Last year I attended the CHA winter show as a non-exhibiting designer. I met great people and learned a lot simply walking the show. So, this year I decided I needed to exhibit and experience first hand what the whole thing was about. I made a great choice! It’s one thing to go and see the sites, it’s entirely different to be emersed in the event. I met more new faces, gained a variety of feedback about my art and most importantly was able to go home feeling like I’m moving in the right direction with my art.
Here is this year’s list of things learned while exhibiting at the CHA winter show:
- Always be prepared to tell what you do
Just because you aren’t in your booth, doesn’t mean you won’t have the opportunity to share what you do. Be not only prepared but willing to start conversations about who you are and what you do.
- Share your expertise
Volunteering to teach or share information you are familiar with can help you connect to others that are looking for your knowledge but might have something to share in return. I participated in a handful of events sharing my insight on various subjects. Through these events I made some fantastic new contacts.
- Triple check your list of must haves
No matter how many times you check your list of things to pack, do it again. The last thing you need is to show up at the event without your scissors or tape or whatever else you forgot you might need. Then remember to bring it to the booth and not leave it in the hotel room. I ended up leaving a small portion of my Designer Showcase display at home. I had missed it when I was hurrying to pack the night before I left town. In the end I was the only one that knew I had left things out, but next time I’d rather triple check.
- There’s no such thing as too much tape
We had a number of packages of poster strips and Velcro to hang things up for our booth display and we used it all. It’s much better to come with more than you think you need… rather than run out and wish you had more.
- When it comes to image options, more is better
Keep the booth display clean and organized, but be prepared to open your portfolio with more options. I found myself wishing I had put together more pages for my portfolio showing art I didn’t think I should bring. This doesn’t mean bring a hodge podge of images from all directions, it just means, make sure you bring your best and a little more.
- If you’ve got it, flaunt it – Doubt only hinders your success
Brag, if you don’t, who else will? You are your biggest fan and your biggest advocate, remember that when you are exhibiting. When you aren’t sure if someone is interested or seems to want to just walk buy, strike up a conversation and see if you can offer something they might value. If you doubt your ability others will sense it. Be confident and remember why you are at the trade show (not to mention how much money you spent to be there). Stand tall and proud and shout out to the masses that you are ready to share your talents… here they are!
- No one looks at your shoes
For years I’ve always taken nice dress shoes and by the end of day one my feet are killing me. This time, knowing I’d be in a booth and on my feet a good portion of the day I decided to stop caring about my footwear and brought comfy shoes. I’m happy to day my feet are happy and not once did I get a funny glance from anyone about my feet. That’s happiness all around.
When someone does stop to look at your art and then begins to talk with you about it, listen to what they have to say. They may like what you have exactly as it is or they may be looking for something different. If you’re open to their comments you are more likely to find the connecting they are reaching for.
- Take notes
Time moves by much faster than you realize when exhibiting your art, carry a notebook with you always. Write down what you hear, ideas and most importantly, things others tell you. When all is said and done, you can sit quietly in your studio and revisit all that you learned without struggling to remember where to start.
- Be yourself and don’t change for the sake of fitting in
I found myself constantly thinking “they said they wanted …… so I can do that” when really I need to stay true to myself. Many artists can be many things and create many styles but what really makes each of us unique is our own individual approach. We need to stick with our style and approach and not try to conform just for the sake of a check.
Exhibiting at the CHA winter show in Los Angeles was a fantastic experience. I came home with more confidence about my art and where I am trying to go with it. I met some wonderful new people and enjoy every minute of the trip. Bonus tip, don’t shortcut your own expertise for time, make sure to give yourself the time and preparation you know you are capable of, it’s well worth the effort!
What ever you do, don’t be your own worst obstacle. Get out of your way and jump in head first, you’ll be glad you took that step!