I am pleased to share this sage advise written by one of the greats in our industry, Sharyn Sowell. Sharyn is an incredible talent and all around wonderful person. This is awesome advice to anyone new to the business, remember--we all start somewhere and sometimes you just don't know how things are done in a given industry---but Sharyn's gotcha covered! Here's what she has to say...
Dear new artists and anyone planning to walk the shows,
I've done a booth at Surtex for a long time and mentored a number of
aspiring artists. I remember how many questions I had and how eager I
was. May I offer you and other new artists an arm around the shoulder
about this? If you're a newbie, there are so many ways you can step on
toes without meaning to.
Sometimes when we're so full of enthusiasm and want to learn so much,
we can accidentally step on toes and do things that make us seem rude
and offensive. This happens often at Surtex. You may not realize it
but those of us in the booths have spent thousands of dollars and
hundreds of hours preparation to be there. We MUST make it pay. We are
there to meet present clients and prospective ones. Our money and
sweat has paid for that huge venue and brought those people into the
So while I know you'd never try to take advantage, you can understand
why we ask you to walk down the middle of the aisle and not approach
our booths. We don't want people taking photos because we have
struggled to dream up something that's ours- we don't want you to copy
it. You must find your own vision, dream up your own wonderful and
unique booth, not copy mine.
We exhibitors would ask you not to walk over and engage us in
conversation unless we make the move first because if you are standing
at our booth, proper show etiquette means that nobody else will
approach us. Others do not know this is just a friendly, non-business
conversation and if we're just having a pleasant chat, prospective
clients will walk by because that is politeness in this industry. They
will not interrupt what might be a business meeting. You may
unintentionally be wrecking our show. We may be wishing you'd leave
but too polite to ask and make it awkward.
The same with portfolios. It is absolutely a no-no to start looking at
another artist's portfolio unless they invite you. Sometimes artists
look through another artist's portfolio to steal ideas. Of course that
is probably the last thing you'd do. But if you innocently start
looking through a portfolio, you are likely to have the artist respond
by asking you to stop immediately. This happened to me a dozen times
last year and after the first time or two I'm afraid I wasn't
particularly sensitive in the way I said it.
As to the fee to walk the show, if you are planning to go you
should pay it and consider it a cheap education. That's only fair. We
who have paid thousands for our booths have asked the show organizers
to do this to make it more fair. Why should we pay all those fees so
that others can walk in and take photos, meet clients, peek through
our samples... all for free? If you look at it from the exhibitors'
point of view (and we after all are the ones who fund the whole show)
why would we put out all that energy and money so that others can have
it for nothing? I know that's not the intention, but it's how you will
look at it when you have a booth, too. We are not major corporations,
we are small design shops for the most part, individuals just like
you. And we have to make it pay.
If you pay the fee, you should wander the show and look at
everything. Walk those aisles for hours. Smile and some of us will
chat with you when it's quiet and we can do so. But for the most part
you are there to observe and learn. Don't take photos, don't approach
busy people, and for heavens' sakes don't bring your portfolio and
plan to whip it out and make a deal in the aisle. Bring a little stack
of business cards and your most comfortable shoes, a notebook and
pencil. If you see an agent you are interested in, note their name and
you can contact them after the show. If there's an artist you admire,
write their name down and send them a kind email when you get home.
This way you'll build a reputation for being appropriate and
considerate. You may make some valuable contacts and you'll have
gotten a good education.
I hope I haven't offended anyone. I am only trying to offer you the
advice someone should have offered me when I was starting out.
I wish you joy and success walking the show. If you come to Surtex,
wave at me from the middle of the aisle and smile and if I can I will
step out and greet you.
Sharyn Sowell Studio