fancy location. Simultaneously, knowing who the community is in the area is just as important – if it’s a religious town, you know there are certain vendors that would be unappealing or distasteful.
- Schedule Around Holidays and Shopping Days. Scheduling your event at the right time can make all the difference in how well-attended your event will be. You wouldn’t want to schedule a shopping event during a major holiday, or when local transport is limited. Understanding your location helps to determine time-frame – such as in #2, if it’s a religious town, a Saturday or Sunday may not work depending on the type of people. Of course, referring to a local community calendar is helpful as well – you want to draw people to your event, not a huge hockey game that is happening at the local arena.
- Plan Far in Advance. You cannot expect to draw crowds if you don’t give yourself enough time to spread the word. The best-attended events are the ones where friends have time to encourage other friends to go with them, and you need ample time to make that organic word-of-mouth happen. The same for acquiring vendors – you don’t want to leave such limited time that you’re scrambling trying to get vendors to attend your events. I recommend planning at least 6 months in advance.
- Know the Details of the Location. Once you’ve decided where you want to host the event, get every last detail about the physical location. Is there parking? Is it handicap accessible? Are there restrooms nearby? Is WiFi available? Will tables and chairs be provided? Do vendors have to climb stairs with their products? Is the location insured? The more you know, the more you can plan accordingly and be transparent in your contract.
- Have a Detailed Vendor Contract. Use every last detail to outline your contract, specifically mentioning times, what’s included, pricing structure, if there are any jurying requirements or any other rules you need to outline. I always recommend an indemnification clause to minimize your own personal liability and to protect the location. Be sure to have vendors clearly agree to the contract with a signature in the circumstance that there are any problems, but more so, to be perfectly transparent.
- Jury and Vet Your Vendors. While it may be exciting to accept any vendor – or maybe you’re worried about acquiring enough funds – or maybe you even feel bad saying no, jurying and vetting the right vendors for your event is absolutely necessary to maintain the integrity of your goal. You want businesses that are legitimate and reliable. If you don’t have time to do this, the Vine Vendor Network has set up a whole system where we can provide this service to you.
- Budget for Marketing and Unexpected Occurrences. While you know you need to advertise for your event, it goes beyond just placing an ad somewhere. You need real marketing to brand your actual event which includes targeted ad placement, social media, postcards, and I recommend magnets – so people remember the event. Unexpected occurrences are bound to happen and it’s hard to determine where you’ll need funds, but it’s important to have a slush fund in these circumstances. For example – you suddenly may need hundreds of extra copies, or to carry more insurance, etc.
- Keep Track of Tickets. Whether you use free services like Eventbrite or even Facebook events, having a way to keep track of who is planning on attending your event will help you determine how to manage the flow of traffic, how many samples you’ll need to tell your vendors to prepare, and the analytics to understand how to boost your event’s recognition.
- Be Explicit with Instructions. For both vendors and attendees, giving explicit instructions about the basics – entering, exiting, how tickets will be handled, parking, handicap accessibility, restrooms, WiFi access, maps, exact space sizing, rules of the venue, etc. – will help ease any of the possible issues of the day. The more transparent and explicit you are, the easier the whole process will be for everyone to have a successful event.
- Set Distinct Rules and Boundaries. In your instructions and contracts, be sure to have rules and boundaries set, especially for vendors. Once people sign-off on these rules and boundaries, you can hold them to these expectations. Remember – You cannot expect anyone to know what you think you want them to know without telling them first! Some sample rules and boundaries include how to manage trash, whether people can choose their tables, if they are allowed certain furniture items, and so on.
- Designate Someone to Answer All Questions. It’s best if this is not solely your responsibility, as it will, without a doubt, become overwhelming. But to have an open line of communication so people are free to ask questions – no matter how trivial they may seem to be – will help everyone feel comfortable, safe, and eager to be a part of your event.
Do you have any other suggestions for how a smooth event should be run?