Being Conventional at Conventions.

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Conventions

This weekend MGB will be attending Nottingham Comic Con for the 5th year running. It’s an awesome, well presented event with so much to see and look at, and I’m so excited for this Saturday.

But I was chatting with my daughter (Nerd Cats) about conventions and although she’s helped me on several occasions at conventions, this will be the first where she is on her own selling her own things. We got chatting and she asked what she would need to take with her, so I thought I’d write a list, then I thought, I can blog it!

So, this list isn’t finite, but it’s what I normally do when attending conventions, fairs and events, it’s different for everyone, but hopefully it’ll help to remind you or help you if you ever get to sell at a con!

LET’S BEGIN!

From my own experience the event organiser should send you details about setting up. Every event is different but always ask questions about setting up, restrictions and requirements.

Price List

Have a clear list of prices with items. You can individually price the items but having a sheet with the prices on will save you a lot of time. Have it presented in a frame, or have it laminated and you can use it again at another event.

Disclaimer

Do you take only cash or do you also accept card as payment? Make it clear on the price list or separately so buyers know how they can spend their money.

Special Offers

Are you doing any event relevant offers, things such as “Buy 2 get one free” or “£2 each or 3 £5” often bring those extra sales. Make sure that you are clear on what is in the offer, but be flexible as well!

Table cloth

Many events will say that you will need to bring a table cloth. You don’t have to, but you won’t know what the table you will be on will look like, and you may be keen on the branding of your products. A simple white sheet (double bed flat sheet!), table cloth or even curtains make for great bases for your table.

Insurance

Why? Because 1, it makes you look more professional. 2, Some event organisers require you to have it. 3, Because if anything happens, it could be VERY expensive for you.

You should have at least public Liability insurance, which a simple google search will help you find the right one for your business.

Mailing List

Have a nicely set out sheet so that customers can leave their details, and be signed up for the mailing list. Make sure you cover the legal aspects (GDPR) and NEVER share the details with anyone else. Perhaps they can have a free sticker or code when they sign up?

Freebies

Are you going to offer freebies at your table? Stickers, little badges, free items when a customer spends over a certain amount? Even a code they can use on the website? It’s a good idea to count before and after the event to see how many people took advantage of the offer 😊

Cash/Float

You need somewhere to store cash, business cards and the card reader (if you are using one). A float is the amount of money you start off with, and depending on what you sell depends on how much you start with. A good amount of change is ideal, £1 coins, £5 notes, 50p, Usually about £30 to £50 is a good start and what I normally start with.

At the end of the day, you can count the money you’ve made (YAY!) and take off the original float amount, that way you can compare with your stock list and what’s left and the cash you have (Don’t forget to include any card payments)

Card Payments

There are many card merchants, your own bank, PayPal, Zettle, shopify, etc, who can provide you with a machine for cards. They usually come at a small cost and can take a small percentage when you take payment. Search online and talk to other businesses to see which is the best for you.

(Don’t forget to check what you need to take payments and a cable in case it needs charging during the day!)

Card Payment Machine

Stock

Over the years I’ve taken LOADS of items thinking I would sell them, but I discovered that it can become a little overwhelming for me and the customer. This year I’m hoping to streamline what I have, especially the larger items, and provide a much clearer way of presenting the items I sell. I guess it all depends on what you are selling, I’ve seen some really imaginative ways of presenting work but over the years I’ve always thought I’ve nailed it then half way through the day I’ve changed the displays completely! You don’t have to take absolutely everything you sell, items such as your best sellers, art prints, event exclusives always go down well. At Comic Conventions it’s nice to take a variety and make sure you don’t panic too much! (Easier said than done…)

I’ll be doing a separate section on presenting your items further on.

List of stock

This list will help you with keeping an eye on inventory, it’ll help with stock and numbers and at the end of the day you can see what was popular, and whether the amount sold matches the amount of money you’ve made.

A digital spreadsheet, a handwritten list or a table printed in Word are all good ways of keeping note of sold items. It’s whatever works best for you.

Business Cards/Flyers

Make sure that even if the person visiting your table doesn’t buy anything, they have something to remember you by. It could be a business card, a flyer, a badge.

It should have means of contacting you, social media links and your main method of purchasing anything.

Include a business card or flyer with every item sold.

Paper bags for sold items

I’m all about reducing the amount of plastic I use at the moment, so now that I’ve used all my plastic bags for sold items I’m switching to paper bags. A quick eBay search for “Paper candy bags” will give you a list of the small paper bags, a more in-depth search will show you bags with handles, boxes, large bags, small bags, bags that you can reuse. (If you do tote bags, this would be a good time to promote “Free cotton tote with purchases over £20”)

Charging cables and portable charger

There’s nothing worse than getting that sale and then finding out your card reader has run out of juice. Don’t forget those important cables and portable charger for your card reader, lights, your phone or tablet! And make sure the portable charger is charged (I’ve totally done that).

Banners

Pull up banners, banners you attach to your table, all varied and amazing ways of letting customers know who you are. There are plenty of banner manufacturers on the web, it’s up to you who use.

In the past I’ve had a plain vinyl banner with my logo and website, which I attached to the table using ribbon and safety pins and a pull-up banner with my characters on. Most of the time I’ll use both!

MGB at EmCon using an old design on a banner

Box of STUFF

It’s always handy to have pens, scissors, labels, notebook, pencils, pegs, clips, string, flyers, spares (whatever they may be), money for the car park, lunch, something to read (there will be quiet moments during the day) and they do usually come in handy.

Displaying items

There are so many ways of displaying your items and over the years I’ve gone from displaying things flat on the table to making sure that customers can see everything and utilising the space I’ve been allocated. 

Over the years I’ve used these square grid thingies, they come in squares and you can connect them using these adapters or cable ties. They not only look lovely and professional, but you can change the way they stand or the shape depending on where and what you are displaying, and because they have the grids, you can attach other little bits and hang artwork or garments from it. I did an eBay search for “metal grid cubes”.

For small items such as badges and keyrings you could put them into little paper cups or hang them off a display. I’ve seen people use compartmented trays or had them attached to card backs to hang up.

Enamel pins look great displayed on a cork board, smaller paper-based items such as prints, greetings cards and postcards look best displayed in a tiered display.

The best advice I ever saw was to practice, once you have an idea of what you want your display to look like, take a photo or draw out the plan so you can remember it for your convention. Don’t panic if it doesn’t work, you will usually have plenty of time to rearrange on the day itself.

For clothing I’ve taken a rail that you could easily collapse, and taken a small mannequin to show what t-shirts and hoodies look like when worn. I have found that if I take an order book with me (one where there is a section to give to the customer, get them to fill out name and address and sign that they’re happy with it), I can take orders (offering free postage) and any items that are sold out I can still get the sale.

Large artwork pieces I tend to hang a sample up on the grid thingies and have some to hand in a folder or portfolio.

 Different venues mean different ways of displaying items.

Selling at a convention is different for everyone, it depends on what you are selling, how you want to be seen and what you want from the day itself.

I hope that these little tips can give you a starting point, or if you’re already an established seller, perhaps it can help with some fresh ideas?

Let me know what you think and if you do use some ideas let me know how it went! I would love to see some of your photos of your tables at cons too!

Sidenote: Looking for images for this blog I realised how much MGB has evolved over the years!