I've been involved in lots of events and they do vary greatly. One thing I find really annoying is when an event is much quieter than usual and the organisers are not honest about this, it's better to be open and think of ways we can make it better for the future. Things I find a real turn off are being missed out of publicity and having my pre-agreed stall space moved at the last minute. I don't return to events that do this. The organisers I have been most impressed with have been the We Make team. They work really hard to promote and publicise their events and keep them affordable, including links to all participants in their electronic and paper publicity, planning PR in advance, finding imaginative ways of getting people interested, and they are highly organised, honest and reliable. At the other end of this scale are Truman Brewery, a large wealthy organisation who think nothing of charging rent for leaky, unheated, unsanitory venues, making promises they can't keep and think handwriting signs in felt tip is adequate publicity. I'd would advise people to steer well clear of them and stick with craft event's organisers who are involved in the craft scene and really care about designers and their work.
I have learnt that charging for tables is a must, if you expect the event to publicise the event to bring in the customers to the fair.
Though a percentage of sales at a fair? hhhhmmm not sure about that one, even if they did not charge you for a table prior to the event.
Pre paying for your space makes sense as it confirms your place and makes the organiser secure that people will not drop out, and then gives them funds to advertise the day in the local community etc
I'm plagued with emails from an organiser who I did one fair with who is constantly having to fill tables last minute (that's got to be a bad sign straight away), they've also taken on a new venue in addition to their already failing fair - the reason I haven't gone back to the fair is that the advertising was so poor, she expects the sellers to do all the advertising and just emails out a flyer for you to print off (it's not that cheap either) - I don't expect a full page spread in the paper but a few posters in advance of the fair is reasonable! Most of her efforts seem to be focussed on collecting money.
I've been writing some articles about craft fairs for Folksy - Craft Fair secrets and we've just interviewed two organisers - (I added a link to your fair on Saturday in the comments Jo!) "Ask the Organisers" It must be much more hard work than it looks and having to manage artistic temperaments must also be difficult but I'm actually quite inspired to have a go - probably not this year but maybe next year!
As the nature of my business is quite unusual, I find I do a lot of my own advertising anyway, and I do actively try to add to the event publicity if I can, giving out flyers, sending them out with orders, etc. But it does gall me if I get to an out-of-the-way venue and the advertising on the venue is completely inadequate.
Another thing I dislike intensely is dirty venues. I can cope with heat, cold, bad lighting etc with things that I routinely bring to craft fairs, but i recently did one where the floor was so dusty it was nearly impossible for me to keep my clothing clear of it and clean, so I had to withdraw a large portion of my stock from display. So I am adding a nice carpet remnant/ rug to my list of 'things to take to fairs'.
I like to have a delineated space and proper instructions - I have done fairs where, once I am fully set up, someone draws attention to the fact that my stall is back to front, and I have to break it down and start again.
I would rather someone told me before I got there if a fair was a work in progress, and if it is quiet then I will often simply offer to help with advertising.
I really hate being squirreled away in a back room/ out of the way place because my stock is unusual. If that happens I never return. Surely the point of craft fairs is something a bit different? I've also been mocked by other crafters, which I felt was extremely rude.
I'd like to do more boutique-style fairs, they are severely lacking in my area and at this rate I am going to wind up doing it myself!
Oh, and finally, the craft fair which asked me not to return as they felt my work looked too professional and not handmade enough. *facepalm*
A friend who organised her first church event 2yrs ago, and is organising this years event had asked me pretty much the same question; she was concerned that she didn't know what the stall-holders would expect. My reply to her highlighted the key issues that I'd encountered whilst at a wide variety of event types, organised by the whole range from professionals to have-a-go fly-by-nights. My reply to her read as follows:
As an aside, it also helps the non-local stall-holders to find their way [there's nothing worse than not being able to find the place you're supposed to be at on the day].
Also when applicable, within the advertising (all formats), make sure that it's obvious if the event is free (for the public to enter).
In my previous experience the ones I've attended as seller or buyer just NEVER EVER advertise and promote enough to create sufficient footfall. They seem to think that the stallholders will do all their own promoting but often that's the last thing on your mind when you're panicking about having enough stock, getting it there safely etc.
The weekend before last I went to one which was held at Darlington Arts centre on the Fri, Sat and Sun, to support a couple of friends who were exhibiting there and with a view to having a table at the next one.
Its not that big a place yet when we arrived at midday (it began at !0 am) there was NO signage or posters outside at all yet tons of space to display some and even when we went to reception they had to ask where it was before we could be directed to a couple of hidden away rooms. When we did go in, only half the tables were filled the others were just these huge empty spaces in the middle of the exhibitors.
They were charging £30 a day which over the 3 days is almost £100 -I know its not a great amount but for that I'd expect lots of local advertising and plenty of footfall. I'm having such a hard job finding any to take part in locally - again as they don't seem to be well promoted in advance - its like a secret society you only find out about afterwards!
In a word, being greedy. overcharging for tables and then charging entrance fees too. One or the other! Not only does it put crafters off from attending, but customers too. The only other thing that irritates is the increase in corporate stalls in fairs, it doesn't matter if they're suppliers, Usborne books or whoever, they have no place in a craft fair....
but that's just my opinion...