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Friday, 23 February 2018 13:48

Advice on exhibiting

Here at Miniatura HQ we are often asked by newcomers for  hints & tips to help them get the most out of their Miniatura weekend as exhibitors.  Everyone wants to have a good show, and the ways this can happen are as varied as the craftsmen themselves, which makes it very difficult to have an all embracing ‘stock’ answer.

However, the question keeps being asked, so we discussed the subject with journalist and author Ann Evans, who is familiar with the show, and regularly produces publicity for Miniatura. It was then decided to add "do you have any advice for newcomers" to her usual interview questions. What we have ended up with is an excellent range of suggestions from exhibitors who have already ridden the learning curve successfully. Let's hope that their wisdom helps you to have a more successful and rewarding time wherever you show your work.
 
Before applying for a stand
It could be argued that the work you do before the event is more important than the event itself. Ask yourself a few questions before you even consider applying for a stand:
Is my work as good as work I have seen and admired?
Will it sell? Has it already sold to people outside my own family and friends?
Do I have enough stock, or can I get enough made, before the event?

"One word RESEARCH!  Go along to shows and see what other people are making, and find something to specialise in. We're known for our Mackintosh, -become known for something." - Top Toise Designs.

This is a sentiment echoed by Beith Miniatures - "Research your market and be different."
 
Getting ready for the event
Try to decide what you want to get out of the show. It may be you need feedback about your products or to get your name out there. You may be there to make a little money from your hobby or it may be your main business. Getting the price right is crucial and can be one of the hardest decisions to make. Even if you are doing the show as a hobby you should still consider the value of your time and talents when pricing your work. Remember, you are worth it!
What are the costs? Remember to include travel and accommodation as well as the cost of the stand itself.
How much do I need to make to cover my costs? Do I have enough stock to do that?
What should my prices be? What is it about my work that makes me stand out from the crowd?
If you find it hard to put what you consider a high price on your work it's worth looking around at makers you admire. Often you would accept a price put on work you consider to be outside your skill set. Visitors will be looking at your work with the same sense of admiration.

"One of the most important things when starting out is pricing, too easy to under price yourself, then your hourly rate is at best a bowl of rice!" - Jan Southerton - The Flower Lady

"Make something different to everyone else and always have something new to show every year." - Jenny from Kastle Kelm Miniatures
 
The event itself
Create a show kit for yourself and put everything on there that you can possibly imagine needing.
Muriel Hopwood is one of the organisers of Miniatura but has a long history of exhibiting at shows. "Bring a float, wrapping paper / bags, publicity material about your work for customers to take home, price lists & labels, a cloth for your table and another lighter one to go over the top if it's a two day show."
Remember you are your own best ambassador - be proud of what you have made and make the most of the whole day.
Be prepared to meet people. Not every great craftsperson is also a great salesperson, however it's not a huge secret that simply being attentive, saying hello and smiling is half the battle. It sounds obvious but engaging with the customer on the most basic social level can be all they need to feel welcome to your stand.

"Engage with your customer.  A smile and a brief  Hello  is all it takes. Don t bombard them, just be pleasant. Since attending shows I have seen exhibitors sitting behind their stall reading or even dozing while customers have come to look, and they haven't budged, only to complain later to be "not having too good a show". So, stand up and welcome them. You never know, it could be the start of a new friendship." - Helen from Min-knit-ure

The beauty of any specialist show is that everyone is there for the same reason, in our case they love miniatures. Miniatura is literally a room full of people who all like the same things you do, it's a totally safe place to say miniatures are amazing and to meet people who might be just like you.

"My advice is to talk to people.  Neil used to set me a task of talking to different exhibitors, which was difficult at the beginning for me as I'm really shy.  Established artisans are happy to share good advice and stories from setting up the stand and lighting to what's the best slimming club! It's also good to listen to the customers; they're serious collectors and are a mine of information.  I have made so many friends, artisans and collectors and it's lovely when they come back to me for a chat." - Ellie de Lacy

Listen, take notes and learn - If you are lucky the people you meet at the show will tell you what they think of your work. Whether they love it or not this can be the most useful part of the experience. Value the comments you receive, it will help you to make your next event more successful. Much of the work at Miniatura can be considered as art and as such it is subject to a matter of opinion. Some visitors will no doubt become fans of what you do, others will say your work is not for them, it can be very rewarding to find out why both of these things happen. Maybe with a simple change you can turn more people into avid collectors of your work.
 
What to do afterwards
Generating interest in your product and introducing yourself to the show's audience is the first aim of any new exhibitor. This is your opportunity to get onto peoples ‘wish lists’ for future events. Hopefully you'll cover your costs and make a profit but building relationships with visitors is essential to make the next event an even bigger and better success.

"First shows can be daunting ask other traders for advice. Remember all shows generate good publicity for your products regardless of the actual takings on the day, so don't give up!" - Kath & Mike from Katty Korner

When you get home after a show, make notes. Get in touch with customers so they know where to find you if they want to buy more from you. Write something on your website or Facebook page to say how much you enjoyed meeting everyone.
Being at a show is about so much more than just the show itself. It's a talking point, so talk about it. People who love your work will wish you well before the show and congratulate you afterwards, every interaction is another time that you are in their minds and your latest work is presented to them. If it's done right you can have a line of people waiting to make a b-line straight to your stand at whatever your next event is. These days, with social media, this interaction can be at zero cost and it can afford excellent results.

We hope you find this advice useful and interesting. We would like to thank all of the exhibitors who contributed to this article. If you are thinking of exhibiting at Miniatura please do get in touch - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.