I've been selling at Arts & Crafts shows for 14 years. I've never done a national art fair, but I've done way more than my share of local arts fairs, market days, school and church arts & crafts shows, artist's markets, farmer's markets, bizarre bazaars, etc.
Some things I've learned along the way...
1. Do NOT design the week before the show. Now is not the time to try new designs or spend hours "playing" with the beads. You need to have your product line developed by now and spend your time wisely making multiples of the ones you feel will sell the best. Hate making more than one of something? Have a basic design and change out the colors.
2. Diversify your price range. First, have a few 'show-stoppers' in your booth. These are the items that you can see a mile away. They should have your blood, sweat and tears poured into them and cost a few hundred dollars. People will ohhh and ahhh and want to try it on. You never know, you might just sell it. I can remember how excited I was when I sold my first $300 necklace! Most will look around at what is in their price range. So have a good amount of items in that middle price range. Now, I like to have 40-50% of my inventory in the impulse buy range. For me these are items under $30. Small pendant necklaces and earrings fit the bill.
3. Don't guess prices at the last minute. For pete's sake, what business does this? This is really bad to do if you are worried about selling at a show. What happens if you underprice yourself and Ms. Fabulous Gallery Owner spots your work and asks if you wholesale? Be prepared. I love Eni Oken's price calculator. Have a formula and stick to it.
4. Get the word out. Don't count on show producers to do all the advertising. Let your customers know when you are selling at a show. Tell your friends, family, co-workers, etc. about your upcoming event. If it's a large show, it doesn't hurt to let the promoters know that you are available to talk to the press if they need someone to interview. Have a press release and print ready images available on your website. I made the cover of our local weekender guide by talking to the promoter before the show.
5. My best, most important piece of advice - go to bed early the night before the show. I know, there is never enough time and you could make 10 more things if you only get two hours of sleep. You will do better at the show if you are rested. Period. So plan ahead, try to have everything done by 5pm the day before a show. Spend some time not thinking about the show, go out to dinner, watch a movie, hang out with the fam'. Be prepared on show day to sell, not curl up in a ball to take a nap at the back of your booth!
*yes, I am guilty of all above mentioned sins, but have turned from my evil ways. mostly.