A successful gallery event is not difficult to achieve if you keep a couple of things in the forefront of your mind throughout the setup process. I will outline them in great detail, but first and foremost, you must understand the definition of successful. If you measure success in the form of sales, you may be few and far between. You see success is not always about making a buck. While a buck does help, sometimes success is seeing something you knew all along; you just needed a push in the right direction to see it for face value and not the value of a dollar. I will elaborate more on this in a bit.
Tips for a Successful Art Show
- Scope out the venue before prepping for the show! The location I recently showed at did not have wall space. It was a room entirely made up of rolling garage doors, it was very unique, but tricky to prepare for as a photographer. I had to purchase one easel per piece I displayed. Knowing the limitations of my easels determined the appropriate print size. Don’t go bigger than your venue limits you to!
- Prepare for the show. Start out first by analyzing your budget. Be sure that you have the means to pay for the preparations up front. You have heard the phrase, “Live within your means” right? The same is true for an art show, prep within your means. Make a list of what is most important and purchase those items first.
- Make checklists. Make a checklist of all the items you need to take care of for the show. As you purchase them or complete the tasks, check the box. Once you have everything checked, hold on to that list. It will help you when you are preparing all of your items the day of the event.
- Make new business cards. A show is a better time than ever to make new business cards. Your information may have changed since the last show. Maybe your work has improved? I would highly suggest MOO Cards. MOO allows you to upload multiple pictures for the front image, the back can remain constant. They will print a set of 100 cards each with a different front image for one low price. These cards turn heads and I can guarantee the people who take them will not be tossing them when they get home! Consider putting a QR Code to your site on the back of the card. Not only does it look professional, it engages the viewer to do something, to pick up your card and scan it! It is really fun too! You can get a free QR code to any site, so you really should consider it!
- Update your website. Before my show I purchased a new theme for Blake Rudis Photography, one that was more professional and did a better job of showcasing my work. You may be thinking “Blake these people were at an art show not in front of a PC?” You are correct; however, it is all about continuing to engage the customer even after the show is over. If they took one of your awesome moo cards, I can most certainly guarantee they will go to your site when they get home! Make sure it is professional. Elegant Themes offers unlimited theme downloads for $39 a year! No excuses!
- Create Photo Books. Prints are great to display framed because they show your viewer how great your work would look on a wall, however, framing is expensive! Printing photo books is a great way to show more of your work for much less money. It also engages the viewer to interact more with your table. Artisan State has a beautiful 5×7 option that will only run you $15.00!
- Have a Guest Book! I cannot tell you how important this is. You must have a guest book at your table. This is a great way to further engage your viewers after the show is over. With a guest book you want to get as many emails as you can in there so you can keep those individuals up to speed on your latest and greatest endeavors. I went a bit further. I used my guest book as a giveaway for three 8×10 matted signed photos. I randomly generated 3 names from my guest book to receive one of the prints. This is a great way to entice your viewers to sign you guest book. Of course, you should let them know that you may contact them from time to time with updates on where you are and what you are doing with your work.Out of 6 artists at this recent show, I was the only one with a guest book and many of these artists do this for a living. Imagine how much more successful they could be with the use of a guestbook. They are relatively inexpensive but could lead to lucrative, returning customers! I bought mine on Amazon for under $15!
- Setup in casual wear. Setup your show in casual, comfortable clothes! The last thing you want to do is show up in your shirt and slacks and have to setup. I am a pretty sweaty guy when I am working, the last thing I wanted to do was sweat through my shirt before the event even started! I made sure I setup in something cool and comfortable and I took my time!
- Be sure to setup early. The day of your show is going to be long and nerve-racking! I highly suggest you show up with ample time to setup and grab a bite to eat. My show started at 4PM. I showed up at 1230 PM to setup. It took me about an hour and a half which put me right at 2 PM. I had plenty of time to grab a beer or two, change, and put any finishing touches on my table.
- Engage every viewer. It is extremely important to engage everyone that comes to your table or wall space. More often than not, the viewer is not just buying the artist’s work, they are buying the artist. Give them time to soak in your work and just as they are about to walk away, introduce yourself. Tell them about who you are, what you do, and ask them if they have any questions about your process.There were many artists at my show that did not engage their viewer; they expected them to just buy their work. It does not work that way! So they may not buy a piece, but you may make a great connection or future friend. Engage your viewers; show them that there is a human behind the art they are viewing.
- Last but not least, have low expectations. I hate to say it, but go into the show thinking you will not sell anything! In doing so, you will be less inclined to sell yourself and more inclined to engage your viewers. If you do make a sale, you can always celebrate it!
If you follow the 11 tips listed above you should have a very successful exhibition. I did not sell anything at my recent show. However, I cannot measure my success in sales; I measure it in what I received from the experience.
I know what my passion is and it was reassured that night. If you frequent EverydayHDR you know that I do a new tutorial every Friday, completely free of charge. From this show, I learned that I receive more value from a thank you than from a dollar. I took a shot at the possibility of selling my artwork, however, it seems there is more in store for my artistic endeavors. I cannot stray from the path, there are very exciting things to come!