How to Approach a Booth as a Visiting Artist

In the comments to my last post about New York International Gift Fair (NYIGF), Vickie asked about how to approach another artist’s booth.  It can be a a touchy situation.  The rules at NYIGF state that an exhibitor can’t enter another exhibitor’s booth without permission.  I was wearing an exhibitors badge, which I got from a friend.  So, how did I have so many friendly conversations with other artists during the show?

First, if the booth was designed well, I could get a look without stepping out of the aisle.  If the artist was engaged and greeting all passers by, they would start the conversation.  I would quickly state that I was not an exhibitor, but just got the badge from a friend.  I would let them know I am a jewelry artist, and I’m considering doing the show in the future.

If they seemed open to talking with me, I would start by asking them if it had been a good show for them.  If there was something about their booth I particularly liked, I would compliment them.  I had a few standard questions that I asked, including:

  • What other shows do you do?
  • What is your best show?
  • Will you be at Buyer’s Market next month?
  • How many times have you done this show, and how does this time compare to the past?
  • What do you think of this section?

Some artists were chatty.  Others, not so much.  I tried to follow their lead and match my level of engagement to theirs.  I didn’t bombard anyone with all of these questions, but rather felt for the best flow in my interactions.

Last July I walked the Atlanta Gift Show.  I’ve also walked and showed at ACRE Orlando.  Through those experiences, I’ve met quite a few artists.  There were a couple that are friends of friends.  Several of the artists are in my mentoring group.  With anyone that I had a previous history, it was much easier to approach.  I would remind them of our connection or previous meeting, which was a great conversation starter.

It’s important to note that I would only do this if there was no one else in the booth.  If a buyer approached, I would cut my conversation short and move on with a friendly wave.  It’s important to remember that the exhibitors have paid big bucks to get access to the buyers.  It would be the height of rudeness to get in the way of any opportunity.

Now, I did have a few awkward moments.  I got some blank stares.  One woman rudely stated that I should not even approach her booth without asking her permission.  These exchanges were definitely the exception, not the rule.

For the most part, the artists I spoke with were friendly, supportive and generous with their time and information.  If you are considering getting into wholesale, I strongly suggest that you visit a wholesale show.  Even if you can’t visit the specific show you are considering, it will be helpful to walk any wholesale show.  You’ll learn so much through observation and the conversations you’ll have.

Wendy McManus

About Wendy McManus

As a metal clay addict, I spend most of my time working with, thinking about or dreaming about metal clay. I started the Metal Clay Magic project in 2009 to showcase amazing metal clay artists. In 2012, I engaged a diverse group of artists and converted the site to a group blogging project. You can find my jewelry at www.StudioMcManus.com


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