6 Booth Display Mistakes that Can Ruin Your Show

Show season is upon us, and artists everywhere are planning their booth displays. Make sure you don’t make any of these major mistakes:


1. Too much clutter. Jamming your booth display with too much merchandise can be overwhelming, confusing and a big turnoff to shoppers. It makes your work look like a commodity, too. Concentrate on highlighting your art or craft work so that each piece is special – pedestals can work nicely to separate work, or use stepped displays for smaller work.

 2. Poor lighting. Whether or not your booth has proper lighting can make or break your show. Dim or dark booths are often ignored. If your space will be inside a large tent or in a building where lights are far overhead, make sure you have proper and sufficient lighting to show your work to it’s best advantage.


Street Art Fair


 3. Undraped tables. This is a big no-no, suitable for a yard sale but certainly not an art or a craft show. And how high are those tables? Do customers have to bend over to look at your work? Focus on displaying your work in the “sweet spot” which is centered at eye level for best effect.

4. Narrow entrance. Shoppers often don’t want to cross the “invisible line” by stepping into a booth with a narrow entryway because it makes them feel trapped. Leave your entrance open and welcoming rather than restrictive. A corner booth can be an advantage here.

 5. “No touch” zone. Is your work available to be held and touched? If so, you are far more likely to make sales. Use the senses such as touch, hearing and smell to add a powerful new dimension to your presentation. When speaking with a customer, place the item they are considering in their hand if possible, or encourage them to touch.

 6. Unstable structure. A shaky booth without good support can easily tip or be lifted by a strong gust of wind. Is your booth well-grounded, with weights and sturdy walls? Make sure shoppers can’t inadvertently lean on part of your booth and bring the whole structure down.

Want some excellent advice on Booth Display that will take your shows to a higher level?

One of our most popular CDs is “Booth Display and Merchandising” by ABI faculty member Bruce Baker. Learn how to merchandise your work for maximum customer appeal. Don’t miss this classic!


Bruce Baker's Booth Design and Merchandising


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  1. I think every newbie learns about unstable structures the hard way…I know I did!!! Art shows are such a fun experience, you learn SO much, meet awesome people and neighboring artists (I pick all their brains!) but they are a tremendous amount of work!! I think I slept for a day and 1/2 after my first show!! 😛

    • Your experiences ring very true – once you have broken the ice and learned from the other artists there (who always seem very willing to share, don’t they?) you will soon be in a position to help other newbies with their own booths – and tell them about your “unstable structure” too!

  2. I laugh about it now, but I can confirm “unstable structures” are bad!! Thanks for this list, ABI!!! I blogged about it here: http://dianehoeptner.blogspot.com/2010/07/its-all-fun-and-games-until.html

  3. I am about to do my first outdoor show and am at a loss of which canopy to buy and how to make sure it is secure. Any help would be appreciated.

    Sugee-Coiled Baskets and More

  4. I am about to do my first outside show and am at a loss as to which is the best canopy (name brand or type) to purchase and how to make it secure. Any suggestions would be helpful.

    Sue Gay
    Sugee-Coiled Baskets and More

    • Check out Art Fair Insiders – if you join their forum, you can get lots of good information on recommended canopies and also information on keeping it grounded. Here is the link http://www.ArtFairInsiders.com

    • I did my research when I decided to get a tent. I looked at other peoples and read a lot on line. I went with Undercover brand from the Hut Shop. They are more expensive but worth every penny. They are light but hold up well even in heavy winds. You can get a cheap one at Home Depot or Walmart but chances are good it won’t make it through the summer. Easy Up is a popular brand too but it was just too heavy and difficult to put up for me. Hope this helps.

    • Margie Gordon says:

      I went to Sam’s and bought one of the “white” tents. You’ll see them everywhere at Craft Shows. The price was reasonable and it certainly fits my needs for a 10 x 10 booth.

      Best of luck.

  5. Interesting article. I have done shows for 6+ years and have seen many a booth fly away. It’s a scary site. Most of the tips here seem to be geared to jewelry vendors so they don’t really apply to me- I sell pet toys and pet clothing. I like to have lots of sizes and colors of clothes on my table. I like to put the toys at doggy level. I encourage touching; I joke to parents to let the kids touch everything to get it out of their system before hitting the fragile item booths. My tables are not elevated so pets can be placed on them to try on the clothes. As far as entrance goes that is hit or miss, it doesn’t seem to matter.

    • I’m glad to hear from someone who sells other than jewelry or pottery, etc. I, too, sell clothing and toys – for human children. I am going to gridwall so I can hang my skirts, shirts, etc. on the wall rather than having so many racks. I feel this opens up my booth and is more comfortable for the customers. I still need a couple of 2 x 4 tables for my baby blocks and burp cloths, although I am experimenting with hanging them in a pleasing and easy-to-access way.

      One thing I ALWAYS struggle with is trying to display too much. I make a variety of items, and not everything will fit comfortably in my booth without its looking like a flea market. I have to restrain myself, and I am constantly worrying that the items I DON’T put out are the ones the customer is looking for.

      • Denise, I think your fears of not putting out items that might be the ones your customer is looking for might be allayed by knowing that the key to your design is to get the customer in your booth in the first place. Engaging with customers and asking questions of them is also important. Let them know you do have backstock. If a customer wants to take a look, you can bring out more merchandise – and this type of “sneak peek” can actually drive sales from other customers who want to be the first to see what else you have!

  6. Awesome tips – I haven’t done a show in a few years, but I am looking to get back into art and craft shows and these tips will really help with planning my booth and how to display my items! Thanks!

  7. Rule 1 doesn’t always apply. Vintage/handmade shows promote an esthetic of abundance. Of course display is of even greater importance at these events because a vendor is even more obliged to guide the eye.

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