Monday, 13 June 2011

How to become an exhibitor - Episode 1......

Okay as promised, (threatened!) a run down on what it's like to get out there and "strut your stuff" to the public at an event. Starting right at the beginning.

You're now really proficient at your craft/skill, you've made plenty of examples of your work, you've had good feedback from family/friends/colleagues and maybe some sales and commissions. You feel ready to take the next step so...., how do you choose your first show, fair or other event?

Before you do anything else, step back and impartially analyse your product or service. Who wants it, where do you think you'll find potential clients and just as importantly who wouldn't be interested in what you do? Ask everyone who is prepared to listen for their honest opinion. For example, our products and services cross over at least three different potential markets, antiques, craft and traditional skills, there's also possibly designer/maker events, but we know that we'd be useless at a pamper evening! So having established which categories you can potentially fit into with your work, you can start the process of finding events that will match your criteria. There's no lack of choice, but initially it's more sensible to go for local, smaller events. Why?

A. Because generally smaller events are less expensive therefore less of a financial risk and
B. You won't have wasted too much time and effort if it all goes wrong - but all feedback and experience is absolutely priceless.

Give yourself plenty of time, don't think that just because you've got everything in place you must do a show immediately. Pencil a few events into your diary that you fancy the look of and then go visit them as a customer. While you're there have a chat with other stallholders, see if you can meet the organiser, talk to other visitors - get their reactions. Look at the advertising, are there road signs, what's the access like, where do you park and does it cost, is there a "buzz" in the room, what competition is there for your range of products, how are people presenting their stands, is there a cafe and a toilet, is there FOOD! Boiled down to basics, did you feel inspired and comfortable at the event, was it an enjoyable time, did you buy anything, (or at least want to)? Don't worry if it takes you a few months or even a year to investigate all potential venues, the homework will be worth it. Keep notes, make sure you have the contact details of the organiser, cost of the event, address of the venue visited and the event dates along with a rough outline of what the day was like for you. What was the weather like, (always an important aspect when assessing any event in the UK!) and whether it was very busy, moderately so, or more like a morgue.

A story and a little gem of knowledge that was passed on to us by a great friend and fellow crafter about judging the likely success or failure of an event. We were alongside each other at a big, well attended outdoor fair a few years ago. Our friend was watching intently as the crowds milled around in the glorious sunshine - he was staring at everyones feet. After a while he looked up and said, "You can always tell whether it'll be a good day or not by peoples shoes you know. Today's going to be good."

Meanwhile while you're busy doing all of the above, you can formulate your unique brand "presentation", your look. That will be the topic of Episode 2......

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