Over the years since I started Capes & Babes and began attending conventions, I’ve been very fortunate to receive many great compliments about my table set-up. I’d like to think part of that is due to my extensive graphic design background. In any case, there’s a lot of thought and planning that goes into setting up one’s table at a convention and I thought it might be fin to show you almost the step-by-step process I go through for most of the shows I attend.
I say that because every show is different – sometimes, you’ll have an end table… other times, you might be placed in a corner or you might be in the middle of an open island surrounded by other creators. In the end, you have to be flexible and able to modify your table set-up on the fly.
The following photos were taken during my set-up process for the two-day Allentown Comic Con I attended a few months ago in Allentown, Pennsylvania. For the most part, this is generally the table set-up process I go through for almost every show I attend.
- A 48” Rubbermaid tub
- A smaller Rubbermaid tub
- A compact, sturdy dolly
- Two travel suitcases
- A small fold-up table
- A five foot tall fold-up stand-up of my werewolf character, Roy (not shown)
The 48” Rubbermaid tub contains 90% of all of my convention supplies. The smaller tub contains book displays and other materials for my table. One of the two suitcases contains all of my art supplies – mainly design markers for doing commissions. The other suitcase I use for books. The dolly has a handle that can be adjusted to fit as an elongated L (pictured) or remain as a vertical dolly. I found the pictured dolly online for around $50 a few years ago.
The first thing I do is cover up my table with two sheets – one is a black bed sheet and the other is a smaller red table cloth. I lay the black sheet down fist and put the red table cloth in the middle like a fancy racing stripe. I chose black and red because, traditionally, black and red are the two strongest colors in design and gives the table a bold look.
To help with transportation, my book suitcase can easily fit inside the 48” Rubbermaid tub. If I have extra books, boxes, postcards or anything of that nature, they can fit in the tub as well.
The smaller tub contains a plastic milk crate I use to prop up my sketch card display. Once I put my black and red table drapery over my convention table, I unload everything as I find that makes for a faster set up process and keeps the set up process from becoming too chaotic.
Usually, the first process is to organize the books. The book displays were bought from a local Borders as they were closing their store. I got four for $5 a piece. One broke so now I only have three. Sometimes, the book display will be on the far right or, in the case of the Allentown show, they’ll be placed on the far left.
Once the books are set up, I’ll move to the middle of the table and set up my display for commissions. After that, I’ll set up my sketch card display board. Because I sell a wide range of stuff at a convention, I try to organize my table into thirds: 1/3 of the table will be Books and Capes & babes related material, the middle third will be commissions and the last third will be sketch cards.
I do my best to try and maintain this concept but sometimes that’s not always possible. Again, you have to be flexible and willing to change your set-up on the fly.
After the top of the table is set up, I will then add my front table banner. The banner is a heavy, glossy vinyl banner I got printed at www.gotprint.com ($20) so I need to add it last – otherwise, the weight of the banner will cause the red and black sheets to slide off the table. I also have the banner secured with red duct tape. I use red duct tape so it blends in with the red table cloth.
To keep the banner straight – and to add some bottom weight – I bought a bunch of round heavy magnets from an office supply chain. I put two sets of magnets in front and behind the black bed sheet to add weight and to keep it flat against the table drapery.
Speaking of table drapery, I like to have both sheet cover as much of the front and sides of the table as possible. I don’t like anyone to have a view of what’s underneath my table as it can get messy or chaotic under there during a show. Keeping that hidden from people makes my table area look clean and organized even if it’s anything but! Also, some shows might already supply your table with a “skirt”. When that happens, I immediately remove the supplied “skirt” and replace it with my red and black sheets as I want to maintain a consistent look from show to show and I just think the red and black make the table stand out more than a single color “skirt”.
Once the front table banner is secured, I will then go to work on setting up Roy. Even though Roy is a foldable stand-up, I had to make a customized stand for him and that takes a few minutes to set-up properly. Once I have finished with Roy, I put him on the small foldable table in order to make him taller and stand out even more in a crowded convention floor.
Once all of this is done, I set up my pull-up banner, my banner is only 30 or so inches tall but to make it seem bigger, I put it on top of the smaller Rubbermaid tub and position it behind my table.
Also, not shown in any of these photos is the fact that I’ve also made it a habit of bringing two t-shirts to a show. Because the whole process I described above can be somewhat labor intensive, it can make me perspire quite a bit so once the set-up is complete, I’ll change t-shirts and then put on my Capes & Babes bowling shirt.
All in all, the entire process can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour – that’s why it’s always important to get to a convention as early as possible. Even though I have my set-up process down pretty good, I still like to have at least an hour for set-up time before a show starts.
And now you know why!
Here is a gallery of larger versions of all the pictures in the blog post above:
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