Everyone is doing pop-up events. Every art’s corridor, city, organization, or collective is doing some sort of art fair, sale, pop-up event or heritage days. The Minnesota market is saturated with with art fairs, art sales and other vendor booth events. And if the public misses one event, there is always another.
In participating in multiple types of pop up events and seeing low attendance (and pissed off vendors), this blog post attempts to discuss the ways pop-up events fail to launch.
As someone who has collaborated with retail “curated marketplace,” small town Heritage days, and participated in arts based pop-up events, I’ve grown to learn what makes an event fail and what red flags I see that make me say, “Well, I’m not doing that event again next year.”
Lack of Marketing: Relying on social media to get the word out isn’t the way to do it anymore. Putting up a Facebook event does not get the message across. There needs to be a strategy and plan executed to draw in the public. Communication and collaboration can widen your participation if you do it right and get the word out!
Lack of Communication: Emails with missing key information, not being available on the day of the event, or not walking around communicating with attendees and vendors shows a lack of communication across all parties. If you accepted some form of compensation from the booth fees to “work” the event, you need to be making things happen (and preferably, smoothly).
Lack of Organization: When your vendors show up on the day of the event, there needs to be a plan. Your vendors are small businesses and artist who are concerned with setting up their small “shops” and mini-galleries. They are interested in learning where they need to be, executing their work, and making a profit. You need to decide beforehand how the space is going to be utilized, flow of traffic or locations of vendors so you’re not saying, “I don’t know,” or “Give me a minute and I’ll figure it out.”
High Fees: If vendors pay more to participate then they end up making, you can guarantee they will not be participating in your event next year. Communicating to your vendors why the fee is set at that price can be a beneficial tactic especially if your space is lack luster and you have no printed marketing materials. While you don’t need to be completely transparent, high booth fees at a failing event is a major red flag.
Curation: If you curate your vendors and utilize real small businesses and creatives who know what they are doing, the event looks better and is overall more successful. Having the younger inexperienced artist without business cards, no experience selling work, or uses makeshift signage with duct tape will tell your audience what to expect from your event. Using established creators can help with increasing attendance as most vendors have a mailing list they can utilize.
Yes, all vendors and artists need to start somewhere, but your event should be planned and curated well so you don’t need to accept the fresh-out-of-art-school-student-with-the-card-table-and-Christmas-lights as a booth in your pop-up.
Excuses: Giving your artists or vendors excuses why the event didn’t take off does not make the experience better. Whether its the lack of marketing, poor planning, or a rainy day, you are not going too make a poorly attended event better by giving your vendors or attendees excuses. Stop promising next year’s success or using the excuse that this is the first year of the event as a reason why next year will be better.
Experience: The space, display and vibe of your pop up matters. Using a warehouse space because its cheap or available isn’t always the best option. Think about where your visitors will park, how the space looks (or smells) the layout of the space, lighting, and decor. Consider using some of your high booth fees for a bit of decor or ambiance.
Lack of Engagement: Music, free make and take activity tables or coffee has been done before, what other ways can you engage the attendees? Ask what differentiates this pop-up from every other pop up and how can you make people leave wanting to attend next year?
Poor Coordinator: If you haven’t put together a pop-up event before that doesn’t mean you have the skills and experiences to pull one off. Events management is a skill. Just because you day job has the word “manager” in the title doesn’t mean you can create a pop-up event. You can usually find A poor coordinator manning their own booth!
Know When to Stop: Just because you pulled off the vent past year doesn’t mean you need to do it again. Multiple years of failure, low attendance or poor coordination doesn’t mean its working. Know when to wave the white flag and stop.
Competing Events: Hosting your pop-up event on the same weekend as another big event and spinning it as a “collaboration” or “art fair weekend” doesn’t work. Especially if that event is bigger than yours and already draws a large crowd. You can’t hope people will leave the other well attended event to find you especially if that event is well established, markets the event, and occurs annually.