Convention Ready: Collector's Edition! Creative preparations for live events
Updated and Edited for Competence and Clarity - 6/7/18
Conventions have become a major draw for fans of pop culture, anime, and popular art. With more and more cons popping up with each season (Convention season traditionally coinciding with late Spring through Fall annually), these events bring people together to not only share their enjoyment for all things popular, but to also expose themselves to things they haven't seen yet. It is this opportunity that has allowed artists of all walks of life to not only have a place to showcase their skills, but also expand their network among clients and fans alike.
Many (if not all) of today's conventions have an “Artist Alley” that showcases local and professional artists in a specific hall (or Vendor area) of the Convention Floor. All artists have their own style of presentation based on what they sell, who they sell to, and how much they sell. It’s a lot of work, but can be very fun!
One of the greatest things about participating in an artist alley experience is having the opportunity to develop yourself professionally and network with not only paying clients, but also other artists. By putting your work out there you can see in real time what people like (and perhaps not like) about your work, and see how others react to it. It also gives artists the opportunity to get out of the studio and into the world, which can truly rejuvenate an artist who spends a lot of time working alone.
If you consider tabling at a Convention (or want to brush up on things before your next one), here is a small rundown of tips and tricks you can use to maximize your tabling opportunity!
Things to consider before tabling at a live event:
- Compatability: Make sure the event you want to table at matches the tone and audience you want for your work. If your wares are more cute and kid-friendly, tabling at a horror-based convention may not be the most effective event to table at. Being able to see where your work fits in at certain events is a very important skill!
- Cost: Make sure to budget your investments accordingly! It can be very costly, upwards of 100-500 just to table at one weekend event (not counting hotel rooms, food, travel, etc.), and you want to make sure you are able to not only cover money spent, but to also turn a profit. This means incorporating your wallet in your business decisions just as much as your artwork and heart!
- Value: Take note that "Value" is being independently addressed from "Cost". You can table at an event that may not be profitable, but you can still generate non-monetary value through exposure (build your reputation), resume building (great to put on a CV or artist statement), networking (meeting people in the industry who like your work and can help get you in touch with other talented people), and community building (getting to meet people who may not yet be able to buy your work, but are absolute fans who will share your work).
Tools for your trade:
- Tablecloth cover: This is an often overlooked visual touch for your booth. A dash of bright color, pattern, or pitch black can assist in not only adding to the visual attractiveness of your table, but also gives your work a professional and clean surface to be presented upon. Budget Tip: A clean bedsheet can be a great tablecloth substitute!
- Change! Singles, fives, tens: Depending on how you plan to do business at your event, you will want change in case you have smaller tagged items for sale. You can stock up on change at your local bank, gas station or supermarket on your way to the event.
- Digital Payment methods: Whether it be a Square, Paypal arrangement or other form of digital transaction, this can prove to be VERY useful. Many people rely solely on credit cards for business, which may make business difficult without one.
- Contact list / Visitor book / Commission list: A Visitor Book can be a great way to expand your digital contact list, and is a VERY useful tool to aid in finding dedicated clients for your work. This can also be used to document the commissions you take and complete over the course of the event. Anyone who is willing to receive e-mail notifications from you are absolutely more likely to really enjoy your work, and want to see what you do. This also means that they will be motivated to purchase your artwork!
- Business cards: This one seems like a no-brainer, but this key component to your networking solely relies on the use of business cards. With so many printing opportunities at your fingertips, it’s very fiscally easy to acquire your own custom-made cards. You can line your desk with them, and add them to commissions so people will know your work. Check out sites like Vistaprint, Jakprints, and Diesel Fuel Prints.
- Tiered Sale Items: A great tactic that most artists use is the “Three-tiered” system of items for sale. Be sure to have a stock of smaller, “impulse-buy” items that are marked very inexpensively; possess a stock of medium-priced items that are stocked a little bit less than the smaller-priced items, and bring one or two Larger-priced items. That way your work can reach all kinds of financially-inclined clientele.
- A Banner / Sign: A banner or large sign can be crucial in visually establishing yourself in the convention scene / artist alley. Without a logo or major piece to act as either a backdrop or non-verbal representation of your business/work, you may find it harder to get people to approach your table. This can be anything in the spectrum of a big painted sign or fabric, a professionally printed banner or stand. And be sure to think Portability! Having a light and easy-to-maneuver sign or banner will make set-up and breakdown much easier. You can again check out Vistaprint and Jakprints for this, or try Diesel Fuel Prints for cool screenprinting and stickers (for swag!).
- Eye-Catching Displays and "showcase" items: "Face Out, not up" is a great motto if you want to have an engaging table space. Small easels or tripods are great for showcasing "traffic stopper" pieces and go for cheap at craft stores. Letting your work do the work for you is always a great strategy!
- Workspace: It’s helpful to have a workspace situated at your table if you plan on taking commissions at your event. Not only does it give visitors the non-verbal view of being able to work on the spot, but also can give you a place to work on your own pieces when you aren’t conducting business.
- An assistant/helper: This is one of the most important components to your event! Having an additional friend or assistant to help with moving materials, speaking and interacting with con-goers, and someone to look after your table if you need to leave for food, bathroom, etc; Having a reliable friend to help is a HUGE assistance.
With this list of materials and things, the other major aspect in traveling to conventions is: Pack efficiently and lightly! The smaller space you can fit all of your materials, the much easier it will be for you to set up, take down and move from your car to your designated table.
While your materials list is important, one of the most crucial things to bring with you to a Convention is: Yourself! Your personality and presence will make or break your convention experience, so enabling yourself to be approachable and talkative is imperative! Make sure you have snacks, are well-rested, and are hydrated throughout the duration of the convention. The bigger challenge at hand is not only selling your work, but selling yourself as an artist to strangers.
This is a small list for anyone who is new to the Convention scene as an artist, and if you think anything was missed or forgotten, feel free to let us know in the comments! All artists work differently, so you may find your necessities to be different than those listed here. Keep an eye on thalo.com for more tips on artist promotions, both con-centered and not.