What to consider for your 2021 exhibitions

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Blog post #132 – After the exhibition

I have just taken part in my first in person exhibition since March 2020 and wanted to share what I learned from the event. I hope this will in turn help you for any events you have coming up.

The first and most surprising thing for me was the journey there. I sat in the never-ending traffic jams one has come to expect on the M25 and suddenly, I found my eyes were leaking. Huge fat tears rolled down my face and at that moment I had no idea why. Those of you who know me will know that I have had a very stressful few months with the loss of both my father-in-law and my father plus an impeding house move, but I am not a crier under the most difficult of circumstances, so what caused it?

I realised that I was scared. Granted, I have seen a few people over the past months: my family in my bubble; during house hunting; and on occasional visits to the supermarket, but I hadn’t actually interacted with ‘Joe Public’ since March 2020 and I suddenly realised how that was making me feel. So, if you find yourself having similar feelings don’t be surprised but equally don’t let it stop you. I met some amazingly lovely people; everyone was very considerate of each other, and social distancing rules and the event went off a treat in that sense. Just be beware you could find yourself feeling uncomfortable, too.

For this event, I was in a marquee in the stunningly beautiful Painshill Park. There were 13 of us in sectioned-off marquees which felt safe and when standing outside them we didn’t have to wear our masks. It was only the second year Painshill Park has put on this event; I didn’t take part last time, but I understand attendance for both events was similar which, given the Covid situation was better than expected, but still pretty low.

To keep my contact with others down, I took lunch with me (Mr. S did a grand job of making me lovely salads each day) plus a large flask for hot water, a smaller flask with milk and a pot of coffee. This not only reduced my contact queuing in the café, but it also kept my costs down. 

I provided hand sanitizer for people to use before handling my journals and whenever a payment required the card to be inserted into my machine, but most transactions were “tap and go”. It makes life so much easier in these strange times.

When possible, I allowed people to come into the marquee and I stood outside to make them feel more comfortable. This wasn’t always possible, especially if someone wanted to make a payment, but we were all mindful of the need to be respectful and basically to just employ common sense.

Sadly, as is often the case with this type of show, some artists didn’t sell any of their lovely work. If there had been more people through the doors, things would probably have been better. However, one lady sold six paintings each priced over £1,000, plus some small pieces too. Her work is amazing and very different to anything I have ever seen. Others, including myself, made sales too, and everyone seemed to pick up enquires about commissions and online purchases. Two ladies got out their easels and did some painting, and this garnered some interest, with one lady selling the finished item.

What amazed me was the number of people who took my information leaflet. In the past, I would expect to get through about 30 leaflets over a four-day show, but I had over 30 a day taken with many people asking about sales from my website and future shows I am planning to take part in. So make sure you have information sheets available for people to take away with them.

I have already had four people sign up for my monthly newsletter because they want to take art classes with me when I resume teaching and three others signed up to receive my monthly blog posts direct to their email. So, welcome to them.

An important thing to remember – which I forgot on the first day – is to make sure everything is clearly priced. People don’t like to ask how much, probably because of that saying: “If you have to ask you can’t afford it.” However, as soon as I remembered to add the tags to my journals, they flew off the table. I did have the price tucked into the back of each journal, but it wasn’t visible. Silly me.

Change. Even in these days of “tap and go” card payment, some people wanted to buy cards with cash, and they all had £20 notes to pay for a £2 card! I had taken some change, but Mr. S had to go to the supermarket and get ‘cash back’, asking for £5 notes.

I took a book to read – there were times when I would have been bored out of my mind had I not – and I took some journals ready for stitching. I have watched people making things at arts and crafts fairs so thought it might be of interest to someone. It wasn’t this time, but I would definitely do it again. If nothing else, it adds to my stock of items for sale.

The biggest thing I experienced was just how interested people were in my story. I stuck some of my information leaflets on the walls so that people could read what I had to say before deciding if they wanted to take a leaflet. I have done this before but having the whole document up for people to read easily gained so many comments I lost count.

When learning about marketing any product one is always told how important the story about the maker and this product is. Having my leaflet so easily accessible encouraged people to have a conversation with me, laugh and joke about my opening line and probably have a deeper interaction with me than they normally would. If you don’t have a good bio document to share, get one. It will likely pay dividends.

One final word of advice. If you are doing an outside show, don’t forget the sunscreen and take lots of water. Being outside all day when we were not used to it did have a dehydrating effect on most of us exhibitors.

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