Craft shows can be really intimidating for introverts; not only are you putting your work out there for people to critique, you have to put yourself out there, spending the entire day around crowds of people, chatting with strangers.
I know from experience how intimidating it can be; do I say hi? They didn’t hear me….do I say hi again? Where do I look? I don’t want them to feel like I’m staring at them. How much should I talk about my products? I don’t want to bother them….
The good news is that it does get a lot easier and fast.
Here are 12 things that helped me come out of my shell for shows.
1) Take the pressure off
Know that people aren’t looking for you to talk constantly about where you sourced your material, what you were thinking when you made this piece or what the entire process is.
There will be some inquisitive shoppers but most just want to make a connection with you.
That may mean chatting about the weather or a hobby of their own. How much you talk or share is completely up to you so don’t feel pressured to tell everyone everything.
If you create an effective display, you can let it do the talking for you.
- Add elements to draw shoppers in
- Avoid common mistakes
- Use signage and props (here are 50 prop ideas) to communicate important messages
- Find ways to sell to shoppers after the event
2) Warm up
If you have enough time before the doors open, walk around and introduce yourself to the other vendors. This will not only put you at ease by making you feel like you’re surrounded by friends, rather than strangers, it will also warm up your conversation skills so you feel more relaxed when the first customer hits your booth.
3) Find what excites you about your products
When we’re passionate about something, we can’t help but talk about it. What’s that one thing you think is really exciting about your work that you can’t wait to share? Think about that beforehand. It’s almost like perfecting your elevator pitch. It should be engraved into your brain so you don’t even have to think about it, the words just pour out. If you feel like you can only get one sentence out, start with that one.
4) Smile, smile, smile!
I know firsthand that shyness and introversion can be taken the wrong way by people. Although our friends and family know we’re just quiet, strangers can mistake that quality for being rude. I heard over and over, once people got to know me, that “wow, you’re actually really nice”. Thank you?
Because of this, I know that even if I don’t feel I can get words out, I need to have a smile on my face so they don’t think I’m standing there, quietly
5) Get them talking
The biggest thing to remember, whether you’re an introvert or not, is that people like to feel important.
The best way to do this and at the same time, take the focus off of you is to ask them questions about themselves. The more questions you ask, the more likely you are to find a common interest. When I find a fellow cat lover, I could talk for days!
Don’t go overboard with questions though. You don’t want them to feel like they’re being interviewed. Not to mention, they may be an introvert like you – in which case, check out our article How to Sell to Introverts.
Take cues when someone wants to chat and when they just want to quietly shop.
6) Ask the right kind of questions
Don’t just ask one’s they can answer with a “yes” or “no” to; those will cut the conversation short and put the pressure back on you. Ask open-ended questions they have to put a little more effort into answering:
- what type of ____ (enter your product category here) do you usually use/wear/buy?
- what have you picked out so far?
- how’s the weather out there?
These will get them to open up a bit more and they may share something while answering that makes for an easy transition into another topic.
More on this subject in our article How to Start a Conversation with any Shopper.
7) Do some prep work
Prepare some tactics and open-ended questions you can ask when you’re feeling on the spot. You don’t need to read them from a piece of paper but have a few in the back of your mind that you can use with shoppers throughout the day so you’re not scrambling to find something to say when you’re caught off guard.
Here are a few best practices retailers use to sell more without saying a word. Consider how you can use them at your next event.
8) Stay organized
Check that you have everything you need before you leave the house, arrive on time with all your items tagged, and have your craft show display planned (here’s a free email course to help you plan your display).
Rushing to the show and having to figure out the layout of your booth while shoppers come in will leave you flustered and starting off on the wrong foot.
I also hated fumbling over money exchanges so I was sure to have a setup down and behind my table, away from prying eyes, where I could use a calculator if need be and count out their change.
All of my wrapping supplies were ready to go so I wasn’t searching for tissue paper and business cards while they patiently waited…..and watched.
9) Repeat Material
My business partner and I used to laugh about using the same lines over and over with different customers. To us, it was a lame joke or icebreaker we used 100 times in a day but to each shopper, it was new. Repetitive? Yes. But it made making conversation easy.
10) Use Humor
If you can work your products into the joke, even better. Is there a funny story behind one item or something it’s commonly mistaken for? Bring it up when a shopper checks it out (and as mentioned, don’t be afraid to repeat the same joke with different customers).
Humor is a great icebreaker and it helps the shopper and your overactive mind know, not to take things too seriously.
11) Compliment the shopper
Complimenting someone on something they’re wearing will instantly make them feel comfortable and more likely to open up to you. It’s not something you want to do with every customer, as people will start to think you’re insincere, but when you really do love something, let them know!
12) Mimic other vendors
Try to pay attention to the other vendors around you and pick up on the types of things they say about their products and how they interact with shoppers. Stay authentic to who you are but don’t be afraid to use some of the icebreakers, questions, and techniques they use, to chat with your shoppers.
BONUS: Step up that craft show display!
The more effort you put into your display, the less talking you have to do. You can let your display do the talking/selling for you.
Think about what you’d love to tell customers about your products, business, and brand and then find ways to communicate that through visuals.
Want a little help getting there? Join my FREE 5 DAYS TO A STANDOUT DISPLAY CHALLENGE. I’ll walk you through the exact steps to come up with a concept and plan your display so it becomes your selling machine and almost acts as a partner. You can just jump in with a few additional points and ask “How would you like to pay for that?” 😉
Being an introvert is a great thing; we typically like to sit back and observe the situation so we become quite intuitive. Being able to pick up on subtle signs people are giving off puts you at a great advantage. You might not be able to gab someone’s ear off but you know when to engage and when to back off.
If you’re still really uncomfortable with the idea of a craft show, even with these 12 tips, bring a friend or share a booth with a fellow crafter you know until you feel confident enough to do it on your own.
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Hey, I’m Erin 🙂 I write about small business and craft show techniques I’ve learned from being a small business owner for almost 2 decades, selling at dozens of craft shows, and earning a diploma in Visual Communication Design. I hope you find my advice helpful!