I’m back home after a wonderful weekend as an exhibitor at the Paradise City Arts Festival. Typically, for me, the days after a long weekend show are spent sleeping, unpacking, calling in credit card purchases, catching up on email, and resetting my “get your butt in the chair” clock to work again in the studio.
It is also a time of reflection on what went well at the show, what didn’t work as well, and how to improve for the next time.
So, what helps you to have a good show?
First, the customer mailing list. I sent out over 200 postcards though I don’t usually see a fraction of those people coming to any given show. However, I do think it is important to keep your work in front of your customer’s eyes and postcard mailings do just that. You may not see them at the show but it may remind them to visit your web site or stop in a local gallery that sells your work.
It is also important to add to your customer mailing list and that means having a notebook, clip board, journal, or some other means of collecting contact information in your booth. At the front of my booth is a small journal and polymer clay covered pen along with a small sign encouraging people to join my mailing list. I find it interesting that artists who have been showing their work for years still don’t have this simple marketing tool in their booths or that they keep it hidden and only bring it out if someone makes a purchase.
Business cards. This summer I updated my business card with a picture of one of my art dolls on one side and contact information, including my web site, on the other side. Why put a picture of your work on a business card? To remind people about your art and what you make. How many times have you picked up a business card, put it in your pocket only to find it later and wonder what does this person make and why did I take her card? I put business cards on my display tables and in each gift box when a purchase is made. And throughout the weekend I handed out and people picked up business cards as well. Will any of them turn into customers? Maybe, maybe not. But it is another simple marketing tool that gets your name and work out into the public arena.
(My preferred source for business cards and postcards is VistaPrint.)
Greeting the customers. A simple “hello” and “if you have any questions, please ask” is all it takes to welcome someone into your booth. People like to be acknowledged. And most people are very appreciative, reply in kind and say “thank you.”
Talking about your work; not just about the material(s) but perhaps a line or two about your inspiration. If your art is interactive, show customers how it works and then watch them try out other interactive pieces. This may create a connection with the person which, in turn, results in a purchase. More than once this weekend people walked into my booth who remembered me and my work from the spring show. And then they would describe some of my work to the friends they were with.
What doesn’t contribute to a good show? Here are some things I observed during the weekend.
- Talking on the cell phone or reading in your booth. It turns off customers and makes you look disinterested in interacting with the customer. Put your cell phone on mute or vibration mode. It is one thing to have customer’s cell phones ringing in your booth. It is truly distracting to have your own cell phone ringing in your booth. If you need to take a call on your phone, excuse yourself from your booth when possible.
- Disappearing from your booth for extended periods. We all need bathroom and food breaks. Many shows offer booth sitters who will watch your booth so you can get a bite to eat. If you need to leave your booth, tell someone nearby so that s/he can watch your booth in your absence. Put out a small sign that states you’ll be back shortly. But disappearing for a period of time when customers are walking around means you lose potential business.
- Guarding your booth entrance. Where to place yourself in your booth is a matter of preference. Some people sit/stand near the front and others tend toward the rear of the booth. Yet many artists who sit near the front of their booth look like they are guarding the booth as if they don’t want people to enter. I’m sure that isn’t their intent. Yet when you sit with your arms folded and a scowl on your face you don’t send a “come on in” message.
- Hiding in your booth. This is the polar opposite of the guarded booth. This is the artist who has her booth designed such that you never see her because she is hiding behind a panel or curtain. You walk into the booth and out pops the artist (hopefully). This either startles the customer, results in nervous laughter, or both. If customer interaction isn’t your favorite thing bring along a friend who enjoys meeting and greeting people.
Next up: The power of intention.