Maker Faire is the world's greatest show for makers and doers. It's a presentation opportunity for those who create something. Or, it's an inspiration resource for makers of the future. Whoever visits the Maker Faire, there will be something valuable for her.
There are few entry types to the Maker Faire. The first one is as a visitor. So, you'll have one to three days to discover what others are doing. If you wish to participate in the organization, you may want to apply to Maker Traveler program. So, you can work for Maker Faire team, for half a day, or full time, and you'll have free admission, plus some memories. But, if you're a maker, and you wish to present, that's the subject of this post.
I've visited many Maker Faires in the United States, including Barnes & Noble ones, worked as a volunteer in San Mateo Maker Faire, organized Istanbul Maker Faires with my fellow makers, and presented on New York & San Mateo Maker Faires as 2018. Now, I'm planning for the next fairs.
1. The Fairs
There are a few types of Maker Faires. Flagship Maker Faires, Global Maker Faires, Mini Maker Faires, School Maker Faires, and so on.
- Flagship Maker Faires: The biggest ones are called as flagship. San Mateo is the biggest, and New York is the next biggest fairs. They have workshops, presentations, go-kart races, and full of creativity. If you're going with a family or a group, you'll want to spend the whole two days.
- Global Maker Faires: If there are more than 100 projects, it is a Global Maker Faire. This type of faires generally include festival-like attractions, so visiting them requires nearly one day. The projects are being listed on the global Maker Faire network.
- Mini Maker Faires: When there are no more than 100 projects, it's called as Mini Maker Faire. They're generally organized by local communities. It takes up to half a day to visit a Mini Maker Faires. By the time, Mini Maker Faires can be Global Maker Faire, if they expand.
- School Maker Faires: Organized by educational institutions, those events mostly present student projects. This kind of activities has a considerable effect on young makers' growth.
Since Maker Faire is a global organization, every week you'll find a fair in a different place of the world. According to your location, budget, and travel flexibility, you'll need to select a fair first. Using the map on the makerfaire.com/map/ page, you can get information about past and future Maker Faires around you.
In my opinion, you may wish to begin with a local Mini Maker Faire, then jump to global or flagship ones. By this way, you learn about what to do in an event like this.
2. The Way to Maker Faire
After determining the Maker Faire you wish to join, check the website periodically and join the mailing list. Wait for the call for makers, and then just apply. We makers can be lazy sometimes, do not postpone the application process to the last night. If it's your first time, completing the form might take about one hour. There will be two calls for flagship Maker Faires. Make your application in the first call to increase your acceptance chance.
In the application form, first, tell about your project and the interaction. If you're presenting a DIY project or something like that, it should be free for you to join. But if it's commercial, you'll need to pay around $500 to $2.000 according to the project and your organization.
Then, tell about the activities you're planning, e.g., promoting or selling products, collecting visitor information, dangerous actions, workshops...,
Finally, tell about yourself or your team. A picture, bio, and social media links are being asked.
That's all, send the form and wait for confirmation. While waiting, it's better to get prepared for the good news. Design handouts, banners, and promotions. Send them to production just after the confirmation. For flagship Maker Faires, I would recommend printing no less than 1000x handouts.
3. Great news! You get the confirmation e-mail. Here is what to do:
- Guarantee your travel and hotel reservations. Thousands of people will come to the Maker Faire, and it can be hard to find a room if you act late.
- Check your table dimensions and buy a cover. Bed sheets are generally lifesaver if you skipped to buy it on time. For the U.S., you may purchase them from Target or Bed, Bath and Beyond for $8 to $20. Don't forget to add a few clips to your basket, especially if you'll be presenting outdoors.
- If you're going to use electricity, purchase an extension cable. 5 Meters should be enough for most set-ups. If you haven't added electricity to your plan, don't forget a fully charged power bank. Mobile phone batteries are running low faster in the events. (Maker Faire charges at least $50 electricity bill from you before the event.)
- If your project needs the Internet, here is the bad news. The mobile Internet speeds will generally be very low on the events. Try to make anything offline, if possible. If you'll collect visitor info via tablets, try to find an offline application.
- Prepare local transportation routes before the event. Riding to event venue by car is not recommended, because of limited parking spaces and long queues. Discover public transportation routes as soon as possible, and book your hotel according to your way. You'll be tired at the event days, so plan your stay taking this in the account.
- If you'll use public transportation, prepare your bag setup suitable for easy transport.
- Grab screwdriver, knife, tape and some other tools that might be useful for you and your neighbors.
- Finally, you'll be so busy at the events. In some faires, there will be food courts reserved for just makers. But, there will be no time to going there, eating and returning to your stand. So, take some food supply before the showtime.
4. Set-up Your Stand
Setting up generally begins one day before the showtime. It is highly recommended you'll set-up everything one day before the event.
When you arrive at the event location, find the makers and sponsors tent. Give your ticket to the stuff, then she will give you a wristband and direct you to your zone. Find the zone's tent, and the staff will assist you in finding your place. You'll collect an envelope which includes a welcome letter, event map, some stickers, and pins.
If you rent a zone, it's easy, but needs more work to set-up. There are no details since the whole area is yours.
If you rent one or more tables, probably you'll share a space with other makers. You can share the area any way you want, as long as you are in a deal with the neighbors. I recommend you to go to set-up early, and wait until your neighbors to arrive. So, you'll be in the control of area sharing.
In Maker Faire, projects are grouped by their similarities. Meet new people before the event starts if you can. Prepare yourself to a busy event. You won't find any time to talk even with your neighbors.
5. Show Time!
It's Maker Faire time! There will be a long queue at the event entrance. Take your place one hour before the event. You'll see visitors appear on the zone minutes later 10:00AM.
You're in Maker Faire for sharing information. Visitors ask questions about your products, what to do with them and their projects. -If you're lucky enough, like me, they may ask you to become your seller.- You can get direct feedback from your potential users. Just try to learn what makes them excited, and what is not. It is an opportunity for you to fine-tune your explanation capabilities.
If you have multiple things to show, there should be a flow in your set-up. Take a visitor from the one side, and tell one by one in one direction. This kind of arrangement is also suitable for quick interviews. Youtubers will come and ask you to tell your products to the camera. You must be prepared what to say about each product. Don't get into details so much, tell them what they can do.
6. After the Event
Please, do not pack and leave before the event ends. Visitors pay for the whole day and imagine you're going earlier. This is the most unfortunate events for the crew and the visitors.
Just after the event, you'll have a few days to post about your Maker Faire experience. Some of your visitors might write to you. Keep in touch with them.
Maker Faire is both casual and critical event. You don't need to be so professional, because it's a DIYer's festival. But if you have maker products, your potential customers will be here, and ready to meet with you. Therefore, prepare well and join the Maker Movement now.