Has your business scored a vendor booth at an upcoming festival? Congratulations! Whether you’re selling foods or goods, here are the festival vending tips you need to know to ensure a successful day.

General must-knows

Before we get into the details, here are five “must-knows” for any festival vendor.

  1. Know the festival layout. Grab a map and familiarize yourself with the festival layout and traffic flow. This will give you ideas for how to position signage to attract more customers.
  2. Know what other vendors will be there. Knowing which of your competitors will be there can give you ideas for how you might price or bundle your products competitively. For everyone else, see if there’s any businesses you can do cross-promotions with.
  3. Know the hours of operation. If the event continues once the sun sets, inquire whether lighting is provided — or if you’ll need to bring your own.
  4. Know the rules and regulations for festival vendors. Festivals can have strict requirements as to what types of signage or lighting you can use at your booth. Review these carefully to avoid problems on the day of.
  5. Know what paperwork you need. Most festivals will require you to submit key documents as part of your application. This may include a permit to sell your products, and a Certificate of Insurance proving you have general liability coverage. You may also want to consider product liability coverage.

What to prepare beforehand

Now that you know a few things, it’s time to prep, plan, and ponder how to get the most out of the festival. Consider the following ten tips for your festival planning checklist. 

  1. Figure out the logistics. How will you get yourself, your products, and your booth setup to and from the festival? What time can you arrive, and how long will you have to get everything set up? Figure out what you’ll need for your booth, and make plans to order supplies sooner versus later. Also make lists of how much inventory you’ll want to bring (and how much you’ll need to produce if your current inventory doesn’t suffice). 
  2. Brainstorm your booth design. Research ideas for decorating your vendor booth on Pinterest. You can also find inspiration in other local vendors, by attending other festivals in your area. While you’re there, pay attention to the details. Observe how tables, baskets, signage, and risers are laid out, as well as the hardware they use to secure everything in place (screws, zip ties, clamps, carabiners, etc.).
  3. Sketch out your booth layout.Many vendors use a U-shaped layout. Product displays are placed along the sides and back of the booth, with the open end inviting people in. Triple-check the square footage and dimensions of your space and include it in your sketch.
  4. Plan out your product displays.Instead of laying products flat on tables, you’ll want to leverage vertical displays, wall panels, adjustable shelving, and acrylic risers to place your products in shoppers’ line of sight. Use contrasting colors that help your products stand out (so if your products are generally light-colored, use dark tablecloths or risers).
  5. Get loud with booth signage. Create big signs to place outside and order vinyl banners you can hang along the inside of your booth. If it’s allowed, bring along a sandwich board to attract attendees walking by. 
  6. Add props to make your booth feel immersive.What’s the vibe of your booth? Bring it to life with themed decor, lighting, and a few knick knacks. Consider string lights for a little more pizazz. Bonus points if you can create something Instagrammable (like a photo backdrop), where people will feel inspired to pose with your booth. 
  7. Know how you’ll accept payments. Consider bringing a cash box (with change), and invest in a credit card reader for your phone or iPad. Find out the wifi situation at the festival and bring along a hot spot if you need to.
  8. Pre-order your branded gear. Order branded shopping bags, or make some yourself with a branded stamp that includes your logo and website. Order more business cards — it’s better to have too many than too few. You can include one with each bag at checkout. 
  9. Prepare your pricing displays. If most of your products fall into a few pricing tiers, print a few posters with everything listed out prominently. If you’ve got a lot of variation in your pricing, print small cards to display near the products. 
  10. Be prepared for bad weather.Pack jackets, umbrellas, a portable fan, and extra zip ties and containers. 

How to make the most of the day

You’ll already be way ahead of the game by following the tips above, but here are a few more pro vendor tips to make the most of any festival.

  1. Arrive as early as possible. Worst case scenario: you’ll finish setting up early and can take a few minutes to rest and relax before the madness begins.
  2. Bring supplies.Pack snacks, water, hygiene products, aspirin, and anything else you’ll need in a pinch.
  3. Bring your A-game. Be your friendliest, most approachable self, and invite customers to interact with you. Have a short elevator pitch to introduce yourself in case they have questions about what inspired you to go into business. Wear a branded shirt or a baseball cap so people know they can approach you with questions.
  4. Have a team of people to support you. At a minimum, it’s helpful to have at least one person available to cover you in case you need to use the restroom or you’re in a deep conversation with another customer. If you’ll be hiring people, look into workers’ comp coverage in case one of them gets injured during their work at the event.
  5. Make your booth fun. If it’s allowed under the festival guidelines, bring a portable speaker and play some music. If it’s a dog-friendly festival, have a water bowl to attract people toward your booth. Encourage people to take photos for their social media.
  6. Give out some free swag. With each purchase, you might offer a discount code to purchase something on your website, or include a branded sticker just for fun. If you have some budget, order a spin wheel to create interaction and give out discounts or freebies. 
  7. Plan social posts using the festival hashtag. Include your social media account on signage so people can tag you with their merch. Generate hype by going Live or sharing videos of you preparing for the festival.
  8. Know that things will go awry.There will be accidents, crazy customers, and random things there’s no way you could have prepared for. Just take a deep breath and stay flexible. Also, give yourself some peace of mind by protecting your business with event insurance arranged by Thimble. It only takes 60 seconds to get your free quote.

Bottom line

There’s a lot to do to prepare for a festival. Follow this festival vendor checklist, and you’ll be in good — dare we say, great — shape. 

Prepare by reading up on all the rules and requirements for vendors. Then, make a detailed plan and accomplish everything you need to to be ready for the big day. Finally, take some deep breaths, smile, and sell!