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Nikki's Portraits of Childhood Display Photo

Nikki’s Portraits of Childhood Display Photo                     Booth #815 at the Home Show

This will be my home away from March 21st – 24th, 2013 when the Regina Spring Home Show is here once again. This will be my 17th year in the show!  It is hard to image that this was one of the first shows that got me up and started as a full-time artist that many years ago.  The first trade show I ever attended was the Regina Exhibition in 1995 back when the trade booths were in the Saskatchewan Build with the SaskArt competition and the fashion show.  That very first show booked me 6 months in advance with commissioned portraits, as did the Home Show the next spring.

Do you plan to attend the Home Show in 2013? If so, what attracts you to the show, discovering new innovative projects and services for your home, the trade booths, or hearing the guest presenters? The other day I heard about a new product that helps combat ice dams on your roof from building up. It is some sort of electrical mesh that eliminates the need to go on your roof in the winter to shovel the snow off. Something I have no intention of doing.  Every year their are so many  amazing things to see with close to 800 different exhibitors participating.

As artists we often think of the usual venues to market and sell our work like craft sales, local community festivals, and art galleries.  Early on in my career it seemed beneficial to get my work in front of an audience that  may not even be aware they were interested in buying art.  I had tried the usual venues and found that many in attendance were looking for a lower price point or knew the market well but their homes were full to the brim with local art.

#1. Consider your Audience.

  • What do they do for a living?
  • Where do they live and play?
  • What is important to them?
  • What draws them to your work?
  • What age group do they typically represent?

 Early on  I realized that my clients often where first time art buyers. Their meeting with me was the first experience they were having with purchasing a work of art.  They often had young families and had homes they were renovating. They commissioned me to paint for them not to support the local art scene or for the cultural aspects of owning an original, but because they valued the painting as a unique expression of their love for their children, family or spouse. Realizing this, I decided to attend trade shows where families would be attending and not just those strictly interested in the arts and craft scene. I also wanted large volumes of traffic with visitors who didn’t even know that a commissioned portrait was an option or that they might be wanting one.  The more people I could speak too about my services the better after show response rate I would have. This brought me to the next realization.

#2. Not all trade shows are created equal!

  • How many years has the show been operating?
  • Who are the show operators and does their reason for the show match with your goals for your business?
  • How far in advance do you need to register?
  • What services do they offer exhibitors?
  • What is your price range for a booth?
  • Where and how do they advertise the show?
  • What do they offer visitors to the show in the way of a entertaining or informative experience?
  • How many exhibitors and visitors have they had in the past?

I want to offer a caution here. If you are offered a space in a show and the show date is next month, you can bet this is a new unproven show. No track record doesn’t necessarily mean a bad experience for you as a business owner, but you can count on some growing pains.  You get what you pay for with trade shows as in most things.  A trade show with high volumes of traffic, that advertises on t.v., the radio, and in local newspapers is going to cost more but will bring great rewards. Getting in on the ground floor with a new show can be a great thing if the show is a success and they can repeat that success again, you have established yourself with the show organizers as one of their faithful supporters.  Preference for you as a business may be extended to you in numerous ways because of your loyalty and willingness to take a chance on their new endeavor.  You may also consider a smaller show beneficial if it supports a cause that is close to your heart, such as cancer awareness or an animal shelter for example.

I like a show that offers draws and freebies to those attending the show.  Often times the admission with or without parking included can be between $10 – 20 /person. This is about the cost of an evening out. So yes they want to be entertained!  A show that offers free informational seminars, activities, and draws makes for a special and memorable event. There should be food too. One of my best shows ever was one that had me located in an outside corner near a food booth offering samples. The traffic got so congested that you couldn’t move down the aisle and  people were stuck in my booth buying my limited editions in record numbers!  You want to be careful however, that the entertainment is free flowing enough that  you have audience at all times still visiting your booth.  I was at one show that had so much going on and only offered the key seminars once. This caused the entire exhibit floor to clear out for the auditorium seating, not a great experience for the businesses who had paid handsomely for their booth space.

You might also want to ask if they offer a receiver service if you are shipping your work ahead, rest areas for exhibitors, special exhibitor network events after hours,  booth relief etc.  If you can it is a good idea to visit the show a year ahead to see where you might best be located and to get a feel for the response to the show.

#3. You’re at the trade show now what? 

  • One step prior to getting there is to send out show announcements to your past clients, friends, family and artist friends. Post, tweet and blog the news!
  • Make some measurable goals before you get there. I plan to focus on letting people know about my art classes at my next trade show, especially focusing on the May 2013 Painting Excusion to France. https://nikkijacquinartist.wordpress.com/art-instruction-travel-events/ I might decide that I will try to collect a certain number contacts for follow up calls.
  • Display what you want to sell and make a good visual impression. Choose your best work and make it re-presentable of the impression you wish to leave. Display a cohesive body of work in one theme or style. Do not use hand written tags or signs. Consider possible flow of traffic in the design of your floor space.  You want there to be room for people to come into your booth. This is also another sign of intent to buy or at least keen interest.
  • Have business cards, brochures, and signage professionally made. All should include your name, phone number, web site and be clear about what your service is.
  • Be prepared to talk to visitors. Engage them. Inquire about their interests that may apply to your business. Let them know the possibilities of what you offer. It hadn’t occurred tome that people felt they needed to go home and take the perfect family photo before commissioning me to paint for them.  Not until, I started to mention that I could take expressions and people and backgrounds from different photos and combine them into one new composition as if they were always together.  Think of relevant questions that you could ask visitors that might apply back to a need they have for your service.
  • Let them know what you offer and why your service is unique. Don’t be shy about this. As artists it is often difficult to talk about your own work. If you just can’t, it might be best to hire someone to do your marketing. You might be better suited as a gallery artist.  But if you are a chatty Kathy, do keep the conversation to your booth. It is important to be considerate of your neighboring exhibitors and keep noise and traffic from disrupting their presentations.
  • Ask them if they could see using your service personally. This is the big ask! If you don’t put it out there, it could be a lost opportunity. If someone picks up my business card, I know they are thinking of possible uses for what I do. It helps to ask if they have any special occasions coming up and to let them know that it cost nothing for a free consultation.  They may not realize also that for a Christmas delivery date, they will have to set the initial meeting with me some time in summer.
  • Be prepared to collect their contact information and do follow up when you say you will. This establishes you as a professional who can keep your commitments.   Jot a few notes about the occasion for their artwork and what the subject will be.  I use recipe cards that can be filed by the month. If I call and they say they want to hear from me again in a month or even next year this is easy to track but placing the recipe card in the right section.
  • Get plenty of rest before and during the show.  You can’t be enthusiastic on 4 hours sleep. I used to paint right up until the wee hours of the morning prior to an art guild show. That is just silly and I am too old for that now.  Bring what you will need to be comfortable at the show. I make sure to bring headache medication, plenty of water, and healthy snacks (although you should never eat in your booth.) Reading is also a bad call as this gives the impression that you are not interested in being their, bored or too busy to be approached.  I have read that painting while at a show is a bad thing too, but I find people just passing don’t always understand what it is that I do unless I am working on a commission from photos. Then they realize the application to themselves. I think they also find it easier approach me then if I am staring blankly out of my booth at them.
  • If you are painting in your booth, still dress like you are doing business. You could wear a smock that you keep just for trade shows,but wear comfortable shoes.
  • If the show hours are long, arrange for some booth relief from an informed friend or family member.  Make a few notes to leave with them on procedures but don’t overwhelm them with too many details. Leave your cell number so they can call you back to the booth if necessary. A one hour break away can do a lot to revive you for the last hours or days of the show.
  • Finally do a debrief with yourself. Take notes for future reference. I can look back at notes from my first trade shows and compare year over year what the response was. I note the location of my booth,contact for show organizers, dates, times, total sales, and numbers of contacts collected.  You could also ask friends who came to your booth if they have any suggestions or impressions about your display and presentation.  I have heard it said that you should never do a show just once, that you need to repeat it a few times to gauge if the show was a fit for your art. It takes time for people to recognize you as a regular feature and not a fly by night company.

Well if you are new to trade shows, craft sales and festivals, I hope you find these suggestions helpful.  I am sure I will think of more. That can be another post sometime. I hope you will let me know what you have found challenging and how you adjusted. I would also like to hear any of your tips too and if you are coming to the Regina Spring Home Show please do stop by booth #815! I would love to see you.

  •  Dates & Times for the Regina Spring Home Show

Thursday, March 21, 2013

3pm – 9pm

Friday, March 22, 2013

1pm – 9pm

Saturday, March 23, 2013

10am – 8pm

Sunday, March 24, 2013

10am – 5pm

Canada Centre Building

Adults, Seniors, Students – $11.00
(includes parking)

Age 12 & Under – Free

$1 from each admission Thursday will be donated to Habitat for Humanity Regina.

  • I will also be at the Regina Baby Expo:


The Regina Baby Expo will showcase some of the best local and national products and services intended for expecting parents and parents with young children up to preschool age.
Sunday, April 14, 2013 11am to 4pm
Conexus Arts Centre, 200A Lakeshore Drive Regina, SK.
Admission $7 at the door
Kids 12 and under are FREE!