Posted in: Tips, Tricks, & Best Practices for Festival Organizers on April 7, 2014 by Natasha Hillier
In the early stages of planning a festival, accepting vendor applications is an important step for ensuring that not only the ‘marketplace’ of your festival is in full force come production day, but also the culture of your event is firmly established.
To a festival goer, vendors don’t just represent a means to an end, eg. a piece of pizza, or a place to charge their cellphone. If curated properly, vendors are an important part of the overall festival experience; in many cases they represent the cuisine of your festival, the mementos, the partners, the place to exchange ideas or excitement — the lifeblood of your festival.
Some best practices to follow when accepting vendor applications at your next festival are:
The most common model of accepting festival vendor applications is posting a link to a staff member’s email, or a generic email@example.com email, on the event’s website, and then encouraging vendors to apply via that address. The overall workflow of this process is almost always long, painstaking, and leaves a lot of room for human error. Between incoherent emails and missing information, even the simple task of collecting a list of options can turn into hours of work and wasted HR.
Providing accessibility for prospective vendor applications can become one of the biggest time-savers while planning for your festival. Festivals can improve their accessibility by:
- Clearly listing a process of how to apply to your festival on your official website
- Hosting a digital form on your website that collects all the prudent information of your vendor applications and then organizes it efficiently in some sort of database.
- Clearly indicating any ‘next steps’ that a prospect must be aware of after they are done applying to your event
Creating a coherent application process that is accessible to all those seeking out your festival will save hours of work and synergize your collaborations, right out of the gate.
When reviewing the workflow charts of the two different models for accepting vendor applications, it becomes very apparent as to which model saves both the vendors and the festival organizers the most time & stress.
Another common practice when accepting vendor applications is simply accepting generic applications for “vendors” or “trades,” while the festival is actually actively looking for food vendors, craft vendors, charity vendors, media vendors, or contestant vendors. Festival organizers often assume that applicants will understand how and where they fit into the entire process, which may be true for any veterans of the trade, but organizers then risk missing the ‘next big thing,’ eg. a vendor who may not know their way around the block yet, but have a lot of offer.
The key is to purposely seek out your vendors by listing and categorizing exactly who and what you are looking for. Have a separate web application form for all the vendor applications you are accepting, providing a clear workflow for any prospect. This point clearly relates back to the first best practice of ‘accessibility.’ The more organized and clear your festival is about your application processes, the more organized and clear your event will actually be.
Lastly, it is not uncommon for a festival goers to have no sweet clue about what vendors are attending your festival until they actually arrive on the event grounds. There’s been no chance for them to get excited about visiting their favourite food truck, or artisan display; no direction about where to locate them – no nothing!
A lack of communication about these details is a missed chance to promote your festival and a missed chance to be kind to your vendors. If we truly believe that vendors are not just means to an end, but an integral aspect of our events, we must properly represent and advertise their presence. This is especially true when you consider the cost of advertising can be virtually free in this circumstance, seeing as an announcement that a certain popular vendor is coming to your festival this year is perfect tweet material! Such tweets will will open up new audiences for your festival who are big followers of your vendors, but know very little about you.