I've been chatting up the SURTEX 2013 trade show and, yes, I'm talking about it again. But this time I want to give you my take on walking the show as an artist with an eye toward exhibiting at a future event.
If you're thinking about exhibiting at SURTEX then you want to walk the show. Pay the money and go. It’s worth it. I can't imagine planning to have a booth at SURTEX and not having attended the conference and walked the showroom floor first. You will learn more by being there than you will from any website about art licensing. Just do it! I agree with all the standards you see in other posts: wear comfortable shoes (it's a big place and you will walk a lot), and please be respectful of the artists who have paid to be there. It isn't cheap and it’s an important show, so let the exhibitors maximize their time. Do a Google search for "walking SURTEX" and you’ll find some good articles and posts. This week I’ll sketch out my suggestions for walking SURTEX and next week I’ll discuss implementing a plan for your business after you’ve had a chance to walk the show. BEFORE WALKING SURTEX: Business Cards: If you don't have business cards, get some. Someone will probably ask you for a card. You can even print cards on the computer. I wouldn't spend a ton of money having cards and promo materials printed, but do have something just in case. If you’re attending the conference you will more than likely exchange contact information with other attendees. If you want to take your portfolio with you then load the images on an iPad or your phone for easy access. Learn first and then spend the money on your marketing materials. Taking Stock: Sit down and take a long hard look at your art. Having your work fresh in your mind will help you see where you need to go with your portfolio. And it’s a confidence booster when you look at the other art and get that sigh of, "yes, I think my art will be okay here." If you’re reaction is more along the lines of "CRAP! My art is CRAP!" that's okay too. I had both thoughts and you probably will also. We are our own worst critics. And there's nothing wrong with knowing there's need for improvement. Be honest with yourself and make a plan to work on those areas. THE SHOW AND CONFERENCE: Seminars: If you can, attend the seminars. You can buy individual session passes or go to the entire conference. My business partner and I chose to attend all the conference sessions. The classes are held during the show and they are worth the money. You'll hear speakers such as art licensing agents, artists, top industry trainers, and intellectual property attorneys. You’ll get information on everything from trends and how to spot them, how to create collections, contract tips and so much more. And there will still be plenty of time to visit the showroom floor. If you love looking at artwork then you will be drunk on creative goodness. There's tons of it. But if you will look past the art, you’ll get important information for your future SURTEX booth. Yes, it’s important to see what's trending, whose booths are busy and why. But take a deeper look, check out the displays - what is the material the art is printed on, how is it displayed, organized, what makes it stand out? Do certain booths stick in your mind, make you want to stop? Walk down an aisle and when you get to the end, think about which booths you remember. Chances are the most effective booths stand out because of how the art was displayed as much as because of the art itself. Every booth there last year had incredible artwork, but for many of them, I couldn't remember what the art was, who they were or even what their display looked like. But the ones I did remember, I still remember. My partner and I have a business meeting every week and last week when we were doing display planning, we both had distinct memories of certain booths and artists at the show. It has been almost a year. That is how you want a manufacturer to remember you. Notice what stands out in the displays and think about how you can bring your own unique presence to the way you display your art. When you get home or even on the plane, record your experience - who you met, what you learned, saw, and heard during the conference and show. You’ll use these notes when you start planning for your future booth at SURTEX.
Part 2 - Art Licening: Walking SURTEX, Planning an Exhibit, Working the Plan