Tuesday, May 29, 2012

So... how was the show?

Packing light
This year I managed to trim my luggage to one gigantic suitcase (my booth), one little rolly-suitcase (my clothes) and one big box (banners). Oh, and a huge backpack (most of my books). Matt and I hop on an Amtrak train from Boston, so I can't bring booth furniture and the like, but luckily Surtex has some services to help you with your booth display (more on that later).

Booth set-up
Pretty easy again this year. Again I went with trusty hanging banners. For me,  they are very much worth the cost in ease of use. They are pretty much headache-free, fairly easy to tote, clean and simple to set up and take down. And they look lovely. (Any 'headache' part comes during the banner design phase. Once that is done and you have approved them, you're good to go barring any 11th hour printing issues!)


My banner people did make a small error with my banners, but I'm thrilled it only turned out to be a little pre-show annoyance. The eyelet screws that were supposed to be in the top ends of my wooden dowels were not there. Ugh, mini freak out! So we had to decide on a contingency plan. We just very carefully jimmied them up with the hooks and no eyelet screws. We had no idea of whether or not they would stay put. There is much to contend with in the wild atmosphere of the Javitz at Surtex -- booth bumps, air conditioning, lions, tigers and bears— and, oh yeah, this year it rained indoors!— but my walls stayed up and they  looked nice and stayed dry for the entire three days. Boy, was I happy about that! :D

I did a corner booth this year— not only for the visibility, but also because, when I signed up,  there was a sore lack of options offered up. Despite the cost, I can tell you now that I LOVED having the corner booth. No one misses a booth on the corner. For better or for worse, you know you have that visibility. Now, if that potential client doesn't stop at your booth, that's a whole 'nother bag of m&m's!  But, all told, I would do a corner booth again, absolutely. Hey, I'm really coming out of my shell!

Press Kit
Something I decided to spend NO time on this year pre-show was a Press Kit. Last year, I spent a lot of time and a bit of dough on preparing one I was proud of. I left a bunch up in the Press Room, and honestly I'm not sure that even one was taken. So this year I had a knee-jerk reaction, and I did none. In retrospect, something small would have been just the ticket. This year, there were many more press people who are bloggers, and I suspect many were new to covering the show, and I will just bet that they made a special visit to the Press Room sometime during the show. So, I missed the boat on that this year. Next year, I will have that piece covered.

I think it is very hard for each person to objectively quantify traffic at Surtex. For one thing, certain parts of the show floor on any given day (at any given hour) are busy, maybe even jam-packed with people, while other aisles lay completely silent. So your traffic is different than another persons' traffic... but also traffic from aisle to aisle is different. I do think that, when people come, they try as hard as they can to walk the entire show. So I don't think it is the norm to not hit every aisle at some point. It's just that traffic is like the wind—unpredictable at any given time. It moves around in one area, and is still in another, and that can make it difficult to be mathematical about it. Or it could be that it's just impossible for my brain to think that way. Anyway, it will be interesting to see whatever stats are released on this year's show, when that information is available.

Your Surtex is not your neighbor's Surtex
My neighbors' Surtex was not my Surtex. My Surtex last year was not my Surtex this year. So much depends on your own personal situation... Where are you in your career... your contacts—who you are expecting to visit you and who have you reached out to... where your work fits in the market, and how 'hot' is that market at the time of the show... And then, how many people attending will see potential in your work for their own products in that market.. Then there's how vibrant/catchy/visible is your booth from a distance.. what kind of mood is that person in who is 30 feet away from your booth.... did they lose a contact lens, is that why they're staring at the floor... or did they drop a Hershey's Kiss... come to think of it, do you have candy at your booth, people love candy... I am kidding,  of course (though who doesn't love candy) but you see my point. The list goes on and on, and some things make some sense, and other things don't make any sense.

I am so glad to hear that so many people had a wonderful show! I had a wonderful show too. So all in all, I think it was a good year (though this is only my second year as an exhibitor at surtex, so please do take that into consideration when reading that last sentence). Generally great news for the show though! But you see, there are so many factors at play, and it is such an individual thing to gauge.

Regardless of this,  "Quality over Quantity" is my mantra. It's something I learned to be invaluably true my first time exhibiting at a show in January 2011 (AmericasMart Licensing and Design), and it's has only become more true for me now. Remember that when you see the halls empty. And also remember that pure magic can happen when you pitch your little tent at Surtex (or at the now-defunct AmericasMart Licensing and Design, for that matter). Something wonderful and just for you can be right around the corner. You never know. :D

Ipads vs. Books
The verdict is out. I've heard solid debates on either side. I have not made the leap to full-on ipad immersion mainly because since I like to flip through books and see the printed art myself, I think that others do too. Seeing the art in a tangible form is a different experience than an ipad and it's one that I value. The problem is that, as my collection grows, so does the weight of my suitcase as I have to lug so many more books to shows. To be fair, I brought both books and ipads, but I mainly showed my books. I got the sense that people viewed looking through the ipad as somehow more of a commitment, or maybe more of a personal thing... I can't put my finger on it. but they preferred the books this time. But, next year I think I'm going to try to go mostly ipad. For one thing, it will help us to save our energy (I mean, physical energy --I'm telling you those books are heavy). For another thing, honestly, my art on the walls was sort of the big pitch this year. Oddly, my books themselves were opened a lot less this year, yet that was no reflection of peoples' interest -- regarding the new contacts I made, there were more connections with people who were seriously interested in doing business than last year. So go figure.

Before I left home, I'd purchased a "portable" (...said the description) four-foot tall, four-shelf unit from Target.com. It was perfect for my booth.. except for the deal-breaker— it was WAY too heavy and cumbersome to take with us. So I left the shelf at home. I thought I'd figure something out when I got to the show. I'm a regular MacGyver. (I kid. But yes, I am reasonably resourceful.) Well, in my effort to pack light, I hastily did not bring some things that seem useless in everyday life but are very helpful in displaying items at a show, things such as little wood blocks, empty lucite rectangular containers, and the like. So when I got to the show and realized that my displays were looking a little pancakey, I decided to purchase a couple of shelves to showcase my things. I did just that, and at the premium price. Got back to my booth and not five minutes later , my shelving was delivered. But then, my wonderful next booth neighbor Emily immediately chimed in that she had two shelves she was not using, and that I was welcome to them! Wow! I was so touched by the generosity.  I was able to get a refund on my shelves and I used my neighbors shelves for the whole show. That was just such an (ironically) priceless kindness! Thank you again, Emily!

Hard to believe, but..
This might be the last post I do on Surtex 2012 (and really, it probably should be, don'tcha think?) but there is so much left to say, about the trip, about the awesome potential clients I met, about the people I already know and/or work with who are the bee's knees whom I had the chance to reconnect with (or meet in person for the first time) at the show, about seeing my comrades-in-art-licensing-arms, the fun times, exhaustion, almost-injuries, cute shoes that never made it into my suitcase, cute dresses that did, the dinner with a friend who is local, narrowly missing entry to an after-hours NSS party (it was over when we got there), totally missing an after-show get together that I wished I could have attended (I was afraid it was over by the time I was free to go), new restaurant finds, my 'silent partner' and biggest support Matt who is both my right-hand man AND my husband (what a multi-tasker), so many more little anecdotes I'm failing to mention... and last but not least, the fact that Duane Reade, Staples, and Starbucks all rule (and all are right across from my hotel- lucky me)! What more can I say but Viva La Surtex!

But wait... So was it worth it??
Well we hear it over and over because it is the naked truth: The *real* work begins after the show... So let's get busy!!! :D


Maggie Weakley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maggie Weakley said...

Hi Kathy! Thank you so much for this wonderful post you wrote on Surtex. You are so generous with your information. It's always a joy to read you Blog It is so helpful for us. I'm hoping to go next year to see the show and to hear some of the lectures. Then hopefully I would exhibit in 2014, well that is my dream :)
I was wondering if you would consider writing a post about the expenses to get to Surtex. I know that is a lot to ask but no one has talked about this, at least that I can find, would you be willing to give a a ballpark range of how much it cost for the whole time you were there, from the beginning of printing the banners, cost of the handouts, the booth, the travel, hotel etc. So those of us that one day want to go can have an idea of the cost we will face to get there & we can start preparing and saving for it.
Thanks again!!! I'm so happy for all of your your artwork is just wonderful :))))

Kathy Weller said...

Hi Maggie! There is a really wide range of potential expenses... For instance, printed banner costs can run the gamut. But, you don't need to have banners printed - you can instead print out your art on your printer and adhere it to the walls. Then, you're talking about ink and paper costs. This is just one example of how the costs are not one size fits all, or even semi-templated. It all depends on what - and how - the individual chooses to do things.

The booth itself is either 8 x 10 or 10 x 10 , a corner or in-line (see - more costs to choose from) and for your booth design, you have free reign (within reason) to do what you like.

Some people travel a long, long distance to Surtex that might require shipping of booth materials. Others may travel long distances, but manage to fit their entire booth into a suitcase they can take on the plane. (There's less frieght costs right there.) Still others require minimal travel altogether and no frieght, which cuts costs even further.

I only have my own experience to draw upon, and that would be one blog post I'm not ready to write right now! What I can offer is resources and advice to help you find the answers you seek. Nowadays, there are several people who blog on art licensing and/or offer art licensing consulting services, such as Carol Eldridge, Tara Reed, Khristian Howell and J'net Smith, to name a few. There is a huge proliferation of art licensing information out there these days. But some of the more nitty-gritty, nuts-and-bolts info, such as what you are looking for, is probably best investigated with a consultant, through an art licensing friend off-line, or through an e-book or e-course (I've heard that Khristian Howell's Obsessed e-book does touch on some financial stuff). All are a great investment in your future art licensing career. I've used consulting services in the past, and I probably will again in the future. I highly recommend it. You will be able to pick the brains of the consultant on many different details of exhibiting, including costs! It's a very worthwhile investment! :D Also, please think about checking out the materials available from the artists mentioned above. I have purchased some, and the cost of the materials is usually a small investment for the information gained! :D