Booking up your Show Calendar - So many shows, so little time!
You know the saying about real estate, restaurants and retail; "Location, Location, Location"! Well, my saying here is; Organization, Organization, Organization!
In this article I will deal with the process of how to go about filling your calendar, hopefully with nothing but great and profitable shows. Keep in mind though, this article does not deal with good show selection, which is another topic all together and would need to be covered separately.
The reason I say Organization as your top priority is that with all the different requirements and deadlines involved when you apply to an event and the need to apply to multiple events for each weekend you want to fill, you must be organized. Here are some simple steps to follow toward that goal.
1) Create your list of possible shows. Research all the likely events on a given weekend, making use of all the show information sources you use. Then select at least five to twenty possibilities for each weekend. To develop your list, I of course recommend Festival Network Online ( https://festivalnet.com ). There are many other good sources out there and it never hurts to use several. Again, here I am not going to address how you select what may be a good show for you and your product, just the organizational process. Make your selections as far in advance as possible, 6-12 months, so you don't miss deadlines and then organize your list in priority order by the application deadline. If you have events on your list that you don't have the deadline for, call those first and make sure that the deadline has not passed.
2) Next, narrow it down and request some applications. Call each event (working through your list in order of deadlines) and verify the information you have; dates, fees, attendance, number of booths, nature of the event, application requirements, deadlines, other activities that will be part of the event... This is always a good idea regardless of the source where you got your information, as things change and sometimes wrong information is provided by the event sponsor. When you call, also try to get a feel for the event from the person you talk with. Ask questions like, "Do they have a lot of returning exhibitors/vendors each year", "Is it difficult to get in", "Has attendance been up or down in recent years", "Do the people that attend like to spend"? Ask if you can get the name and number of a returning exhibitor/vendor. You can sometimes get enough insight about the event from this initial conversation to determine that you do not want to request an application and strike from your list. But, if all checks out and the deadline has not passed, request the application.
3) Keep it all on track. Now that you have all these applications coming in, you must make sure nothing slips through the cracks. You may want use a contact manager or database program to keep your information organized, but a file cabinet and file folders will work fine too. One thing you absolutely must have, is a "To Do" calendar, be it a hard copy day planner, or a computer based calendar/day planner program. This is where you keep track of what needs to be done by date. Every time you do something on an event (request application, return application, make follow-up call...) make an entry in your "To Do" calendar/planner for the next step that needs to be taken. The next step may be a week, a month or two days in the future, but make sure there is an entry somewhere in your calendar/planner for every event you are pursuing. You should always pursue 3-10 events for each weekend you want to work. This will maximize your odds of being booked as much as you want to work.
4) Last but not least, follow-up is very important. Stay on top of each and every detail about each event. Once the application is requested, put a follow-up in your "To Do" calendar to check back in two weeks if the application has not arrived and then do it! After the application is filled out and sent back, put a new follow-up in your "To Do" calendar to call them in two weeks and make sure they got it. After you have been accepted, put another follow-up in your "To Do" calendar to send your booth fee by the required date. The worst feeling in the world is to get accepted to an event and then loose your spot because you missed the deadline to send in your booth fee! After you do send your fees and contract, add a follow-up in two weeks to make sure they got your check, contract, permits... You get the drift.
If you will follow this process for each weekend you want to work and seek out at least 5-30 events for each of those weekends, you should have a full calendar and hopefully a prosperous year! Good Luck!
Article by: Kurt Irmiter: Co-owner of Festival Network Online
He has 20 years of festival, entertainment, and business experience.