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Q: I’m a clay artist and I try to demonstrate my work when I exhibit at shows because it seems to create interest in my work and it draws people into my booth. Another exhibitor pulled me aside recently and told me my appearance with clay on my hands and clothes was a turnoff to potential clientele. I don’t wear my best outfits because I feel jeans and a plain shirt are appropriate for my work. Do you think I should skip the demonstrating so I can dress nicer?

A: How about doing both? I think demonstrating can be a good thing and that messy usually isn’t good. It seems you could wear an apron while demonstrating and make a real effort to keep the clay from getting all over. I know a house painter whose clothing is nearly paint-free. And why can’t you wash your hands—are you alone in your booth? I have some concerns about solo craftspeople demonstrating in their booths. Who is selling your work to the customers who watched your demo and want to buy and move on? The desire on the part of consumers is to find authentic shopping experiences, and demonstration is definitely an authentic selling and buying experience.

To this end, many show promoters encourage exhibitors to demonstrate and many do. My thinking is that at this time of extreme competition for the consumer dollar it makes sense for you and the promoter to work together to make demonstrations a truly meaningful part of the show experience. Perhaps there could be an area set aside for demonstrations and a schedule posted at the entrance. If you are solo and agree to demonstrate, the show promoter should arrange a booth sitter for the time you are away. Signs posted while you demonstrate should send observers to your booth to make purchases.

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