June 14, 2016
Today we are going to touch on attitude versus gratitude and the element of conducting your demeanor and outlook when you exhibit at outdoor art shows, tradeshows, conventions etc. Since this is such a passionate topic, I think this episode will also allow me to give you a little bit of a sneak peek into my no messing around, no BS personality. I “shoot from the hip” with my direct communication and delivery … of course, while still remaining friendly, adding humor and sass but my message to you is 100% perfectly clear. For those who I have worked with in the past or that know me fairly will know that as much as I joke around and act silly and playful at times, I’m dead serious when it comes to business.
Now, I have done pretty much every type of art show out there, from community local small attended venues, gallery events, large scale fine art festivals, all the way to art expo international in NYC. I have done art and wine festival’s I have done private gallery showings, I have done conventions and full on retail and gift tradeshows.
I will tell you right off the bat, these shows are necessary, and YES they can be costly and they are absolutely exhausting, but the benefits will be rewarding and there is a thrill to be experienced. You will work your tail off to represent yourself and to get your name out there to get your work out there, but this is critical. You can’t hide behind an online store forever.
I’m going to delve into the attitude vs. gratitude and what I called the magic of positive attitude. I have learned that there is so much to be said about exhibiting at these shows and keeping a positive attitude and demeanor. I cannot tell you how many times we had exhibited where there may spurts of slow attendance, but this is an amazing time to network with your fellow vendors. I have made amazing contacts and friends from these shows. But remember …All it can take is as few as one customer or client to make the show a success. I know you don’t want to hear that, but don’t totally disregard what I am saying. I know you want me to tell you that you will do a show, you will sell out of everything you have, and that people will be lining up and consuming all the bandwidth from your website clamoring to get a hold of everything that you created. It will not happen like this but this will happen in time – It takes time and you will need to feed, nourish and maintain these sales transactions.
You’re going to hear me over the series of these podcast reminding you that the art business is a relationship building style of business. Unless you planning on being a gimmick, or your intention is to attempt some instant success, perhaps the next Warhol, perhaps the next fly-by-night artist one hit wonder who’s really not wanting to take their art business seriously. Well, if that’s the case or your intention, then good luck to you. I seriously wish you the best of luck. But I know this is not what you are about – if you are tuning in to my podcast then it means you are all about getting your art out there and being a professional artist that can support yourself with your art, feel good about it and be the best you that you can be. You’re listening because you have an art business or you want to rock your creative entrepreneur and you want to take it seriously and you want to radiate professionalism.
So listen up….
Number 1: Organize yourself with all of your show contents. In fact, if you go on my website, RockStar Mentor.com I have a free “basic exhibitor toolkit” for you. All you need to do is go to the website, under “Cool Tools’ / Freebies and sign up, and I’ll email you this tool kit. This toolkit has saved my butt on so many occasions. I will teach you how to be organized and to be ready.
Attitude versus gratitude…. How it comes into play. Nobody wants to buy artwork from cranky retail artist lady, or Mr. curmudgeon photographer guy looking so disenchanted and bored and lifeless at the show and TRUST ME you don’t want to be anywhere near that kind of energy. Don’t even try and participate in that mind set – this will be the beginning of the end.
Let’s say you’ve got your best sales hat on, you’ve got a great suitcase full of positive attitude and there are times where some artist across from you or maybe next to you in the next booth is having a crappy show and they’re wearing it all over their face… They have that dissatisfied look of “I don’t want to be here and I don’t want to be bothered.” Their mega cranky grouchofest is emitting a bad vibe around your creative space –and it’s soooo frustrating, You’re not going to be able to change their mind or change their attitude of the show, but what you can change is the energy that that person is projecting into your booth. You need to focus on your work you need to focus on paying attention and listening to the customers that are entering your booth. Totally dismiss any negativity that that others is transmitting. You want to make your customers realize that you’re there and that you’re there for them.
Don’t have idle hands…. Your an arists for petes sake…Hey, Take a project with you. This is YOUR time, you’ve spent a lot of money to be at these shows. Bring a project to work on, maybe you just got some prints to work on and you need to package them, write thank you notes to your clients, bring something to work on. Paint or create in your booth, (something that can survive if you have to place he paintbrush down when you need to greet and address your customer). There’s nothing wrong with working on your laptop while at these events, but when a customer, a.k.a. new collector, you best drop everything and pay attention. Stop what you’re doing and make this time all about them.
Now, I want to touch on the topic of customers for a moment, customers come in all shapes, sizes, they are men, they are women, they are families, young and older, it’s not your job to scale them up and down and try to give them a once over and try figure out if they’re going to be buying from you….. your job is to introduce yourself and create the spark, and build a relationship with these people. You need to take the sales equation out of the mix for a little bit. This is, as they say “you have one chance to make a good impression”, well rockstars, this is it -pay attention!
Attitude is everything. I know for me when I am at an event and I’m looking around at art shows and I want to meet the artist, that’s such an amazing bonus, I’m thrilled to meet other artists, heck, I’m a fan too. I am blessed and fortunate to know a lot of artists, a lot of amazing artists that I may have not ever met if I hadn’t come in to their booth and introduce myself and just talk shop with them for little while. I want to better understand them and their artwork, meet the artist and I wanted to find out what inspires them and what makes them tick. I love love love talking shop with other artists, their success stories, tool tips and techniques, art marketing savvy etc…. It’s so important to connect with other creative individuals.
Every show has its highs and lows, they tend to be very busy at the morning hours and then subside somewhat and then they get busier. Every show has a different pulse, you won’t know what that pulses unless you go out and do it, and you participate and you make the best of it – focus on the business. Art and wine festival shows have a different pulse than convention style shows or trade shows. You should attend and research the shows that you want to be a part of. Be sure to communication with the promoters and start building that relationship. Also, remember if you are not ready to do the show circuit but would like to know more about how they work and the benefits of it, volunteer to help the promoters out with the event – this is another way to not only give back to your community, but to learn more about it all.
Lastly, don’t be alarmed and don’t get your knickers in a bunch when someone may come up to you and ask you what your art is about OR perhaps they’re flat out telling you that they don’t like it, sometimes they don’t realize that the artists are the ones working their own booth. Trust me Rockstars I have heard it all… right to my face no less.
When I owned my retail galleries.. I would work these galleries, I wasn’t one of these “hands off” kind of artist who spent time in the studio 24/7and never operated or paid attention to the operations or worked the floor. I was there on the forefront, I did everything. You’d see me mopping floors, remerchandising the shelves with my team, rehanging the gallery, preparing online orders. This was the blood sweat and tears that I committed to doing and I love doing it.
So often, people would come in and they would love the gallery and what we were all about and say awesome comments about the artwork, I would say that 95% of the people that entered had nothing but great things to say. But then you have the small percentage that they don’t realize Who you are, and that you’re the artist and they may say something snarky. (well, let’s be fair here, perhaps they were clearly thinking out loud and did not realize HOW LOUD they were talking)…
I handle those types of comments with true grace and integrity, (well, not to mention a little bit of snarky humor) but I was never mean or never acted as though I was offended, I would gently let them know after talking with them for a while who I was… I would I wouldn’t say to them so, I’m the artist any you’ve offended me. Never! … I would gently roll into the Conversation about what may have inspired me when I painted it, it was a gentle way for me to let them know that I was the artist and they were talking to the person whose name in lights over the door of the gallery. You could most certainly see the difference and the shock and awe that spread over their face… and them trying to backtrack and backpedal and apologize for saying what they said about my art. But I wanted them to feel like we had integrity, I would just mention to them “hey you didn’t know, if your feelings are what your feel and if the artwork isn’t for you that’s OK but I encourage you and I would love it if you could if you wanted to look around and if you had any additional questions feel free to ask me since I’m here this today.
It’s certainly an icebreaker, I don’t want I didn’t want people to end up feeling as though there was tension or a combative conversation. My gallery was a fun place to be and I really wanted it remaining keep that energy within the walls of our space
So, Rockstars I want you to feel empowered and encouraged to stay positive when doing your shows. This is the time for you to shine, the amount of real estate that you have within the 10 x 10 booth or whatever size booth that you have is your own personal space to make your own and just saw your work as you should sell your work. You’re going to hear praise and you may hear some not so favorable comments. That IS OK. I always use the analogy that nobody not everyone likes frozen peas at the supermarket, but there’s a market for them that’s why they’re there.
It’s the same thing with art.
Handle these comments with grace & integrity, it does take practice and it may take a while to become truly seasoned to deflect these types of people. And I’m saying this again it’s a very small percentage and you really need to focus on the customers that come in that really love your work. By nature nobody came in to my gallery to diss on me or to say crappy stuff, they came in because they were intrigued and there was some beauty and what I did that attracted them in there. The percentage of nay-sayers is small. But this is where the attitude versus gratitude is pertinent …be gracious and the kind to people that come into your art space. You can tell from the way they look whether they’re going to be a lifelong collector or they may just walk away with a simple greeting card in hand. The fact is in the focus is to get your work out there.
Have a great attitude and always give gratitude.