Sunday, April 14, 2013

10 Thoughts About the Surtex Experience - by Guest Artist Tara Reed

Surtex is really around the corner! About one month from now artists and exhibitors from around the world will leave their studios and will exhibit at this prestigious licensing show in NYC. This is my first year directly exhibiting - as studio•Alex - and I am looking forward to meet artists, agents and manufacturers and to present my new collections to companies interested in potential licensing opportunities!

Amongst many veteran artists and exhibitors is Tara Reed, who is celebrating something very special: 10 years in art licensing! Here is what she has to say about Surtex:

Artist Tara Reed
"There is a mystery around trade shows for those who have never exhibited and a special mix of anticipation and anxiety that is unique to each artist who does. For three days each year, our lives exist within a box on the show floor of the Jacob Javitz Center in New York. 2013 marks my 10th Anniversary in the art licensing industry. I have exhibited at 14 art licensing trade shows and attended almost a dozen industry-specific trade shows. Here are some tidbits of wisdom I have picked up along the way.

You will never feel ready…

…but as I tell myself and others, you will always have what you need. I have yet to meet an artist who says, "Wow! I got all the art done that I wanted to bring to the show about a month ago and couldn't think of another thing to do so I've been catching up on some great shows on NetFlix." I always want to create more than I have time for. I never get it all done but it always turns out fine.

It gets easier but is never easy…

With experience comes more familiarity and confidence in the show process and a greater sense of calm. When you've come to the Javitz Center for 10 years in a row you know where the bathrooms are. You can find the elevator with your eyes closed. You see friendly faces in adjoining booths and feel like you are home.

You get to know what works in your booth and what wasn't worth the time or money. You get to know manufacturers and have a rhythm to your business.

There is always some level of anxiety…

A sense of familiarity with the process doesn't exclude anxiety however. I remember seeing artists having mini-reunions in the aisles during setup and thinking, "WOW! They have it all figured out! They know what they are doing and aren't nervous at all!” Now that I too have people to hug and catch up with in the aisles and have gotten to know lots of amazing artists I realize that most of us become anxious about the show in one way or another.

For me, there is always that worry in the back of my mind that I didn't get enough done or I didn't use the right colors or choose the right themes … what if I have spent all this time and energy and money to get here and don't make those connections to move my business forward? Intellectually I know that art licensing is a process, that I know what I'm doing and that everything will be fine. However, my emotions sometimes have a different interpretation of the situation!

It's an emotional roller coaster…

There will be times when things are popping! You are having great conversations, the booth is busy and you are feeling full of amazing potential. Then there will be the time when it feels like no one has come down your aisle for hours and you wonder if it was all worth it…

I go through a wide range of emotions at each and every show. What I always tell myself is this: "You are as prepared as you can be. You will meet the people you are meant to meet and all will be well." It's a great mantra for the down times … you'll be just fine without it during the busy times.

When you are in your booth you are a sales person as well as an artist…

It's important to remember that. Most artists don't want to think about themselves as sales people but when you are in your booth, your main job is to connect with manufacturers and retailers, find out what they need and show them how you can fit their needs. That's sales and guess what? 9 times out of 10, no one can do it better than you when you get aligned with the process. No one knows your art better than you, your style, what you are working on that might not be done and what you are capable of. No one is more invested in your success either.

If you are exhibiting, prepare your mental mindset as much as your booth design before the show. Know how to answer basic questions and know that you should ask questions too! SURTEX is a time to learn about what a company does, who they work with, what they make and where it is sold, how they work with artists and more … we don't do this every day so it is important to think about these issues ahead of time.

You will make new friends…

When you spend three days next to or staring across the aisles, you often form a bond. You will make new friends who actually understand what you do – go figure! Maybe you will meet the people you've been chatting with on Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter. SURTEX isn't only a great place to meet and interact with licensees face-to-face but also a place to meet artists.

Your leads are like gold…

Artists don't invest in a trade show just for fun. You come to meet people, build relationships and get new leads. Treat your leads like gold. Don't leave them in your booth overnight and don't leave them out on the table unattended. Sadly, I have heard of instances of leads and notes "going missing" – how devastating! Don't take a chance and treat them like cash – because they are what will put cash into your business.

It will be over before you know it…

Before you know it you will be exhausted and ready to tear down your booth. But not before 6 pm – those are the rules! It will all be over but the follow up … and that's the most important part.

Follow up is key…

Very few licensing deals are finalized on the show floor. Most of your leads will involve sending art for review, tweaking some things, creating new art, etc. Without follow up, your business isn't going to go far.

Have a system in place before you get to the show for how you will follow up afterwards. It is the rare licensee who contacts you before you first follow up with them – but if you do have that happen, celebrate and get back to them pronto! If you don't follow up, you might as well have stayed home. There is a lot of competition in this industry and always more than one choice of art that can work – so your professionalism, follow up and follow through can be the difference between getting a deal or not.

SURTEX is a piece of an ongoing process…

The SURTEX trade show is a huge part of the marketing and relationship building process in my business. I never get everything done that I want to before any given show. If I get stressed about it, I remind myself that art needs are continual and manufacturers will want new Christmas, Coffee or Wine art next year too if I don't get it all done this year. Everything is going to be OK…

Final thoughts

If you are exhibiting at SURTEX – I'll see you in May! In these last few weeks remember to be kind to yourself. Work consistently, get ready and then enjoy the process. If you have a crisis of confidence, figure out what to do or tell yourself to get back on track. The mental game of the show is as important now as creating art. Breathe, eat, sleep, create … and have a great show!

Here's to your creative success! ~Tara






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