7 Tips for Exhibiting at Maker Faire
Multi-year exhibitor Jaycon Systems has seen exponential growth by attending Maker Faire Orlando — then called Mini Maker Faire when we first started in 2012. Their presence at the Maker Faire Orlando has inspired them to attend many other Maker Faires around the country — they have been to a total of 18 Maker Faires to date.
“Thanks to Maker Faire Orlando, we were exposed to an entire new community that helped us reinvent ourselves from an online ecommerce store, selling hardware development kits, to a full-service design and manufacturing firm that helps commercial makers develop, manufacture, and fulfill their product ideas” says founder Jiten Chandiramani. “It has totally changed the way we approached business.”
With so many Maker Faires under their belt, we wanted to find out what tips and insights they would like to share with new and repeat exhibitors so they can get the most out of their exhibit. We hope that Maker Faire Orlando helps you connect to your audience just as effectively as it did for our now sponsor Jaycon Systems.
1 | Keep your booth simple — but don’t forget your signs
Have no more than three or four action items or conversation pieces on your table that represents and explains your product or service. If you have too many things displayed at once, you may need to spend extra time with each attendee in order to explain each piece. That may cause a backlog of attendees waiting to talk to you, which can in turn cause some of them to go away. Signs are a great way to introduce your product or service without them having to ask you too many questions. Try to translate your 15-sec pitch from tip #2 into a sign that people can read and understand what you do without you having to tell them.
2 | Practice your 15 sec pitch
Although we hope your booth is descriptive enough of what product or service you provide, not every booth is perfect — it will take time for you to gather feedback and make changes for the next Maker Faire you attend. Many attendees will approach you and ask the famous question: what do you do? Your goal is to spend as little time as possible explaining so they can get enough time to absorb your booth presentation and interact with any pieces you may have on display. After 2 days of talking, your vocal cords will certainly appreciate your quick pitch.
3 | Have an Emergency Kit
No, not the kind with bandages — although that could come in handy, too. Trade show emergency kits are comprised of tools and supplies you may need to set up your booth just right. Not all locations and venues are the same, and sometimes you will find an unexpected pole or tree in front of your booth. It’s up to you to make the most out of it by improvising last minute. Here is what we always have in handy: scissors, tape (duct, masking, etc), stapler + staples, cable ties, velcro, sharpies, pens, pencils, super glue, power strip, extension cords, measuring tape, wire for bending, water bottles, battery packs, usb drive, and just about anything that can help you improvise at a moment’s notice.
4 | Set up and pack over one week in advance
Don’t assume you can think of everything ahead before actually putting your booth together. Use a measuring tape and mark the floor with the area you will be given at the Maker Faire. Set up your booth exactly how you would in the Maker Faire (remember to consider whether or not you are getting a corner space. Once you are done, grab a pen and paper and make a list of everything used to make the exhibit — that will be your master list as you are packing. This will ensure you are not leaving anything behind and will prevent surprises during setup. Also, whether you are driving or flying, pack, weigh, and measure your booth components to ensure they fit in your car or luggage. If you’re shipping your booth (or parts of it), you may require to set your booth for shipping one month in advance to ensure it gets delivered on time.
5 | Collect information from interested attendees
There are lots to be seen at any Maker Faire, so even though attendees may have stopped at your booth and spoken to you, it can be easy for them to forget to keep in touch with you. Make sure you have a signup list, a lead collection sheet, or even a contest to encourage them to give you their contact information. Games are a great opportunity to get attendees to engage with you, especially if you have them like your facebook page or follow you on Twitter or Instagram.
6 | Low traffic? Ask them questions
If you find yourself in a situation where people are not approaching your booth at the pace you would like them to, ask them questions. Some people certainly enjoy talking about themselves when you show interest. If people are looking at your booth from the corner of their eye and walking past it at the same time as if they are not going to stop, ask what brings them there, compliment the cool hat they are wearing, or ask if they know what time the drone race starts. Remember to use a pull approach instead of a push approach. You will be surprised at how many people will open up and start asking questions about your product because you asked questions about them first.
7 | Have a clear goal
Going to the Maker Faire just to show your idea to the world sounds great in theory, but just like any marketing campaign you will ever do, you will need a clear goal. If you are preparing for a Kickstarter for example, use the Maker Faire as a way to gather email signatures to announce when you launch your campaign. If you are introducing a new product that is in its beta test stage, gathering feedback from attendees should be your primary goal — just ensure you make it easy for people to record their feedback. If you are selling a service and need more prospects, collecting as many contacts as possible can also be your primary goal. If your social media following is low, building up your page likes should be your ultimate goal. Whatever your goal is when you exhibit at the Maker Faire, you should have the right process to fulfill it. Remember to go through tip number 4 and run a scenario with friends and family to ensure you have everything in place, whether it’s a whiteboard to gather feedback, a clipboard to collect leads, or a QR code to have them follow you on social media.
Conclusion + extra tip
Whether this is your first or 30th Maker Faire, one thing is for sure: there will always be room for improvement. However, improvement will only come if you pay attention to what’s going on in your booth. Remember to take notes of what you did well and what can be improved; gather up your team no more than two days after the show — so it’s fresh in their memory — and discuss their experiences. And whether you have a $500 budget or a $50,000 budget, just remember to always have a clear message and goal.