The Care and Feeding of Booth Elves - Guest - AJ Reardon

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

When you read the title of this blog you were probably thinking:
or perhaps.... accurately read AJ's guest blog post you need to picture this:

If you're a vendor traveling to a trade show, you may find yourself in need of additional help to man your booth. Drawing from my 11 years of experience as a elf at the Tucson Gem Shows, I'm here to provide you with some helpful tips on how to find and keep a loyal employee who will stay with you for years.

First you have to find someone who you trust and can spend anywhere from a day to two weeks working with. Friends of existing employees are a good resource and loyal customers are even better, because they already know your product and will probably be willing to take at least part of their pay in trade.

If at all possible, try to find someone local. I live in Tucson, which has made me a popular booth elf. If you bring in someone from out of town, you have to pay for their transportation, lodging and meals. A local elf not only has their own home to go to at night and can provide other valuable tips while you're in their town. 

Once you've decided on someone, be sure to ask them as soon as possible. My vendor employers usually tell me at the end of the show if they'll want me back next year, then we reconfirm a few months before the show comes up. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that all of the good employees will already have secured employment.

Now that you've found a booth elf, discuss the details of the job. It's good to clarify ahead of time what hours they'll be working, duties and of course, their pay. Be specific with job duties - confusion creates a bad working environment. 

During the show, there are a few things you can do to elevate yourself to the level of “cool boss.” It's nice to treat your employee to lunch at least once during the show, and/or dinner is also a good perk! If the show is slow enough that your booth elf has some free time, allow them a chance to go shop – especially if you're at a bead show and they're a beader. Giving your elf a discount if they choose to take their pay in trade instead of money is another good bonus.

The most important thing is to treat your booth elf with respect and a friendly attitude. They may just be working for you for a short time, but they deserve the same treatment as your regular employees. They'll remember if you treat them poorly, and you'll lose not just a valuable temporary employee, but possibly a customer as well.

Bonus! Tips for potential booth elves:

If you'd like to work at a show, spread the word around. First ask the vendor(s) that you'd specifically like to work for, and if they don't need you, they'll at least remember you if a fellow vendor asks them if they know anyone.

Once you have a job, treat it as seriously as you'd treat a regular day job. Show up on time, obey your boss, and be respectful towards the customers... even the really annoying ones who smell funny. You may only be working for a weekend, but your employer relies on their business for their income year-round, so don't do anything that would damage their standing with their customers.

Don't be afraid to negotiate a bit. If there are hours you specifically can't work due to a previous commitment, or if you'd like to have an hour somewhere during the show to shop, bring it up politely to your employer and see what you can work out.

When both the vendor and the booth elf approach the relationship with respect and a good attitude, it can be the start of a beautiful arrangement. I have several previous employers that I still think of fondly; the only reason that I don't work for them anymore is that they don't come to Tucson anymore. My current boss is an absolute peach and I always look forward to working in her booth. You too can have (or be) a loyal, hardworking booth elf!

(The Hole Bead Shoppe Note: We met AJ in Tucson at Beyond Beadery - it was immediately apparent that AJ was a well seasoned Tucson Gem Show attendee and her quick wit, enthusiastic love of all things bead were infectious and we fell in love with her. You can find AJ's work at:

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1 comment:

AJ said...

*giggle* I WISH I looked like that elf... and I bet I'd bring a lot more business to Beyond Beadery if I dressed that way :D

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