Swaps can be a lot of fun, but there are some details involved. If you plan ahead, the day of the swap can be almost as entertaining as Christmas morning -- without the credit card bills.
Plan ahead -- You may have already gone through your stash (or "inspiration" closet) but others haven't. Send out invitations a month to six weeks ahead of the swap to give everyone time to prepare. Taking the time to send out invitations (either by e-mail or snail mail) will save you from having to repeat the salient details and risk confusion and misunderstandings. Ask guests to set aside about two hours for the swap. Include the obvious things in the invitation like the date, time and location, and attach your list of rules and maybe a map to the location with some parking suggestions.
Define what constitutes swap worthy merchandise -- This is probably one of the hardest elements of a swap, but it's important to define the types of items that are appropriate to include. You could set a minimum and maximum dollar value, or choose other craft specific criteria, like suggesting that small items be bundled into clear bags and grouped by size, style, theme or color. Items should also have an accompanying description when the original packaging is absent.
All items should be clean and only gently used. Electronic items should be in good working order. If the swap will include software or other equipment-specific merchandise, it might be a good idea to have a computer on hand so you can check the manufacturers' Web sites to sort out any compatibility questions.
Swappers may also want to know if items are from smoking and/or pet-friendly homes. This is becoming a big issue in some quarters, especially for items like fabric or yarn, so get ahead of the question by asking your guests to label their goods accordingly.
Choose the venue -- You could be hosting the swap in your home, at a local craft store or in a public space like a meeting room at your local library. Book free meeting spaces early so you won't be disappointed. If you're hosting the event at home, refreshments are always a nice touch, but serve snack foods after the exchange to avoid greasy fingered mishaps.
Provide plenty of space -- No one wants to swap for an item without having an opportunity to take a good look at it first. Offer good lighting and plenty of horizontal space for swappers to lay out their merchandise. A dining room table may work for a small gathering, but including a couple of folding tables, or even a couple of back-to-back bookshelves with plenty of space to walk around them is a good idea. Because a swap is a bit like a friendly bazaar, placing a few tables outdoors on a sunny afternoon works well, too -- and you can't beat the lighting.