The most recent best practices newsletter covered the point-of-view of a conference organizer. This time I’d like to give you the POV of a vendor. This interview will cover all bases from best practices as a vendor to how conference organizers can create an all star experience for their vendors.
Hector Miray is the founder of Faith & Fandom, and he normally presents at pop culture conventions. I’ve known him for years as a friend, through his books, and as a fellow vendor. He’s one of the best vendors I know, because he’s not in it only to sell things. His goal is always to enjoy and experience at the conventions and get to know people. Succinctly put, he shows up to a convention to serve the attendees.
Imagine the experience for everyone if more vendors did this!
Hector leading a church service at a comic book convention.
For now, here’s Hector, in his words.
“The best experiences I’ve had as a vendor are the ones where the conference makes me feel like I’m valued. Whether it’s promoting me and my material on their website and Facebook in advance, things like nice table markers or banners with my business name on it, or providing food and drinks. A break area has always been nice as well. Ones that take the time to make sure that’s my panels are at decent time slots and that my booth isn’t in like a dust closet somewhere.”
“The worst experiences I’ve had as a vendor usually come when I put my time and money and promotion into a show, and it seems I put more work into building the show than the person who actually runs it. I’ve been in shows where there are more vendors than attendees. I’ve been in shows that I’ve attended for three or four years and never met the person running the show, and that when I try to establish communication I am abandoned.
Beyond running a show poorly, the worst show experience I’ve had as a vender was paying $80 for a table for a show that was cancelled and then the conference organizers disappeared with everyone’s money and have since vanished from the face of the Earth.”
- Don’t be angry when someone else is doing the same thing you’re doing. You having the idea doesn’t mean you’re the only one that had it.
- Being a unique voice, material, and product definitely helps you stand out, but your personality and the way you treat the people that come by your booth also makes a huge difference.
- Consistency is also a big deal. When someone sees you one time at a show they may not speak or stop in, but they might remember you the next time they come through.
- Showing up repeatedly makes a big difference.
- Never treat a small crowd like they’re less value than a big crowd.
- If you have a speaking engagement at a show it helps when the showrunner promotes it, but you need to expect that you should be responsible for your own promotion for your speaking time. If that means adding additional flyers, banners or signage to draw people’s attention to your event, take that responsibility.
- Give people something they can leave with to remind them of what you spoke on and encourage them to tell the convention how much they appreciated you.
- If you are planning a conference do it at least a year in advance, with intermediate goals and checkpoints of promotion and contact you need to take place ramping up momentum to your conference.
“If I was starting over from scratch I would have tried to develop a bigger team for what I do. I also would have started out bigger and faster. My first year I did maybe three or four events. The last couple of years I’ve been doing 28 a year. I can’t gauge events based on monetary or merchandise. I gauge them based on exposure and responses.”
All excellent advice from Hector.
One thing I’ve really noticed that sets him apart from a lot of vendors are frequent posts on social media during a conference that promote the con as much as his booth. Because he shows up to serve, he also gets a lot of people posting on their own feeds about him and his books and panels.
Here’s Hector and I after recording a podcast on a crowded playground.
This message was written by a team of geeks, nerds, gamers, and Dr. David Powers. You can always find us at www.callsignredbeard.com. Thanks for reading!
In the words of Starship Troopers, “Would you like to know more?”