Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How to invite vendors to your event

Hello Polite Readers!

Well, if this keeps up I might be able to go back to weekly updates! This week's request comes courtesy of one of my Etsy friends who received a vague and possibly misleading event invitation. She handled it herself because she's a pro, but she also thought it would make a great topic for this blog. So first we'll briefly cover how to respond to unsolicited invites and then we'll talk about how to write an invitation that vendors will want to accept!

First of all, I feel a bit iffy about using Etsy to invite vendors to shows. I generally distrust such invites and think they're probably against Etsy's TOS. On the other hand it seems to be becoming a normal way to do things and some vendors do seem to appreciate being contacted directly by a show that they might not otherwise do well at. I have two methods of dealing with unwanted invites. If the show holds absolutely no interest for me, I ignore the message. If it's a show that I don't want to vend at but may want to attend, or if the invite comes from someone I might otherwise want to work with in the future, I send a polite "Thank you for the invite but I'm not interested at this time."

Now, event promoters, what can you do to make your invitation appealing?

1. Personalize the message. I don't want to think that you've sent the same message to every single Etsy seller in Tucson. I want to be greeted personally and I want to know why you're inviting me to vend at your event.

2. Provide pertinent details. I don't need to know everything about your event, but there are a few things I do want to know before I make a decision:
How do I get more information?

3. Be honest about the size and scope of your event. You may have big plans, but if it's your first year you're probably going to have to start small. Even if you're an established event, you might still be low-key. Please don't try to convince me that your local convention has almost as big of a draw as San Diego Comic Con.

4. Sell me on the event. Don't just say "It's going to be awesome!" Give me something specific to be excited about. For instance "This year our guest of honor is Matt Smith" or "Our art festival is a juried event that only allows handmade items."

5. Be professional. Use proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation. You can have a friendly tone and inject some personality into it, but you're still trying to do business with me so act like a pro.

6. Be realistic. I am not going to travel halfway across the country for a first-year convention. I am not going to spend $500 for a table at an art fair I've never heard of. If, for instance, you're inviting vendors to a small faerie festival, try to only invite people from your state and neighboring states. Don't send an invite to every single person who paints faeries, even if your event is in Canada and they live in Australia.

If I receive an invitation that fails to meet most of these criteria, I am not going to respond positively and I'm not going to think of recommending it to my fellow vendors or attending it for fun.

Have something you'd like to add? Share your thoughts in the comments section! Have a sticky situation of your own you'd like help with? Send it to and you could be featured in a future column.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Consider the Source

Hello Polite Readers!

We're going to talk about gift-receiving etiquette again. This week's topic comes courtesy of my husband, who was curious about my opinion on this and thought it would be good blog fodder. Thanks love! So the question is: What do you do when someone gives you a gift that you know comes from a shop you don't like? There's no one blanket answer for this, so let me break it down into a few examples of possible situations.

1. The item is offered to you casually, rather than as a hand-picked gift for your birthday or a holiday, ie, "I got a great deal on these at the store, would you like one?" In this case, you can gracefully say "Oh, no thank you" without getting into why.

2. The item was chosen specifically for you and is given at a group gathering, but comes from a store you have a mild objection to. Say "Thank you" and try not to think about the source. Perhaps make some use of it in order to make the gift-giver happy, then quietly donate it to the thrift shop a few months down the road.

3. As above, but the gift comes from someplace you have a strong objection to, like the gift store that donates all proceeds to Puppy Kickers International. As above, say thank you, but at some later date take the gift-giver aside and say "I know you picked that scarf because it brings out the green in my eyes, but were you aware that Kicks Ahoy is associated with PKI? You know that as a dog lover I just can't stand those guys. I hope you don't shop there anymore!" Again, donate the offending object and if you're feeling really bad, donate some money to a group that fights puppy kicking.

Remember that no matter what, it's the thought that counts. So if the person KNOWS that you hate PKI and they bought an "I Kick Puppies" t-shirt for you anyway, you don't even have to pretend. Fall back on the "Oh, you shouldn't have" and then throw that thing away as soon as you get home. Just don't make a scene at the party, because that's awkward for everyone else around you.

I think the best way to avoid this sort of situation is to be pretty clear about your opinions. If, for instance, you feel strongly about supporting the local economy and you love to patronize small coffee shops instead of large national chains, make that obvious. Occasionally check-in at your favorite local businesses. Talk about the delicious meal you had at that new restaurant. When you get complimented on your dress, mention that you purchased it at that cute downtown boutique. Share your political convictions, the causes that you care about, and your religious affiliations or lack thereof (all of this at whatever level you're most comfortable with). Of course you'll avoid being annoying or self-righteous about any of this, because you're so polite!

Once people have a pretty good read on you, it will be less likely that they'll give you a gift that you find morally objectionable. As a non-moralistic example, I love the color green. I make it clear by wearing lots of green, having a Pinterest board dedicated to green, using a green color scheme on my blogs, etc etc etc. As such, whenever people want to buy me a gift, they tend to buy something that is green if possible. There are even people who have certain shades that they now associate as "AJ Green" which makes me ridiculously pleased.

Dear readers, have you navigated this problem before? If so, how have you handled it?

I am waiting for YOUR letters. Write me at and you could be featured in my next column.