July 23, 2017

Preparing for Art Events Like a Pro

You gathered all of your photos, wrote out an artist statement, submitted the application in time, wowed the jury, and now you're in! So what's next? How do you make sure you are ready for the art fair or festival that you've committed to without stressing about all that goes into success? If this is your first event, your head may be swimming with an ever mounting to do list, but I'm here to offer a simple set of considerations to prepare. If you're already an art show pro, let me know what other tips help you knock each event out of the park. Art festivals give you the chance to get exposure, meet art lovers and other creative business owners and hopefully make sales to support further efforts. If you get all of your creative ducks in a row, you don't have to stress, and I want to see you killing it at more events!

Willow Tree Works / Smitten Designs / Black Black Moon / The Silver Acorn

Before the Show Preparations

INVENTORY - Prepare enough items to have a full booth and a little extra to restock as you make sales. Too little in your displays can look unprofessional or scare away customers by implying higher prices. Some experts recommend that you prepare twice as much inventory than you expect to sell. Assuming you participate in multiple events, this is a worthwhile investment that will roll over.

INFRASTRUCTURE - Most shows ask you to provide your own booth, from tent to tables to lighting. While you don't need to break the budget on infrastructure, make sure you cover the basics and follow any guidelines set by the show like fire safety restrictions and tent weight minimums. The more you know about your venue, the better you can plan what setup you'll need. Pay close attention to your booth size, indoor versus outdoor location, lighting and more.

PACKAGING - As a market artist, you are also a marketer, and you need to think like one when it comes to how you package your goods. First and foremost, packaging should protect the work so shoppers can feel comfortable carrying it around the event. Any creative touches you add can help convey the personality behind your brand and increase the gift value of your crafts because they are ready to give without lots of effort wrapping, especially important around the holidays.

Bright Beam Goods / Vibe Collections / Victrola Design / Maman Sucre

DISPLAYS - This can be one of the most fun, but also the most challenging aspects of preparing for art events. You want to show off your work and entice people to look closer. Creative displays can catch people's attention, but be sure you don't distract from your art while taking advantage of all the space you have available to you. I really enjoy seeing artists who cleverly upcycle everyday items to hang, pose or otherwise display their crafts - wooden crates, baskets, books, bottles, vases, jewelry stands and more. You also want your displays to be inviting and informative. Show the range of sizes, patterns and prices you offer. Anyone that's too shy to ask questions or doesn't want to interrupt another customer you're talking to may walk away without buying if they can't find out what they need to know by just looking at your booth. The same is true of including signage and business cards for window shoppers so they can connect with you afterwards.

MARKETING - While considering which events to apply to, hopefully you made note of how well each one is advertised in order to gauge the crowd. Even if the organizer does a thorough job promoting the show, plan on letting your friends, fans and past customers know. This can be done very effectively and efficiently through Social Media and email marketing. Mention the event a couple times leading up to the date so people mark their calendar, and consider offering an inventive for people who stop by and make a purchase.

Day of Event Set Up

SPACE - Part of being prepared is knowing the spot you've been allocated at the event, both where in the venue and how large it is. Making a note of these factors ahead of time will help you gauge where to go for easy load in and setup. Plus, it's very important that your setup fits; boundaries for each vendor may be very strict and can't be adjusted without impacting someone else's space.

LOAD IN - Be mindful of load in and load out windows. You're part of an overall event and empty booths look bad for everyone of you come late or leave early. Plus it can impact your inclusion in future shows. It's best to give yourself enough for setup before the event. Plan for more time if your booth / displays are more complicated or if the show organizers ask. You don't want to be stressed out from the start by arriving late or being rushed and possibly forgetting important items.

STAFFING - For many events you'll be the one manning your booth, but consider making arrangements for help, especially for longer shows. Nearby artists are often willing to watch your booth while you take a quick personal break, but its better to have your own support who can help sell in your absence. The busier the show, the more likely you are to need extra hands, and by planning this in advance, you can teach them how to represent your creative brand and lessen the stress that these events can be on you mentally and physically.

COMFORTS - Knowing that you'll be hanging out at these shows for at least a few hours if not a few days, keep in mind what extra items you should bring to keep yourself comfortable - snacks, drinks, jacket for cold weather, fans for hot weather, etc. You want to present your best side while promoting your art, and taking care of your needs is the first step towards this. Happy, welcoming artists are more likely to attract shoppers.

And now you're ready to go! Stay tuned for tips for during and after each event!