Preparing for Trade Shows, Craft Fairs, Design Markets can be daunting. I can’t actually believe it was way back in 2007 when I attended New Designers as a graduate! Lots of things have changed since then… fashion, politics, the internet to name but a few!
I have been attending New Designers as a visitor every year since 2009, including some years when I have sat on panels, while giving the occasional talk too. Some graduates have been given a helping hand before the show and told what to expect and how to conduct themselves now they are in the professional world and not in the safety net of uni or college. For those that haven’t and are feeling a bit nervous, this blog is for you.
I’ve experienced different exhibitors at New Designers, some have been professional and some HAVE NOT! These are some hints and tips for heading to New Designers in a couple of weeks time, completely from my own perspective.
B E P R E P A R E D
Think about your audience and what you want to gain from this experience. Flying by the seat of your pants does not work in these situations, you’ll only be disappointed. A fellow graduate attending New Designers back in 2007 wanted a job and made it her mission to get one. She let her fellow exhibitors take care of her stand and set up meetings with potential employers, took her CV and bagged herself a dream job with Stephen Webster!
Make sure you have plenty of business cards/postcards. I personally like the option of both. A postcard I can add to my wall and act as a constant reminder, a business card gets a bit lost in my purse. But I suppose a business card is a handy size. I have just recycled hundreds of postcards from my degree show 12 years ago… safe to say we ordered a bit too many. Try and base it on your degree show, it is better to have too many, but not thousands!
If you want to be stocked in shops, prepare a catalogue or line sheet to give shop/gallery owners an idea of your wholesale and retail prices. If you don’t have time for that, at least research the lingo so you can let them know you can send one over after the show. Always keep a little black book, take their business card, staple it to a page and make a little note about what you chatted about. Try and do that right after you meet them so you don’t forget and don’t even think you’ll remember!
W H O A R E Y O U T A L K I N G TO ? !
You have no idea who is going to walk up to your stand! Unless they have a name badge on stating where they have come from, presume everyone is a potential customer. That’s not to say be a sales person, but treat everyone with the same amount of respect as if they are going to spend hundreds on you and your work! If they are clearly under the age of 16 walking around with their teacher, you can assume they’re not the buyer for Not On The High Street.
I was once questioned who I was when I picked up someone’s business card! I was shouted at by an exhibitor for taking a picture of their work - my phone didn’t even have a camera on it at that time! Just be careful, you don’t know who you might be being rude to…
T A L K ! T A L K ! T A L K !
Some people find it hard to talk about their work, this is why we do a whole session on it during our INKubator Programme. It’s just as important as making your work and writing about your work. Know it inside out and try to be confident. It’s a learned skill and it’s not as easy as it looks! Practice on your friends and family but try not to sound too rehearsed. Keep it casual and perhaps make a list of the important things you want to cover. Inspiration, process, plans for the future, where you see your work, and try work them into a conversation.
Always have a bottle of water and snacks on tap! Talking and standing all day fairly takes it out of you. Take breaks when you need to just make sure your fellow exhibitors have your back, make sure they can talk about your work on your behalf or give you a heads up when there is someone wanting to talk to you.
P U S H I T !
Let people come to you. Personally, I don’t like to be approached straight away. A simple ‘Hi’ would suffice, if I want to know more, I’ll ask! Perhaps use a casual question to open up communications but try not to lead with a closed question where some can only give you a yes or no answer. “What do you think of the show?” is a good one!
B E S E E N
After attending some of the degree shows this year and picking up business cards/postcards (if they had any out) some didn’t even have an instagram, let alone a website. I’m sorry, but in today’s landscape you need to have an online presence. I don’t care if you don’t like it, if you want to be a maker and be found, you need to be online! It’s super easy to build a website these days, trust me! I would recommend Squarespace for easy drag and drop and its beautiful templates.
I’m not going to lie, I’ve used social media to check people’s credibility/presence when we have looked to hire staff or take people on for our INKubator programme. It’s a well-known fact that employers do check these things. If you don’t want people to see it make sure it’s private or have a separate account for your personal stuff.
If you have good images, use them! Post them on your social media so they are available (remember to credit). Use them in your display. Some jewellers did this during their Degree Show (see my review of the Degree Shows here), so if space allows it, get them on the wall.
B E P R O F E S S I O N A L
When I took part in New Designers, you would find our class slumped up against the wall clearly not giving a shit and bored! Can you imagine how that looked to visitors? Wear comfy shoes! Wear comfy pants! Don’t get drunk (although not sure how much I agree with this one, for me I talk much more comfortably after a pint)! Drink sensibly is better advice. If you know you get leary after a glass of fizz, maybe stay away from it as you don’t want to be slavering to the Director of the Goldsmiths’ Centre talking nonsense!
I N V I T E P E O P L E
We all have dream stockists, galleries, people we’d love to work for, even people we’d love to see wearing our work. Invite them! Use your free tickets and send them an invite along with a postcard and a wee personal note of why you would like them to come and where to find you! Even if they can’t make, it you’ve put yourself in front of them. This is when your social media/website is handy… be seen!
P R I C E S
No one likes to ask for a price, absolutely no-one! To me that screams ‘you can’t afford me!’ If your work is for sale then make your prices visible! Not in a catalogue or printed out on a bit of paper, but lovely labels next to your work. And remember to figure out whether you want them to take it away there or then or you post it to them at the end of the show. It’s your call if you think you will lose the sale or not, most people should understand, as they get that the show is an exhibition too.
If you find pricing difficult (everyone does!), then sign up to The Design Trust’s Pricing workshop. It’s not in time for New Designers but it will still be helpful as most makers still find it hard. Be sure to check out The Design Trust's talks during you time there too, they are always super insightful.
H A V E F U N !
After all this, you still want to enjoy yourself! Even if you’re not, try keep a smile on your face. There is nothing more intimidating than a resting bitch face! This is a great opportunity, make sure you use it! If you are still bricking it, have a read of Mike Press’ blog he wrote a few years back, all of it is still relevant! Book yourself a day off when you get back from New Designers, you’ll need it!
I won’t be attending this year but our workshop coordinator Alison from The Smiddy will be. We will be giving out two awards, so remember to be on your best behaviour (you’ll know who to look out for if you click on the link above). I wish you well <3