Trade Show Success: How to Prepare, Exhibit & Follow Up | Shannon McNab | Skillshare

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Trade Show Success: How to Prepare, Exhibit & Follow Up

teacher avatar Shannon McNab, Surface Designer & Illustrator

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

22 Lessons (1h 42m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Two Methods to Decide If You’re Ready for a Show

    • 3. But Are You Really Ready to Exhibit?

    • 4. Designing a Trade Show Ready Portfolio

    • 5. Portfolio Presentation Options

    • 6. Booth Design Part 1: Banners

    • 7. Booth Design Part 2: Mockups & Decor

    • 8. Booth Giveaways

    • 9. Pre-Show Marketing

    • 10. During Show Marketing

    • 11. Additional Marketing

    • 12. Booth Insurance

    • 13. Show Forms

    • 14. Preparation Timeline

    • 15. Building a Price Guide

    • 16. Packing for the Show

    • 17. Interacting with Clients at Your Booth

    • 18. Exhibitor Best Practices

    • 19. Post Show Follow Up

    • 20. Post Show Portfolio Audit

    • 21. Final Thoughts + Assignment

    • 22. Blooper Reel

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About This Class

Trade shows are an incredibly time consuming and expensive endeavor, but exhibiting at one can have an enormous positive impact on your business – provided you know what you need to do to have a successful show.

And that's the issue I ran into back in 2017 while researching for my first show; it was incredibly hard to find information about every aspect of the trade shows. And it's why I decided to make this class!

Trade Show Success touches on the entire art licensing trade show process from beginning to end. We'll discuss everything from how to decide if you're ready to exhibit and I'll explain all aspects of show prep from banners and marketing material to show forms and mockups. 

But prep isn't the whole focus of this class! We'll also review what to do once the show actually starts and discuss the importance of building a solid post show follow up strategy that can lead you on a path to success.

This class is for designers with limited experience who are trying to decide whether exhibiting at an art licensing trade show is for them OR for those who are ready to exhibit, but are intimidated by all the trade show prep. 

Special thanks to the people at Emerald Expositions for their permission to use video and photos from Surtex – it would not be the same class without it! Thanks to JP of SectorBlu for providing the Surtex B-Roll footage & Scott Tsai for the show photographs.

Also, heartfelt thanks to two of my fellow designers, Lizzie Clark and Liz Mytinger, for permission to photograph their Surtex 2019 booths and include them as part of this class.

Meet Your Teacher

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Shannon McNab

Surface Designer & Illustrator

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Hi ya! I'm Shannon, a surface designer from the SF Bay Area who specializes in patterns and hand lettering. My focus is on helping you not only improve your creative work, but also your business skills – anyone who dreams of making a living from their work needs BOTH to succeed. But community is also really important, which is why I started Sketch Design Repeat – to support and encourage you.


PS. Want to keep in touch and know when I have new classes or articles? Sign up for my newsletter.

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1. Introduction: Hi. I'm Shannon McNab. I'm a surface designer and illustrator from the Bay Area. I've exhibited at four art licensing trade shows over the past three years. I can say without a doubt choosing to exhibit was one of the best decisions I made to help propel my business forward. But I also know that shows can be an expensive and intimidating gamble, especially when there are so many little details that go into exhibiting. In fact, as I was preparing for my first show in 2017, I really struggled to find the information I needed. That's actually where I started chronicling my show experiences on my blog three years ago, and why I decided to make this comprehensive class. I want to demystify all of the confusing aspects of a trade show and giving you the tools you need for success. We'll dive right in by discussing how to decide if you're prepared to exhibit. We'll also examine what makes the trade show ready portfolio, and I'll give you actionable tips on how to develop new pieces to strengthen your existing body of work. The second part of this class will focus on trade show prep. Everything from designing banners and marketing material to creating your own show forums and pricing guide, to advice on what mock-ups to purchase for your booth. I'll walk you through a few client interaction scenarios as well as best practices to make the most of your show experience. Then we'll finish up by discussing the importance of a solid post show follow-up strategy. This class is geared towards designers with limited experience who are trying to decide if exhibiting at a trade show is the right path for them or for those of you who already know you want to exhibit, but you're intimidated by all the trade show preparations involved. You're looking for a framework to follow to help give you a more successful show experience. 2. Two Methods to Decide If You’re Ready for a Show: Determining whether or not you're ready to exhibit at a trade show isn't an easy choice to make, especially since there's so many factors involved. One of the most obvious components is having a true passion for your art and the ambition to license your work, which motivate you to take such a big step in the first place. But passion and drive alone does not mean you're ready, nor does it automatically equate to a positive show experience when you exhibit. So how do you actually know when you're ready to take that leap? Well, there are two popular methods you can try that can help you decide whether or not exhibiting at a licensing trade show is right for you. The first option is to walk the show you're interested in as an attendee. Although attending and exhibiting will be vastly different experiences, walking the show can give you lots of helpful insights as to whether it's something you'd like to do. You'll see exhibiting designers interact with clients in person. Deciding to exhibit can be a difficult decision to make, especially if you've never been to or worked at a show before. By walking the show first, you'll get your own authentic glimpse of how it all works. You'll get to see how much attendee traffic there is and if you're lucky and a bit brave, you might even be able to talk one on one with a few exhibitors. Although if you do decide to approach an exhibitor it's important that you only do so when there's no one after their booth. If a client does walk by while you're talking, it's common courtesy for you to step away, even if you're not done chatting with the exhibitor. Con: timing can become an issue. Most shows usually run only once a year. So if you're hoping to exhibit sooner than a year from now, this option might not be a possibility for you. However, if you're on the fence or still feel like you're a beginner in the field, I'd say in most instances, it'd be worth it for you to wait and walk the show to determine if it's for you. Also, some trade shows actually run it twice a year but most of the time one of the shows will be bigger than the other. If that's the case, you're better off visiting the larger of the two shows. Pro: you'll see what styles of art are being presented and whether your art is a good fit. Each licensing show caters to a different blend of companies and markets and sadly, not all artists will do well at every show. For those that don't, many times it's because they didn't do enough research to know that there are isn't exactly what the attendee traffic was looking for. So by walking the show and taking notice of the boost with the most traffic, you'll get a good sense of what art styles are the most popular and can better assess whether yours will fit in to a particular show. Con: it can be expensive to attend as an artist, it can cost anywhere from 50 to more than $500 to purchase a ticket as an attending artist. For many people, that's simply too expensive, especially after factoring in travel costs. In fact that you're not allowed to approach attending companies as an attendee yourself. However, one way designers can get around this is to contact an exhibitor prior to the show and offer to help them during. If they agree, you'll receive a free badge from the exhibitor and get a first-hand look as a helper in their booth. Overall, I think attending a show can be a valuable method for determining whether your art will do well. It's best for people who prefer a little more time to reflect on their decision. However, if you're looking to make your decision more quickly or can't afford the expense of traveling to and attending a show, you can choose option number two, which is to schedule a consultation with a working professional in your industry. Many artists, agents, and surfaces liners, myself included, offer one-on-one consultations which can provide a much clearer idea on whether you and your work are ready for a trade show within a single hour long session. The good news with this option is that you'll get quality feedback on your portfolio and can implement their advice immediately. By spending the bulk of your consultation on a portfolio review, the advising creative should not only be able to tell you whether your art is ready for the market, but also give you ideas on ways to improve upon it, add to your existing body of work. If you tell them you're thinking about exhibiting at a trade show up prior to the session, you'll also hopefully have some time to ask them any major questions you may have. The main downside to consultations is that they can be expensive while paying for one-on-one session with an expert will not be as pricey as plane ticket and hotel costs for attending to show, it can still set you back a couple $100. In my experience though, the experts who value their time and set a high but fair price will usually provide the most value. My best advice for who you consult with is to choose the person or people you most often go to for guidance especially if you've developed a bit of a mentor mentee type of relationship with them already. I paid for several consultations myself over the years and those whom I developed a rapport with prior to booking the session, we're more insightful and encouraging than those who had not. 3. But Are You Really Ready to Exhibit?: The two methods we outlined in the last video are a great start, but they aren't the only ways you can gain insight on whether you're ready to exhibit. Instead, there are three other factors you can evaluate for yourself before deciding to pony up the cash to pay for a both. Number 1, the size of your portfolio. Because a trade show is such a large investment of both your time and money, you'd be wasting both if you exhibited with only a handful of designs. Now that doesn't mean you need hundreds of portfolio pieces to be ready. In reality, you only need to have 50 or 60 solid designs by the start of the trade show. But if that's too simple an answer for you, we'll go into what to design and how to present your work in the next two videos. Number 2, basic business knowledge. Now I know the business side of design can be daunting or boring at times, but if you only focus on the art, I guarantee you won't have a successful show. But you also don't need to have an MBA to be ready for it either. Instead, I'd suggest you focus on these three business fundamentals to evaluate if you're prepared. Long-term planning. The process of preparing for a trade show takes several months up to a year. You need to get into the habit of long-term planning, and be able to execute the plan. The good news is your plan doesn't have to be overly complicated. It can be as easy as keeping a document, listing everything you need to do plus a calendar with all your deadlines. Personally, I use air table for all my business planning because it helps keep everything in one place. If you're in need of a gentle push to keep you more organized, I have a link to my skill show class in the class resources PDF. It will show you how I use air table from a design business, including all my trade show planning. Finances, and budgeting. Not only should you have some money set aside for exhibiting expenses, you also need to prepare a budget that you can stick to. Show cost for individual exhibitors can range from a couple thousand to $10,000 or more. So doing some costs research beforehand for the particular show you're interested in is extremely important. If you want a little more guidance on this topic, there's a link in the class resources PDF to an article sharing a detailed analysis of all my costs associated with exhibiting at surtax my first time in 2017. If you're concerned about finances and want to keep costs down, you could also consider forming a collective with a few other designers or you split a lot of the costs associated with exhibiting. Unfortunately, I don't have any personal experience in working with the collective as I've always exhibited by myself so I can't speak to the pros and cons of doing so. However, I have included links to a blog post series written by the Four Corners collective on the pattern observer website if it's something you're interested in doing. Marketing and interacting with clients. The third business component you'll need if you want to be successful as a designer, and especially at trade shows, is that you need to get somewhat comfortable marketing yourself and your art, and be able to confidently talk with potential clients in person. I know that many artists, myself included are introverts. We can find it exhausting, or terrifying talking about ourselves, negotiating prices or reaching out to new people. But it's a necessary part of doing business as a self-employed artists. So if marketing yourself to others makes you uncomfortable, my advice is to take small steps to slowly build your confidence before the trade show. Number 3, your frame of mind. The last factor you need to consider is whether you have the right frame of mind to exhibit. Trade shows are incredibly expensive not only from a financial standpoint, but from a personal and creative one as well. You need to make sure you're prepared for the journey, and do your best to keep yourself in a positive headspace throughout the process. However, if that sounds too wooish for you, let me put it to you another way. You should approach a trade show as an investment in yourself and in your business. That means you need to go through the experience without any expectation that you'll make your money back. Instead, you should frame it as contributing to your growth as a designer. So whether or not you receive any contracts or clients from all your efforts, you will still have gained valuable insights about the industry and will be a stronger person, artist, and business owner because of it. With all that in mind, it's up to you to decide if exhibiting at a show is right for you right now. 4. Designing a Trade Show Ready Portfolio: As I mentioned in the last video, you should have a minimum of 50 quality designs in your portfolio to make your time and financial investment of exhibiting worth it. The best way to make sure you have enough art by the start of the trade show. This is set an art goal for yourself that's realistic. For example, let's say I have 20 weeks before my next trade show. Between now and then, I'll have some client projects, all the other show prep to complete, and some vacation and family time scheduled around the holidays. I would subtract around four 4-6 weeks for client and trade show related work, and another two weeks for a vacation. Which means I actually only have about 12 to 14 weeks to create new art. Knowing that I can comfortably create two new pieces per week, I would set a goal of between 24 and 28 new designs. I could go even a step further, and set monthly or weekly goals to keep me better on track. Once you've completed this process for figuring out how much are you can create between now and the show, you'll need to assess whether that gives you at least 50 designs. But there's a lot more that goes into portfolio planning for a trade show, than just the amount of pieces you have. Your portfolio should also show lots of variety. When I save variety, I mean that in two very different ways. First, let's talk about variety in terms of subject matter. A trade show portfolio should display a wide assortment of themes, but also a heavy emphasis on holiday and floral designs. Christmas itself is almost 50 percent of the surfaces I market, with florals right behind it, as the second most asked for theme. I'd suggest reserving at least half of your portfolio, to just those two categories. Then the remainder of your portfolio, you can focus on other themes you like to design for. Things like geometric-s, animals, food, or greeting card sentiments. Even within these categories, you should strive to show a range of themes. Like for Christmas, it's probably a good idea to include a few characters like Santa, reindeer or snowman. But also non character motifs like trees, presents, point set-is, and snowflakes. You can also throw some holiday phrases into the mix, if you enjoy creating hand lettering pieces. Again, the important part here is to include as much variation as you can when you're just starting out. The wider breadth your portfolio has the much likely you'll have a design that fits when a potential client asks to see a specific theme, which happens frequently at a trade show. The second way your portfolio should show variety is having a mix of patterns and illustrations. Unless all the markets you're targeting focused solely on one type, which is very rare. You'll be doing yourself a disservice, if you design too heavily towards just patterns or just illustrations. That doesn't mean your portfolio needs to be a perfect 50-50 split between the two. Especially, since it's likely you have an inclination to design one more than the other. Instead, I suggest building your portfolio, by designing what comes most naturally to you, whether that's patterns or illustration. Then take an occasional break from it and add one or two pieces from the other. The purpose of doing so, goes back to being able to capture a larger audience for your art because some companies only look for patterns, some only look for illustrations, and a lot of them look for both. The last thing I'd like to touch on is how to best create and display collections in your trade show portfolio. There are a few markets like bolt fabric that trend towards large collection of patterns. It's been my experience that smaller collections tend to do better at trades-hows for the majority of other markets. That's why I personally advocate creating small collections consisting of an illustration or hero pattern with an option to add one to two coordinates or placement prints. If you want to read about the benefits of including coordinates in your designs, there's a link in the class resources PDF to a blog post where I share their advantages. There's also a link to my quick 15-minute Skillshare class that shows you the exact method I use for building three pattern collections. However, if you're someone who enjoys creating larger pattern collections or illustration series, you don't need to change the way you design. Instead, you may just need to break up the larger collections onto multiple portfolio sheets. The benefit of presenting larger collections this way is that you aren't visually overwhelming clients that have smaller budgets. It allows you to license or sell each design or mini collection individually, which could translate to a greater profit than if you would include them all on a single sheet. 5. Portfolio Presentation Options: We've covered the content and organization of the designs in your portfolio. But it's also important to think about how you're going to showcase your portfolio during a trade show. Here are the three most common display methods and the pros and cons for each. Digital tablet. This is by far the easiest and most cost effective option as long as you already own a tablet, because that makes it free. By organizing your portfolio into themed folders, a client can scroll through images swiftly and navigate to only the themes they're interested in. Also, it doesn't take up much counter space, which leaves more room for both you and the client to take notes and for you to display mockups and products samples. But there are two downsides to using a tablet. First, if a client purchases a design from you outright at the show, it's common for them to take the print of the design home with them. Now they can take a photo of the image on your tablet but it's not quite as good as bringing the printer design back to their office. Also, as much as we live in a digital age nowadays, our directors and buyers still seem to prefer the tactile nature of flipping through a printed version of your portfolio. Which leads me to the second display method, bound portfolio book. Creating a look book of your entire portfolio is another fairly affordable option, although it's not free, like using a tablet. There are several stellar online book printers such as Blurb. But printing a book will set you back roughly $50 to $100 depending on the book size and finishing options you choose. Just like the tablet, it's also very portable and doesn't take up much space unless you order a large size book. The other benefit is that it's potentially easier to display mockups of some of your collections when using a book, as you have more real estate on a book spread than you would on a tablet. However, I would caution you from spending too much time on mockups, as most art directors are only interested in looking at the art itself. Now the main downside to about book is the same as the first downside to tablets, a buyer won't be able to take a print home with them. That's why the most common display method and my personal preference is for large scale loose sheets. In my experience, art directors and buyers prefer large loose Sheet portfolios by far. The most common sizes you'll see are 11 by 17 and 13 by 19. Not only the loose sheets allow them to take a sheet home if they've bought a design outright. But it also makes it incredibly easy for them to pull out any designs they're interested in. You see many interactions will involve a buyer flipping through your portfolio very quickly and pulling out anything that they like. From there, they'll go back and take a closer look at each piece they set aside to see if it's something they'd like to license or purchase. That's not something you can do with a tablet or a portfolio book. But there are downsides to loose sheets. First, it's usually the most expensive option. Depending on the number of pieces in your portfolio, the Inkjet printer uses and your paper choice. Personally, I always recommend uncoded 80 pounds cover stock. Printing loose sheets can run anywhere from $50 to a couple, $100. Second, if you're traveling via plain to the trade show, lugging a large stack of 11 by 17 paper in your suitcase can get really heavy. In fact, my current portfolio clocks in at around 15 pounds of paper. The last downside is that loose sheets take up a lot more space on the counter than a tablet or bound book. One way around that is to organize your sheets into folders and house them into a vertical organizer. I found mine on Amazon for just 20 bucks. But you could find something similar at your local office supply store. Just make sure to test it with your portfolio sheets to make sure it's large enough before bringing it with you. There it is, the three best ways to display your portfolio. While I highly recommend you consider a loose sheet portfolio first, there is no right or wrong answer, as it all comes down to your personal preference. But if you're like me and want to be extra prepared, you could actually bring two different options with you, like loose sheets and a tablet for example. This way if your loose sheet portfolio is lost at the airport or your tablet runs out of power, you have a backup option. Having a second portfolio is also helpful for when there's multiple buyers at your booth at the same time. While you're talking to one client, flipping through your loose sheet portfolio together, you can hand another buyer your bound book or tablet to browse while they wait for you to finish with the first-person. 6. Booth Design Part 1: Banners: Besides building a strong portfolio, the next most important preparations for any trade show is creating a well-thought-out booth. That's because you have three seconds or less to grab a potential client's attention as they walk by. So it's incredibly important, thoughtfully display your art as best as you can. That's why your booth banners are the most important aspect of your booth design. The first thing you have to know before you start designing your banners is the layout and dimensions of your booth. You'll likely receive the information between six and two months prior to the show. However, if they don't give you exact measurements, it's always best to contact the show admin team directly and confirm the sizing because the last thing you want to happen is to create banners or design the space, and have it not fit correctly when you arrive. Once you've confirmed both the booth dimensions and your banner sizes, you can start developing what you want them to look like. The easiest way to do that is with a skilled down mock-up in Illustrator or Photoshop. Here you can see a screenshot of the final version of the mock-up for my 2019 Surtex booth, I build in Adobe Illustrator. The process of creating a booth mock- up can be time-consuming, so it's best to start the process as early as you can. Although you may find the idea of building your booth daunting, there are several loose guidelines you can utilize to help make the process a bit easier. First, you need to display variety. Just like we talked about for your portfolio, your booth needs to show breadth in subject matter. You should aim to include at least one holiday piece and one floral. However, depending on the size of your booth and how many banners you have, you may want to up that to a minimum of two holiday designs and two florals and just like your portfolio, you can use the remaining space to highlight your favorite designs from other categories. My fellow aisle mate at Surtex 2019, Liz Mytinger, did a fabulous job of displaying variety. She has a strong point of view and her work focuses almost entirely on cute characters. But she still managed to show a large range of themes within the nine panels of her booth. Next, you'll want to present a cohesive booth. The easiest way to do that is with color. Just like how you use color palettes in creating new artwork, utilizing a consistent color palette for your booth goes a long way in creating a unified booth design. I'm not saying you have to recolor your existing work to make everything an exact match. Instead, focus on two to three colors as the foundation of your booth design. Make sure that each piece you include contains at least one of those colors. Using my friend Lizzie Clark's booth from Surtex 2019 as an example, her booth banners focus on pink, mustard yellow, and gray. Each banner uses at least one if not two, of those colors and the result is an incredibly cohesive, and beautiful booth. Finally, you'll want to highlight your wild pieces. If you're booth is a traditional enclosed space like it's Surtex, you'll want your best designs on the banners at the edge of your booth as they're the ones most likely to be seen by people passing by. For me and my 2019 booth, that meant one of my newest florals and a highly detailed greeting card design. However, if you're exhibiting at a tabletop show like blueprint or print source, for retractable banners, are placed behind the table, you'll want your best designs placed at eye level on your banners. Here's my 2019 blueprint booth. And you can see that same floral from my Surtex booth showcased at eye level. Remember, you only have three seconds to capture someone's attention. So by placing your best work in a spot that has the highest likelihood to be within an attendee's line of sight, it gives you the best chance. They'll look and then stop in at your booth. Of the examples I've shown you from myself, Liz and Lizzy, you may be thinking that showing a few large-scale patterns in Illustrations is the only way to display your art in your booth. The reality is, that's just what we've found works for us. However, there are many successful designers who exhibit at trade shows that showcase several designs per panel. So I want you to feel free to experiment with the layout of your booth banners. Here's just a few of my favorite booth designs from the past few years to get your juices flowing. But if you're looking for even more inspiration, I have a link to my trade show booth design Pinterest board in the class resources PDF of this class. Now once you finalize your booth banner mock-up, you can move forward with creating them at full size and getting them printed. Depending on the printer you use and whether or not you get a test banner made first, can take anywhere from two to six weeks to receive them. So it's a good idea to order them at least a month prior to your first trade show. That way if anything goes wrong, you have time to fix it. For me, the absolute best printer out there for booth banners is Smartpress. You can find a link to both types of banners I've purchased on their website in the class resources PDF. There's also a blog post link, where I share my own booth banner snafu. It's worth a read if you want to avoid having your own banner horror story. 7. Booth Design Part 2: Mockups & Decor: Although the printed banners are the most important aspect of your booth design, it's also a good idea to consider adding in additional details like product mockups and decorations to liven up the space and show off your personality. You can do that in so many ways with the decor you choose and the best part is you don't have to spend a lot of money on it either. I suggest you look around your office or home, and chances are you'll find some cool objects that reflect your style. One of my favorite things to do is to bring a decorative face with me and then buy seasonal flowers to fill it when I'm at the show. Or if you're crafty, you can DIY some booth decor. The most popular option seems to be hanging banners or streamers made from paper, fabric or felt. For my own booth for search hex 2019, I handmade some pomp on banners from yarn that hung from the edges of my booth and my counter. It added an extra boost of color and when winzy to my booth. But hanging banners aren't the only thing you can do, so don't be afraid to get creative and come up with something unique for your booth. However, not everyone is super crafty, and many of us don't have lots of extra time to devote creating decor from scratch. Another great option for your booth is to bring products samples. This will be easy for you if you've worked with clients and already received product samples from them. However, if you're just starting out and don't have any samples yet, you can instead get mockups made, especially in this era of print on demand sites. It's incredibly easy to get one-off products made for you to use in your booth. However, the proliferation of these types of sites has its downsides. On the one hand, you can get easily overwhelmed by the plethora of choices and end up with analysis paralysis, or on the opposite end of the spectrum, you could go crazy and order your art on 20 different products and waste a ton of money in the process. To me, there are four guiding principles that you should consider before ordering product mockups with your art for your booth, are they products you want to design for? The first question you should always ask yourself is whether or not the product mockup you're considering buying is something you'd like to work on with clients. I know it can be tempting when you're starting out to be open to all markets and all products but you'll be better off if you narrow your focus, which leads me to point number two. Does your art style make sense for the product? There can be a huge variety in art styles within a single market but still not all art styles will work with every product. You'll need to ask yourself whether your designs work well on the product mockup you'd like to purchase and if they don't save your money and buy something better suited to your art. I made the mistake of purchasing two fashion scarves for my first trade show at 2017. However, if you look at my booth banners, you can see that the art I showcased at the show had a much younger cuter vibe that was more suited to gift wrap or stationary than women's fashion. Basically I wasted 60 bucks on product that wasn't a good match for the art I was presenting in my booth. Will it fit in my booth? Once you've determined that the product mockup you're considering is for a market you want to work in, and it goes with your art style, the next question you need to consider is whether you'll have space for it in your booth. If you're exhibiting at a tabletop show, you'll have very little space to work with, as most of the table space will be taken up by your portfolio. In this case, it's best to stick with two or three small products you can display that don't take up much space. Think of things like greeting cards, mugs, or journals and for traditional trade shows, the amount of space you have is really up to you. There's actually three different routes you can go. One, you could rent shelf space from the venue to display product mockups like I did at surtax in 2017 and 2018. Two, bring your own furniture for displaying products like I did for surtax 2019 or three, use the counter area to display products. Once you decide which option to move forward with, you'll know how much space you have to work with and it'll be much easier to decide how many products you'll need to fill the space. In this case, it's also a good idea to create a two scale planogram of any display you'll have. I created one for my 2019 Surtax Booth, as it was the first time I brought my own furniture and it helped me immensely. I ended up ordering just two different products to go along with my existing client samples to help finish off the space. I know for a fact that I likely would have ordered many more products had I not done the mockup first. How am I getting the product to the show? Are you close enough that you'll drive or are you flying across the country or around the world and the only room you have is in your suitcase? If your answer is the latter, you'll want to be very cautious about what products you bring with you as your space will be extremely limited. You also have the option with the traditional trade show to box up all your banners and booth decor and ship it straight to the venue. However, that's usually pretty darn expensive as you pay both for the shipping and the venue to hold and move your items for you. What do you do? Luckily, I've had lots of practice with this particular packing issue as I'm in California and every show I've ever exhibited at was in New York. There are two alternatives I've personally utilized that I suggest you consider. One, recruiting a local friend. This may not work in every instance for everyone. But I'm lucky to have a few East Coast friends I've been able to call upon. In one instance, my friend Lizzy, who was driving up from her home in Virginia, let me ship my banners to her and she drove them up along with all her own stuff. The following year, I sent my banners to a friend in the Bronx. Then once I arrived in New York, I took a train up to her place, picked up my banners, and took a lift directly to the venue. Two, bring a second suitcase you can check at the airport. If you don't have friends in the area of where you'll be exhibiting or want the peace of mind that everything will be traveling with you, the next best option is to bring a second large suitcase. For most flights, that means you'll have to pay an extra baggage fee, but I've found it to be worth the cost. In fact, for every show I've exhibited at, I've brought one large suitcase to check and one carry on so have never run out of room. No matter what decorations or product mockups you're considering for the show, it's important to not go overboard or get too complicated with your booth design. Remember the focus should always be on the art you're displaying on your banners. Any decor and mockups you decide to bring should enhance and not detract or distract from the art. 8. Booth Giveaways: Another small but effective way you can showcase your artwork and your personality at a trade show is with giveaways. I'm not talking about the type of giveaways you see on social media, where one person wins a big prize. I mean something which features your work that you give out to potential clients. Now, just like with booth decor and product mark-ups, it can be pretty easy to get carried away with grand and complex ideas. But I find it best to stick with small, inexpensive items that can help you share a little bit more about yourself. Here's the two giveaways I've used over the years at my trade show booth. Buttons, this is my go-to giveaway item because it's small, easy to pack, and people really seem to love them. I get a few new button designs made at Pure Buttons for each trade show season. The best part is that they're very inexpensive, 100 buttons costs about $20 to $40, depending on the size. Art wrapped candy. With this option, you can either take the time to print labels and wrap the candy yourself or get them printed for you. The first option is obviously more economical, while the second option is less time consuming. While I don't have any specific vendor recommendations for this, as I've only done the DIY option from a binary search on Google, I found that the pricing range for getting 100 printed and wrapped for you is about $60 to $200 depending on the type of candy you choose. Of course, there are lots of other giveaways you could consider, like notepads, stickers, pattern wrapped pens, or tote bags. The most important things to consider when choosing your giveaway item is price and size. On that note, don't feel like you have to have a giveaway at your booth because it's absolutely not a necessity. Remember clients are there seeking new art, and that's where your main focus should always be. Having giveaways is just a fun thing to do, to add some levity to the exhibiting process and attract a little bit of attention as potential clients walk by. 9. Pre-Show Marketing: I know many creatives get squeamish at the idea of marketing themselves, but it's an absolute necessity. After all, if you're not proactive with your efforts prior to the start of the show, you could end up missing out on meeting some great potential clients, so let's ease into talking about marketing with the area you're probably most familiar with. Instagram is the most visual social media platform. I'd say it's the gold standard of places for an artist to be. In fact, I'd say if you want to focus on just one social media outlet for all your marketing efforts, personally, I think Instagram should be it, so if you don't yet have an account, today would be a great day to start one. Instagram acts like a portfolio sorts for many designers, and allows companies and art directors a glimpse into our design process or offices and our most current work. As a general rule of thumb, I'd say it's a good idea to post to your account at least once a week for a minimum of six months leading up to a show. However, you'll gain more attraction, and have more art for potential clients to see, if you post at least a few times a week or even daily. On top of your regular posting, it can also be helpful to create a few trade show branded images that you post is the show gets closer. In these images, you need to make sure to include your name or logo, the trade show you're exhibiting at, and your booth number. You can also include the dates and location of the show if you have the space. Now how many images you design and how creative you get with them is up to you. But I suggest creating between two and six images. Once you've designed them, you can create a simple release calendar that shows you what day you'll post each image. I find the easiest way to do this is actually scheduled the Instagram posts in advance with an app like Later or Plan, or write the dates down and your physical or digital calendar. As far as when you should schedule them, I'd suggest posting your first image about two to three months before the show as your kickoff announcement that you'll be exhibiting, and your last image should be posted either the day before or on the first day of the show. Then depending on how many extra images you've designed, you can space them out between the first and last dates. One other consideration, specifically for Instagram is not to post trade show branded posts so often that they sit right next to each other in your feet. Instead, aimed to add at least five to six images to your feed in-between to space out your show branded posts. You could also choose to reuse your branded images provided enough time has gone by between them. Besides marketing on Instagram, the other simple but effective way to get your information out there is to submit your art to blogs or newsletter that run trade show previews. The most popular website for this is Print and Pattern. But there are others like Rise Design and Shine, Pattern Observer, or Uppercase Magazines, All About You newsletter. Now, not all of them will showcase artists for every upcoming show, so it's a good idea to research each option and make sure they actually share info about your particular show. Doing blog research will also help you decide how much art to send them and how to format the images as the guidelines are often different for each blog. But a good rule of thumb is to send between three and 10 images. Just make sure to include at least one of the trade show branded images you created for Instagram as part of the submission so that anyone reading your entry will know your name and booth number. Also for the remaining images you're sending that aren't branded to the show, it's important to at least include your name or logo, and your email address or website on the images. As it makes it much easier for someone to contact you directly, and can help deter people from stealing your art. One final submission tip is to make sure to send slightly different art to each blog. You should do this for two reasons. Each blog has its own file, and likely caters to a slightly different reader base, so your art should be curated to that, and two, bloggers also like their content to be unique, so while sending everyone the exact same Art is quicker, it isn't a good tactic. Now we've covered the two areas of generalized marketing that I think are the most helpful for trade shows. But there's one other aspect of marketing you shouldn't ignore, and that's direct targeting where you reach out to attendees prior to the show. While this is the most time-consuming aspect of pre-show marketing, I've also found it to be the most beneficial thing you can do. The best place to start is by asking all your current company contacts if they'll be attending the trade show. However, if you don't have any current clients, you can reach out to. There's one really effective way for finding out who will be at your show, and that's what your trade shows internal attendee search directory. Now, full disclosure, not every show has this capability, especially newer or smaller boutique like shows. However, if you're exhibiting at a larger or more established show like the licensing expo or SURTEX, it's something that should be available to you a few months before the show, and it's extremely valuable. Of course, most attendee lists are thousands of names long and well, you could go line by line researching every person and company, there's usually a slightly more efficient process. Most attendee directories have a search feature where you can limit the results by clicking on one or more search parameters. After you've searched through them all, you should hopefully have a list of anywhere from 25 to a 100 companies you'd like to work with, and the person or people at the company who will be attending the show. From there, you'll need to hunt down the email address of each person, which can be complicated and time-consuming in its own ride. Luckily, one of my classes, finding buyers for your art, specifically tackles this topic in video seven. You can find a link to that class and the class resources PDF. Now once you've found some of their email addresses, as it's unlikely you'll be successful finding all of them and that's totally normal, then you can reach out to them. I'd suggest that you send an introductory email about six to eight weeks prior to the show. You should keep it really short and sweet, attach three to five pieces of art then share a little bit about yourself, your art style, and that you're interested in working with them. If you need help drafting an email, I have a sample intro email script as part of the class resources of my finding buyers class. Just make sure to amend script to also include that you'll be exhibiting at the show, and don't forget to share your booth number with that. It can also be helpful to let them know you're available to take appointments so they can schedule time with you in advance if they'd like to. Appointments are pretty rare these days, especially for individual exhibitors, but it can still be a good thing to ask. Now if you don't hear back from anyone, or hear back from only a few people. Don't panic, because that's fairly typical. In fact, you should expect to hear back from fewer than 10 percent of the contexts you email. While that percentage sounds depressing, and may make you wonder why I'm suggesting you put in all this time and effort into direct marketing to potential clients, I want to let you know that just because they didn't write you back, doesn't mean they didn't open the email. In fact, I've had several occasions at trade shows where I meet someone at my booth that I reached out to but never responded to me via email before the show, so don't lose hope, instead, send them a quick follow-up email a week or two before the show just to remind them that you're exhibiting, show a few more pieces from your portfolio with them, and that you're still very excited to meet them and show them your work in person. 10. During Show Marketing: You can get very creative and elaborate if you're marketing efforts for a trade show. There's really only two absolutely essential items you need. The first is a website. Before you groan, creating a website from scratch is time-consuming and potentially expensive because you have to hire someone to build it for you. I want to tell you that your website can be extremely simple. Even a single page, simple. All you need is a curated selection of designs for your portfolio and your contact information. Literally, that's it. With that in mind, if you want to go simple and use a single page for your website, I'd suggest using It's free to use the platform and you can add in as many projects as you'd like. The main downside though, is that you don't have any control over how your projects and info are displayed and you can't customize the URL. That's why my preference is to use Squarespace. You can set up your entire website from scratch without any HTML or coding knowledge using their very intuitive templates, some of which are specifically geared towards artists portfolios. The best part is you can add in additional pages, an about you page where you give details about your design journey and creative process or a contact page, where you can even add a form block that sends increase directly to your inbox. The main downside to Squarespace is that it's not free. It costs a minimum of about a $150 yearly plus an additional $20, if you need to register your domain name with them. However, I think a 150 per year is a small price to pay for an extremely professional-looking website. If you'd like more information about how to build your own site using Squarespace. They've actually partnered with skill share and have a class available on this site about how to create your own website. Besides a website, the other item that's essential for your trade show Marketing is a business card. Of course, you can create other types of marketing material than just a business card for your booth, which we'll cover in the next video. But at the bare minimum, you'll need a business card. The design details of your card, the size, orientation, and design elements are completely up to you. But at the very least, your card should display your name or logo, your website URL, your e-mail address, and at least one design element, either a pattern or illustration that captures your design style. You can also choose to include your phone number and Instagram handle if you have them. If you get your business cards printed at, you can include as many different designs on the back of a card as you want. Most years, I've chosen between four and eight patterns to put on the back of my business cards. The best part about multiple back design options is it allows each potential client to choose their favorite design, to take back with them to their office. 11. Additional Marketing: Now if only having a business card to give out at the show seems woefully inadequate to you, you can also opt to create additional items to handout at the show. I do want to reiterate that it's not a necessity. However, having something with a bit more real estate on it than a business card, can be helpful for sharing more about yourself and your art with potential buyers. The two most popular items you'll see other exhibitors give out at their booths are art postcards and small booklets. The route you choose is completely up to how much art and info you want to share, but no matter which option you go with, it's important to keep these two things in mind as you're designing it. The focus is always on the art. Just like with the booth design, your art should be the focal point of your marketing material, taking up the bulk of the space you have on a postcard or booklet. However, it's also important to not go overboard and try to squeeze in too many designs on a single page or spread. Doing so will be visually overwhelming and make your designs too small to see their detail. Instead, I suggest including no more than three to five designs on any single page, or if you opt for designing postcards and order them from, you can get multiple designs printed, which means you can use fewer designs on the front or a series of single large images, like I did for my marketing postcards for Surtex in 2018 and 2019. Share what makes you unique. Now just because the art should be the main focus, doesn't mean you should rush through the rest of the design. You should be just as thoughtful with what you choose to say about yourself and your art. Because surface design is now such a saturated market, my advice to you is to try and set yourself apart by sharing what makes you or your art unique. That could mean you share a unique skill set that you find inspiration in unexpected places, or you can share your unique job experience and how it led to you becoming an artist. By being able to articulate how you're different and why a client would want to work with you is incredibly valuable, so take your time when crafting the wording on your marketing. We've covered what your additional marketing should include, but how many of them should you order? The answer will largely depend on which show you exhibit at and how many buyers they expect to attend. It can be a good idea to reach out to others who have exhibited at the same show previously and ask how many they ordered and then gave out. For me I usually order around a 100 postcards to hand out during the trade show and have always come home with only a handful of leftovers. Actually, the biggest factor in deciding on how many you buy, is whether you'll be mailing any of them out to prospective clients prior to the show. For the past three years of Surtex, I sent out between 20 and 50 marketing mailers before each show. While I did have one or two clients mention the mailers during the show, I personally don't feel like they've been worth the extra time to put together, or the edit expense to mail them. Instead, I've had much more luck emailing buyers before the show, as I mentioned in video eight. However, I do know other designers who've had more luck with getting booth traffic from their mailers. It's completely up to you whether you want to do so. If you are going to send some out to a select group of attendees, it's best to send it about three weeks before the show. But that also means you'll need to give yourself at least a week ahead of that for collating and addressing them. Adjusting for all that lead time, you should order your postcards or booklets about 6-8 weeks before the show. However, if you're only using them for during the show, you'll be okay ordering them just four weeks prior. 12. Booth Insurance: Did you know that nearly every trade show will require you to have show insurance? Does the thought of that freak you out a bit? If so, I can totally relate. When I was researching for my first show, I had no idea I needed to carry insurance. Fortunately, it's not as complicated as it sounds. The most important thing you need to know is whether the insurance policy needs to cover just the days attendees are allowed into the show or if you need coverage for the show setup days as well? The answer will be different depending on the show you're exhibiting at. For example, Surtax requires you to have insurance that covers your entire time at the show. If you arrive on Friday for the first setup day, you'll need a six-day policy to cover both setup days and all four days of the show. Blueprint, on the other hand, does not currently mentioned needing coverage for the setup day in their contract. But if you're unsure how many days you'll need, you can always double check with the show organizers. As far as where to go for purchasing an insurance policy, I suggest using act insurance if you live in the US. There are policies start at just $49 for three days and go up $10 for each additional day. If you live outside the US, I've heard good things about John Buton insurance, a fellow designer from a surfaces like Facebook group, mentioned it costs around $65 for three days of coverage. Once you've purchased the policy, I suggest you either print it out or save an image of it on your phone so you can produce proof of it at the show if needed. 13. Show Forms: One of the most important things you can do to make sure a trade show is successful is to have the right farms printed and ready to go. There's two types of forms you'll need, invoices and intake forums. The invoice form is important in case a client wants to license or purchase a design right on the show floor, and while this may not happen as much as it used to in decades past, it still happens. The best to come to the show prepared. Now if you already have clients and send them invoices, you could easily modify your current template to make it ready for trade shows. However, in case you don't currently have your own invoice, let me walk you through what you'll need. First, you'll need to have your name or logo somewhere near the top of the form, as well as a spot to include all your contact information that the client can use for their records. Next, you need to make space for all of the clients contact information including their name, job title, company name, their email address, mailing address, and telephone number. That you can always just staple their business card instead of writing down these details on the form. But it's still good to have space for them in case the client has run out of business cards, which happens more often at trade shows than you might think. It's also a good idea to include a few trade show specific fields here, like a second contact name and email in case you need to send a digital invoice to a different person within their company. This can happen quite often in larger companies where they have a separate accounting department. The next section is the type of purchase your client is making. I suggest including two options, buyouts and licenses. Sometimes designers also like to include partial buyout as a third option, which is where a client would license the design and perpetuity within their products category. Personally, though, I feel that info can be included within the license option. With the buyout option, all you need is a single checkbox for it. As a full buyout means you're transferring the designs copyright to the company, and they will own the rights to use the image going forward, so you don't need to include any additional information. The licensing option, on the other hand, needs a lot more details that have to be recorded. First, you'll need to know whether it's a flat fee license, where you get a onetime payment from them or a royalty percentage you get regularly. Every licensing deal I've made on the show floor had been flat fees. But again, you want to be prepared in case you agree upon a royalty. Also in case of a royalty, you'll need to write down the percentage amount, how frequently you'll receive payment, which is most often quarterly or monthly, and any advance on royalties you'll be receiving upfront beyond what type of license you agree upon with the client. You'll also need a place to write down the territory and duration of the license. The territory can be as small as a single country all the way to worldwide, as far as how long a license should last, two to three years tends to be the average. However, I've had clients asked for as much as five years. Now if you're a little bit confused, all the licensing jargon, we will be discussing it in more detail in video 15, building a price guide. Also remember you can always add any question you have to the community section of this class. Let's finish off the last few things you'll need on the invoice forum. After the purchasing information section, you should have ample room to include the filenames and price of each design on the forum. I suggest you include space for at least six to eight designs. There should also be a spot to include the total price of the purchased artwork, as well as a long line for the clients signature. Finally, I like to include a few extra details to the bottom of my form. One, include a spot for the deadline date the client would like to receive the file by and two a space to write in whether they've agreed to provide me with product samples, which is something I always personally asked for with every deal. Now one last piece of advice about invoices before we discuss intake forums. I highly recommend you get your invoices printed on carbon copy paper that is at least two copies thick. It's important because both you and your client will want a full written record of what you agreed upon at the show, so with the two sheet carbon copy, you'll keep the top copy and give them the bottom one when they leave your both. There's many local office printing places that can accommodate carbon copy printing, but if you can't find one locally, I personally like using Lighthouse printing and online printer that specializes in carbon copy printing. You can get 50 invoices printed and shipped to you for under $50. Now let's tackle the intake form, which in my opinion is the single most important thing you need with you at your booth to make a show successful after your portfolio in banners that is. An intake form, is simply a place for you to jot down all the notes you can while talking to a potential client at your booth. In fact, the better notes you take, the easier your show follow-up will be. It's important to leave ample room, which is why I also like to give myself a full sheet of paper for each client. At the very top of the page, it's good to have a spot to mark which day you saw the client, because the days will all bleed together once your home. It's also important to include a spot we can rate the interaction with the client and categorize them between A and D. An A client is a dream client that you absolutely want to work with, a B client is someone who's a good fit that you could easily see yourself working with, a C client is someone you could maybe see yourself working with, a D client is someone you absolutely don't want to work with. Figuring out what rating you give a client is a very personal thing. I determined it mostly based on a gut check on how I felt the interaction when, and it's something you should always wait to do until after a client has left your booth. The importance of the rating system is that it will help you organize your intake forms and make it much easier for you to do follow-ups. I'll walk you through that exact process in video 19. The rest of the form should be broken into two sections. The top section is all about the client, a place to include all of their contact information or to staple there business card, how they like to purchase art, and what type of products they make. It's also extremely important to have a checkbox for whether you can add them to your newsletter as you need verbal or written confirmation from them before you can legally add them. Having it listed on the form is a great visual reminder for you to ask in every interaction. The bottom half of the form should be reserved for all of the extra information you gather from your exchange with the client. Things like what specific designs from your portfolio they liked, what themes they're looking for, or just general design notes. Again, the more you write down during your interaction with the client, the better off you'll be later. I'll be discussing the intake form again when we cover client interactions in video 18. 14. Preparation Timeline: Well, we covered printing deadlines for some of the materials you'll need for the show. I thought it would be helpful to discuss how to create your own preparation timeline to help you stay on top of all the details you need to keep track of. The best place to start, is to simply pull out a sheet of paper or two, and write a master list of everything you need to do for the show. The list shouldn't only include large items, like add to your portfolio, and design booth banners. It should include literally, every task you need to accomplish, right down to researching, and booking your hotel room. If you've been taking notes while watching this class, you can easily use those as a solid starting point. Once you have your master list, then it's important to set a deadline for every item on the list. This will require you to do some research, especially for list items that need to be printed, and shipped. By creating your task list with a timeline now, you won't have to end up making last minute decisions, right before a show when you're likely already hustling. So schedule a few hours or take a day, and research all the production, and shipping times you need to accommodate. I also suggest adding a week or two to most of your shipping deadlines to adjust for any unforeseen issues that may crop up. Setting deadlines will also give you a better sense of how much will need to get done each month, especially as some months will be much busier with show preps than others. It helps knowing in advance when you'll have less or more time to make new portfolio work. You'll be able to adjust your schedule accordingly. You probably won't be surprised to hear my favorite method for keeping track of every trade show task is with air table. As a reminder, there's a link to it in the class resources PDF. However, I know air table isn't for everyone. So you should feel free to use whatever method works for you, whether that's a Google Calendar, an Excel spreadsheet, or a bullet journal. As long as you keep your list handy at all times, it'll be just fine. 15. Building a Price Guide: It's extremely important to have set prices for your work, prior to the show, because prospective clients asking for your rates is one of the most common questions you'll get, so you need to be prepared. The best way to do that is to build your own price guide. Now I know that my next statement may disappoint some of you, but I'm not going to be giving you exact numbers on what to charge. The main reason for that is because pricing is the most complex aspect of art licensing, simply because there are so many factors that need to be considered when discussing price. Unfortunately, I can't give you any hard numbers to use. Instead, what I suggest is to create a set of price ranges depending on how the client will be purchasing and using the art. This is where all the licensing vocabulary we walked through on the invoice form in video 13 will come in handy. The first thing you need to decide is how you'd like to work with clients. There are usually three options here: selling outright with full buyouts, licensing for a flat fee or royalties, and commissions. A commission is where a client gives you a specific project with set parameters that you designed exclusively for them. Then depending on how large the project is, they pay you in stages or when the job is complete. Now it's up to you to decide whether you'd like to do buy-outs, licensing, or commissions. You can choose to do any combination of the three, depending on how much interaction you want with your clients, and there's no right or wrong answer here. I know some designers who will only sell outright, others who primarily license, but maybe do some commission work too, and others like myself, who are open to all three options. The important point here is determine which ways you want to work before the show, so you can give accurate pricing answers for them. Let's start with buyouts. Because you lose the copyright of your art when you sell your designs as a full buyout, you should be getting top dollar, which is wide buyouts are the most expensive. It's also slightly less complicated than licensing, because the main factor in determining price is how special or complex the design is, which is obviously only something you can answer for yourself. For me, that means my illustration and hand lettering work, along with my complex hero patterns, receive the most compensation. Yet my simpler repeats, along with some of my geometrics, go for a little less money. That's where a price range comes in handy. By giving myself a several $100 range between the bottom and top price for buyouts, it allows for a little more flexibility when negotiating a price for the client. I know I told you at the beginning that I won't be giving you any exact prices, but I actually lied. I'm going to give you one number and it's $500. That number is the absolute least you should ever except for a buyout. Now I believe even that number is way too low, and I personally charge a lot more than that for buyouts, but I think it's important to share a rock bottom price with you. That's because so many people in our industry are undervaluing their art, which in turn hurts the industry as a whole. My advice to you is never charge less than $500. Okay. Let me get off my soapbox now and we can shift gears from buyouts to licenses. Unlike buyouts, with licensing, you keep the copyright of your art and simply charge companies for the opportunity to use their art for their products. The difficult part with pricing licenses is that there are so many more factors to consider than with buyouts, not only do you have to look at how special or complex the design is, but you'll also need to know a lot about how the client will use the design. At minimum, you need to know the duration of the license, the territory where it will be sold, and what products or market categories they'll be selling it on. The rule of thumb is the more freedom you give them when using the design, the more you should be compensated for it. For example, say I was selling this holiday piece to client A and client B as a flat fee license. Client A wants to use the design only for greeting cards sold in the United States for a period of two years. Client B wants to sell the design on stationary gifts and home decor, sold worldwide for a period of three years. It's easy to see side-by-side that client B will be utilizing the art on a much larger scale than client A. With that in mind, I charge client A a price near the lower end of my licensing range, while I'd asked client B for a price near the top end of my range. I do quickly want to mention the duration, territory, and market category aren't the only factors that affect licensing prices. However, I found them to be the most influential when setting a negotiating prices on the trade show floor. We've covered buyouts and licenses. Let's finish our pricing discussion by talking about commissions. You usually won't receive a confirmed commission while on the trade show floor. However, it's important to have your base pricing available in case someone asks. The reason you should set your base pricing in advance, is that so you make sure you've been fairly compensated for even the simplest job. The easiest way I've found to do that is multiply my hourly rate by 10, because that's the minimum amount of hours I've found that justifies all the extra admin time that goes into commissions. What your hourly rate is, should be based on your experience level, but again, don't sell yourself too short and aim low. Instead, if you're just starting out, I'd suggest a rate of 40 to $50 an hour. Then make sure to raise your prices by at least $5 an hour every single year, that way as you gain experience, you'll be compensated accordingly. With that in mind, a surface designer with only a year of experience, could say that their price for commission projects start at $450. While you do calculate that price based on your hourly rate, it's important that you don't mention that fact to the client during your conversation as doing so can hurt your negotiating power which brings me to my very last pricing tip for you. When asked for your rates, always confidently quote your prices. Because a little confidence can go a long way to show a client that you know what you're doing, even if you're actually winging it. That's why creating a price guide is so helpful, because if you have a solid idea of your prices before the show even starts, you already have a little bit of confidence. 16. Packing for the Show: You have your finished portfolio ready to go, all your banners and marketing look great, and you're show forms are printed. Now all that's left to do is head to the show, right? Wrong. You may have all the big stuff planned and printed, but there's lots of other small items you need to pack as well. That's why I think it's incredibly important to make yourself a packing list, just like you would if you were going on a long vacation. Again, detail is important, so include every single item you'll be bringing with you on your list. Now, each exhibit or lists will be unique, but also very long. It's a good idea to break up the list into categories like printouts and forms, marketing, booth design, and product makeups. But another essential section you should include is your trade show tool kit. Here's what I like to include in mind, and why each item is important to bring. Command strips; For traditional shows where you'll be hanging the banners, these are the best way to adhere your banners to the booth panels. Alcohol wipes; Traditional booth panels are usually filthy, and the command strips adhere better on a clean surface, so these wipes are great to help you wipe down the panels before you start hanging your banners. They also come in handy in case any marks are spills happen on your counter. Scissors; For multiple uses and most especially cutting your banners when they are slightly too big to fit into traditional booth panels. Mini stapler and extra staples; Essential for attaching business cards to your intake and invoice forums. Rubber bands, if you have loose portfolio sheets, rubber bands come in handy when a client purchases a design outright and wants to take the sheet home. The rubber band allows you to roll up the sheet and keep it from getting mingled. Pens; I like to pack a minimum of three pens, two so that both me and my booth helper can be jotting down notes when there's multiple people at the booth at the same time, plus an extra in case either of the others dries out. Sharpie marker; helpful in a number of ways, plus it gives me one more writing instrument if all my other pens fail. Scotch tape and blue tape; Blue tape is especially handy when hanging your banners or to attach other decor elements to parts of your booth, and scotch tape can fix accidentally torn intake forms, and is a great backup option in case your stapler gets jammed. Post-it notes; Good to have on hand for several reasons. I've used notes for showing the trades men where I want my purchase shelves put in my booth, they've also give them out to clients who need to jot down notes about my work. Lint roller; For both you and your banners in case anything clings to either. Mini measuring tape; Especially for the perfectionist-prone designers like myself. Measuring tape helps you confirm booth dimensions and helps you with the layout of your booth. USB or portable EHD. It's a good idea to have a digital version of all the printed items you're bringing with you, on the off chance that your luggage gets lost, or you run through all of your intake or invoice forms. You want to be prepared and have a way to print out more of them just in case. Stepstool; You'll only need this for traditional booth-type show, but bringing one will save you from having to balance on a wobbly chair to hang the top of your banner. I have one that folds up flat and easily fits into my suitcase. However, if bringing one isn't an option, you can also reach out to your booth neighbors, and advance and ask if anyone else is bringing one and if you can share. In fact, it's a good idea to reach out to your neighbors and introduce yourself in advance anyways. Sketchbooks; This is an optional item, but I found it extremely helpful to bring one or two of my recent sketch books with me. This way, you can pull them out when talking to a client especially if they want to know more about your design process. We've covered all the tools and things you'll need for the show, but I bet you're wondering about what to pack to wear at the show. While it's important to look professional, you should pick clothing that is not only appropriate, but comfortable as well. You can also take the opportunity to use clothes as another way to show off your personality. For example, I'm a lover of color and pattern, so most trade shows, you'll likely see me sporting my favorite hot pink pants or one of my many polka dot tops. When choosing what to wear, remember to pick items that are workplace appropriate, comfortable to wear while standing for 8-10 hours straight, and helps to convey your personality. Lastly, don't forget to pack something for setup day, especially for traditional style shows where there's a lot more setup involved. Most show organizers won't turn on the air conditioning or heating until the first official day of the show, which means the show floor can be either extremely hot or cold on setup days because of it. 17. Interacting with Clients at Your Booth: Although, there isn't exactly a typical exchange as every client conversation will be a little bit different. I thought it'd be helpful to walk you through what's normal in an interaction. As I know, many of you will likely have questions about what to say and do when chatting with potential clients. Your initial interaction with people who walk into your booth is going to start one of two ways. Either, you asking them a question or them asking you one. Personally, I prefer to lead off the conversation whenever possible because I feel it's another way to demonstrate confidence. I usually ask one of two things. Either, " What are you looking for today ", or "What do you do?" The reason these two questions are great conversation starters is because it gives the client a chance to talk about themselves and the company they work for. Knowing what themes they're currently looking for and what they make is incredibly useful information for you. Once I've broken the ice with my initial question, I then like to ask them for their business card, which I'll staple to my intake form. Now, sometimes they'll tell you they don't have a card or only have a few. In the case where they only have a few cards, you can take a photo with your phone of it or if they don't have any cards at all, you can ask them to fill out the contact info of your intake form. Just make sure you can read their writing and if not, ask them to clarify their name and email address. Otherwise, when you go to send them an email after the show, you may be unable to decipher their handwriting and won't be able to follow up. After I receive their business card, I like to dive right into my portfolio with them and always ask what specific categories they're interested in looking through. As I'm flipping through my art, I'll generally ask additional questions about their business using my intake form as a guide. I would ask them things like, "What file formats do you prefer to receive?" "How frequently do you look for art? ", or "What is your typical budget?" It's important to keep the conversation lighthearted, but informative. Conversations with potential buyers can range from five to 30 minutes and sometimes even longer. It's important to stay engaged and to extract as much information from them as you can, while also being very honest about your art and how you do business when they ask you questions. This way, by the time they walk away from your booth, you have a solid understanding of each other's business and you can easily assess if you want to work with them. That's also why the very last question I ask someone before they leave my booth is whether I can add them to my newsletter list. Doing so at the very end of a conversation and watching their reaction gives me a good idea on how interested they are in working with me in the future. Most will happily say yes right away. But it's possible to get a few who are unsure or give you a flat-out no. Don't get discouraged when that happens. Just make sure to mark their preference on your intake form so you don't accidentally add them to your list and annoy them in the process. Which leads me to another important point that not all interactions will go smoothly and you're likely to have at least one or two cringe worthy moments during the course of the show. When it happens, just try to shake it off. Maybe take a few minutes break from your booth, if it was a particularly bad interaction, then focus with positivity on the next person that walks into your booth. That's how a "normal interaction goes." However, I did mention at the beginning of the video, that it's also common for them to walk up to you and ask a question, and because it's important for you to have good answers for them, here are the five most common questions you're likely to be asked. "What trends are you seeing?" I don't know why, but every time I get this question, I'm caught off guard. But it's a common one that clients will ask you. Having a few themes in mind ahead of time will help. Finally, the easiest ways to do that is to walk the show floor early on the first day and look at all the art on display by your fellow designer. Then when you see certain motifs or themes recurring at multiple booths, you can file those themes away in your head for when you get this question. What do you have available in such and such theme? Because clients go to the show often looking for very specific art needs they have. It's important to know exactly what's in your portfolio, so when someone asks for a certain theme, you can instantly tell them whether you have something that fits the bill or not. In the case where you don't have any art that fits the theme they ask you for, you can always offer a few alternative suggestions in related themes as a way to keep their interest. For example, at my first show in 2017, I was asked if I had any Safari-themed patterns, and at the time I didn't. However, I did have greeting card illustrations featuring a lion, alligator and camel. I pulled those out to show the client and it helped keep the conversation going. "How do you work? "Often as a follow up for that, "What are your prices?" Remember back in video 15 where I discussed the importance of knowing which ways you want to work with clients. This is where thinking through that in advance is helpful because you'll be able to answer these questions quickly and confidently. Similar to the last question. But you might also get asked, "Do you freelance?" When someone asks this question, it's important that you ask them to clarify what they mean by freelance. Because for some companies, it's their way of asking whether you'll take on commission work, and for others, they're asking whether you're willing to work at an hourly rate with them on an as needed basis. Your answer on this will likely depend on whether you're okay with hourly work and how much available time you have to devote to freelancing on a weekly basis. For me, I prefer only to take on commission work because I feel that hourly freelance work is often unfair to the designer, especially if you're able to finish work quicker than anticipated. Because it means you'll be getting paid less than what you'd probably be selling the same design for in your portfolio. "What do you do?" or "What is licensing?" This is by far the most annoying question to me, and unfortunately, one that you could get asked a lot. This is especially true at shows that run at the same time in the same space as others, because exhibitors and buyers from those shows will meander into yours. That's the main reason it's annoying because most of those people won't be potential clients for you. However, there is an exception to every rule, so it's still important to answer this question when you get it in a cheerful and respectful manner on the off chance, it's someone you could end up working with. 18. Exhibitor Best Practices: It probably won't surprise you that there are a few Do's and Don'ts you should follow when exhibiting, to make both you and your fellow exhibitors experience a positive one. Let's start with the Don'ts. "Don't take photos of anyone's booth besides your own unless you have their permission to do so." This is a huge No-No, and could get you banned from the show the following year if you don't adhere to this policy. Especially at a time when copying artist is increasingly common. You don't ever want to be seen as someone trying to do that. "Don't be glued to your cell phone or tablet at your booth." You've put in a lot of time, effort and money to exhibit at a show so the last thing you want to do is come across flippant or disinterested to potential clients. I don't know how many times I've walked down a show aisle, and seen artists with their heads down, staring at their devices while Art Directors and Buyers passed by. Instead, if you must use your cell phone, I'd suggest getting someone to cover your booth so you can step away for a few minutes. "Don't be silent the whole time you're flipping through your portfolio with a client." While some clients are chattier or than others, even if you have someone in your booth who isn't a big talker, he can still get uncomfortable for both of you if you're quiet for long stretches of time while they look through your portfolio. I'd suggest you have a few questions at the ready like we discussed in the last video. You can fill some of that dead air time with things that can keep them engaged in a conversation. "Don't leave your booth unattended for long periods of time." Especially on the busiest days of the show, which are usually the first or second days, it's important to be physically present at your booth as much as you can. Of course, if you're there alone, it's totally understandable that you'll need to step away a few times, but don't make it a habit of walking away too frequently because you never know who will be walking by your booth when you're gone. Now that we've gone through the biggest Don'ts, let's end on a positive note with the Do's. "Do smile or say hello to everyone who walks by your booth." It can be very difficult at first glance to know whether someone is a buyer, art Director, student, or fellow exhibitor. So it's always a good idea to put out positive energy and engage with every single person who passes by. This can feel awkward at times, especially when you say hello or smile at someone and they immediately walk away or ignore you completely. But usually those reactions have nothing to do with you. Most times, attendees are walking through the aisles with a lot on their mind. So they may just be preoccupied when you happen to see them. "Do be friendly to your neighboring exhibitors." Despite the growing number of artists in service design, it's still an incredibly small and tight-knit community. Making friends with your booth neighbors goes along way. Not only will it make the show times go by a bit more quickly, you'll also be building a network of people you can go to later on when you have questions or when feeling stuck or uninspired. "Do consider at least having one booth helper." Trade Shows are extremely exhausting and manning your booth alone multiple days in a row is even tougher. Believe me, I've had to do it. That's why I highly recommend having at least one other person with you in your booth. Not only does it make it more fun, having a helper allows you to leave your booth for small breaks, yet still have someone there to answer questions while you're away. Helpers are also valuable when clients visit your booth because you can have them take notes on your intake form while you interact with the client. Now the toughest aspect of this is actually choosing your helpers because you want to make sure it's someone you enjoy, trust, and is able to follow directions well. For some, that means a significant other, best friend or even an adult child. But if those aren't options for you, you can always reach out to fellow surfaces owners on social media and ask for help. It's a win-win because it gives you the chance to have some help while also giving someone a free badge for the show. Whoever you do choose, whether it's someone you know ahead of time or not, you need to make sure they know what's expected of them. I find it's best to have a one-on-one conversation with them prior to the start of the show, where you walk them through your portfolio, your intake forms, and your basic answers to the questions we covered in the last video. The most important thing they need to know is how to fill out the intake form to the best of their ability. It's also a good idea to set a few guidelines for them. Things you'll need to address is what wardrobe items are off limits. Things like flip flops and tank tops, whether they're allowed to take photos in your booth, and whether you'll share any of your client information with them after the show. This last topic is hotly debated and something only you can determine if you're comfortable with. Personally, I don't feel comfortable divulging any of my client information to anyone, including my booth helpers. But I do know there are some designers who have agreed to share the names and e-mails of client leads at the show with their booth helpers. That's why it's incredibly important to have a conversation with them before the show so you can hash out all the details. The last Do on the list is simple: Do try and enjoy yourself at the show. Like I said, Trade Shows are incredibly draining, but they're honestly also a lot of fun. So do your best to soak it all in and get energized by the people in art around you. This way, even though you'll come home tired, you'll also likely come home extremely inspired. 19. Post Show Follow Up: The majority of this class has been focused on show preparations. The single most important part of any trade show is actually follow-up once you've come home, and here's why. Most deals happen after the show. To show you just how big an impact follow-ups can make, here's a few stats for my first two full years in business. My first trade show was Surtex in May 2017. While I had officially launched my surface design business the following summer, I only had two clients prior to exhibiting. By the end of 2017, 96 percent of the income I made that year from surface design was from contacts I met at the show. Although I did finalize one licensing contract at the show, it only accounts for 18.6 percent of my surface design income for the year. That means over 75 percent of my design income in 2017 was because I was focused so intensely on show follow-up. The following year, my business fared even better. Again, doing large part of exhibiting at Surtex in May 2018. In fact, 74 percent of my surface design income for the year came from show clients, and 43 percent of that actually came from new clients I met at the 2018 show. So that means not only did I make deals after the show clients I already met from exhibiting the year before, I also had several new clients who licensed or purchased designs from me. So I hope I've got your attention and have clearly demonstrated how important show follow-ups are for your business. Let's get right to it with what you should do the week after you return home from the show. Priority number one is to collect all the information on your intake forms into a spreadsheet or database so you can easily access details whenever you need them. Again, I have a strong preference for using air table for this as I feel it's the best method for organizing the information. If you haven't watched my air table for artists class yet, video seven and eight of it will show you exactly how I enter all the information you gathered on your intake forms into your own searchable database. However, if you prefer to use a spreadsheet or another app to track the information, that's just fine too. The important part is having a digital copy of your intake forms to reference later as you're writing e-mails. Now this process can be a bit time consuming. So I'd suggest if you have more than 20 forms that you separate them into a few stacks to go through over the course of a couple of days. At the same time you're adding to your client database, it's also a good time to add all the e-mail addresses to your e-mail newsletter list. Remembering to add only those who explicitly gave you permission. The last thing you should do in that first week, is contact any client that purchased or licensed from you at the show. Send them a thank you e-mail with a digital copy of their invoice along with a low-res version of the art they purchased. It's also important that you ask whether they'll be providing a contract or if you need to supply one. If you're in need of a basic contract, you can either consult the Graphic Artists Guild handbook or purchase a licensing agreement template. I've included a link to the one I purchased and have used since 2017 in the class resources PDF. One last important point I do want to make here. Do not send them any final high resolution art until a contract has been signed. Let's move on to the second week after the show. This is when you should start following up and emailing all the non-purchasing contacts you made at the show. However, you don't want to overwhelm yourself and send all of your follow-ups in one week. This is where the client rating from the intake form we talked about in video 13 comes in very handy. What I suggest is to pull out the stack of "A Client" intake forms you collected and sent e-mails to them over the course of two to three days. All your follow up e-mails should be extremely brief. Start by including a short reminder of yourself in the conversation you shared. Attach low-resolution images of any art they requested or liked, and thank them for an interest in your work. All of this info should be available directly on your intake form. So again, this is just another reminder to take very good notes during the show. The second week is also when you should start thinking about building new portfolio work. If you're not sure where to start, we'll be covering that in the next video. Now, the third and four weeks after the show will play out much like the second week did. Only this time, you'll focus on emailing all of your B leads in week three and all of your Cs in week four. All the while, you should be responding to any replies you get within 48 hours. Now what happens if you don't hear back from those you e-mail? Well first, I want you to know that it's extremely normal to only receive replies from a tiny fraction of those you follow up with. So don't think there's anything wrong with you or your art. So that's the first step. Don't take it personally. Instead, I'd suggest following up with them four weeks later by responding to the original e-mail you sent them. Just write a quick note about how you're still eager to work with them and then attach a few additional pieces from your portfolio. If you still haven't heard back after the second e-mail, don't give up. Keep sending them new art every one to two months. I know it can feel disheartening to send e-mails out and receive very little interaction in return. However, it can take months or even years for you to strike deals with clients. So persevere and send those e-mails out because you never know when your e-mail will be sent to the right person at the right time. 20. Post Show Portfolio Audit: We're regularly sending out new art e-mails to the people you met at a trade show, is a crucial step in making a show successful. Step 2 is deciding how to best move forward with your art. Because if you're sending regular e-mails, you don't have any new art to send, its going to be tough to continue to peak in art directors interests. With that in mind, I'd love to introduce you to the idea of performing a post show portfolio audit. Is something I started doing after my first show in 2017. I feel it's had an enormous impact on both the quality, and content of my portfolio.So much so that it's something I do every single year.To start, you'll need to read through all your intake forms again, and as you're flipping through them, I want you to make three different lists. The first will be comprised of any theme a company was looking for and mentioned in your intake forms. The second list will be all of the designs from your portfolio that someone liked, which again, should be easily found on your forum if you took good notes. You'll likely find some designs were appreciated multiple times by different people. For every new instance you find of a piece that's already on your list add a tally mark to the left of it. Once you've gone through all the forums and completed the list, go back, and tally up all the marks for each design, which will give you a clear idea of which pieces in your portfolio were the most popular. The third and final list is of all the non favorite pieces in your portfolio. It's important to note here that you identify your portfolio pieces as favorites, and non favorites, not good and bad designs. Just because a piece doesn't get noticed at this year show, doesn't mean it's not a sellable piece. It just means it may not be what your customers are looking for right now. Once you've completed your favorite list, you can go back through your entire portfolio and make a list of all the designs that aren't favorites. With your three lists in hand, you're going to spend a little time analyzing them, and identifying key trends you find. It can also be helpful to create folders on your computer, and copy the low-risk jpegs of both your favorites, and non favorites into them so you have a visual reference. Here's a few things you can look for when analyzing your favorites list. Which categories were the most popular? The Christmas, florals, or animal characters.You could also link all of your portfolio categories based on how many from each were chosen as favorites, which can help you glean even more information. Are there any similarities between the favorites? Do most of them use hand lettering or maybe patterns were more liked than your illustration work. Were there any themes within your categories that were especially liked. For example, I found that during my first show in 2017, my food or beverage related holiday designs were the most popular in the Christmas category for me. Do any specific colors dominate the favorites. Color trends can be helpful when creating new work. Looking for recurring colors is useful. Remember it's important to jot down notes as you analyze your lists. Then once you're done analyzing your favorites, you should do the same type of analysis with the non favorites, looking for any connective threads between them. You should also spend a little time comparing the favorites, and non favorites, and try identify any big differences between the two. Let me give you an example. After looking at my list of favorites from surtax 2017, almost none of the patterns on it had dark colored backgrounds. Instead most of those were in the non favorites. After noticing that, I decided to recolor one of my personal favorites on the non favorites lists, Christmas bubbles, with a light-colored background and that decision paid off. The design was licensed at surtax the following year to a company for their internal company Christmas card. This illustrates the next step you should take after analyzing all your lists, taking action by improving your existing designs, and creating new, stronger pieces for your portfolio. I suggest taking a week or two off after analyzing everything to give yourself some time to process all the information you gathered. Then you can contemplate what changes you want to make, and with regards to new work, keep the notes from your analysis, and the list of themes you were asked for as a loose guide to what you could add to your portfolio. By staying mindful of both, you'll be more likely to strengthen your existing body of work with art that your clients will be looking for and more interested in. 21. Final Thoughts + Assignment: I realize that your head might be spinning a little bit from the mountain of stuff we covered in this class. But I hope I've given you a solid understanding of what it takes to prepare for, exhibit at, and follow-up after a trade show. But if there's one thing I want you to take away from this entire class. It's this. Your work does not end once the show wraps up. Instead, you need to focus on the long-term and consistently follow-up with your trade show leads all year long. You should also concentrate on creating new work based on the feedback you received at the show. Following through on those two things will give you the greatest chance of gaining new clients and licensing contracts. Providing you with a much more successful show experience. Of course, you may still be on the fence as to whether a trade show is right for you and your business right now. Or you may be unsure as to what your next step should be. That's where your class assignment comes in. Simply download the class assignment PDF, which is a fun little quiz that should take you less than 10 minutes to complete. Once you've finished it, you should have a much clearer idea of whether trade shows are right for you right now. After the quiz, you can move on to the portfolio planning PDF. Which should help you brainstorm ideas to help you get your portfolio trade show ready. Once you've completed both PDFs, I encourage you to come back and share what your trade show goal is in the project section of this class. Include an image or two of portfolio work that you feel are ready to go, and what your plans are for adding to your existing body of work. I've also included a little special promo code in both PDFs to receive 10 percent off my one-on-one consultations. The promo is exclusively available to you as a Skillshare member. Also, I realize it's very likely you still have some questions for me. If that's the case, I'd invite you to add them to the community section of this class. Doing so not only helps me address aspects of the show you want to know more about, but oftentimes your fellow designers will have the exact same question. So it helps them to. Talking about trade shows is one of my absolute favorite topics. So I'd love to continue the conversation with you. I also want to say thank you so much for watching this class. If you enjoyed it, I'd appreciate it if you take a minute to leave a positive review, or share it with a fellow designer who you think would find it helpful. If you do decide to sign up for an art licensing trade show, when you're ready to post your show announcement to Instagram, it really appreciated it if you use the #tradeshowsuccess and @smcnabstudio in the post caption. I really enjoy being a champion of small creative business. I would love to be able to follow along your trade show experience and help you make it a great one. 22. Blooper Reel: I don't know about you, but my absolute favorite part of any movie is if they have a blooper reel. I thought it would be fun to share some of my embarrassing moments while recording the intro and outro of this class. I hope you enjoy it. This class is geared towards beginners. No, it's not geared towards beginners. In fact, when I was looking for the information I needed, and I don't remember the rest of the words. Talking about trade shows is honestly one of my very favorite, that's a new one, especially when there are so many little details that go into exhibiting,. You should also concentrate on making new art based on their feedback, and I don't think that's a word, which will leave you with a much more bla, bla, bla, bla, bla. It's my husband, everyone. I'm recording. I would really appreciate it if you used a hashtag Trench so success, that is a bit mouthful. That's good.