My first booth setup at a convention. Even though it's been a full week since then I'm still feeling the hype and thrills from the experience. Everyday I've been dedicating time to writing up new sale presentations, strategies, renewing forms of income and contracts, etc. Just seriously too much fun. Now I know some of you are brand new to my blog, and I thank you for taking the time to read. I'll be covering some of my experiences as well as what I've learned from this year's APE 2014. Let's get started.
This year, I shared a table with fellow illustrator and great friend Melinnie Irawan. We purchased a half table consisting of approximately 2.5"x3" which cost us $200 total. That's $100 each and 1.25"x3" of space each. This was not a lot of space. One thing I noticed immediately was unlike prior years of APE held at the Concourse Exhibition Center where you would benefit more from wall space, it was quite the opposite at this year's Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason Center. This is due to not only your table space, but the booth space behind you that could be used for storage. We had a wall space this year, and had approximately 4 feet of movable space until there was a white line that signified the end of your territory. Beyond that white line was another good 2 feet until you hit the wall and was meant as a walk path (even though no one walked through it). So the benefits of the wall were gone. The booths set up in the middle of the rooms, on the other hand, shared a good 17 feet of back space. Split it in half for the exhibitors on the opposite side of the room, and you've still got 8.5 feet which is 4.5 feet more. This was slightly frustrating as my partner and I were practically sitting on our artworks, plastic sleeves, cash box, and lunch. In the world of selling your work at booths from 10AM to 7PM, space is everything.
APE 2013 VS APE 2014
Now something that was of big debate while at APE was the location's overall space and size: did this year's exhibit feel smaller than last year's and was the location change for the better or worse? I went ahead and found the layouts for APE 2013 and APE 2014. Last year held 943 tables, and this year held 1052 tables; that's a difference of 109 tables. Although I do not have exact measurements of floor space nor table space measurements, I believe the highlighting reason behind why this year's exhibit felt smaller was because the floor plan wasn't segmented. If you look at APE 2013's layout, there are essentially 6 different rooms holding booths or where floor levels change (meaning going up a few short steps to the next room) whereas APE 2014's layout is in one massive room with no level changes. So no, I do not think the exhibit itself shrank, though the tables probably lost a foot or so of space.
As for the location of the exhibit, Fort Mason Center was certainly more out of the way than the previous Concourse Exhibition Center. Benefits of Fort Mason Center include larger floor plan for booths and walk paths, more parking space, and more selection for food such as the infamous Off the Grill food trucks and farmer markets. Some of the downfalls were that the location was very difficult to find as it was in the corner of the center behind multiple tall structures and warehouses, and its lack of air currents within the building despite being on the bay shoreline. It was especially bad when the sun was setting since the windows would shine the light directly on the attendees and exhibitors. Benefits of Concourse Exhibition Center from 2013 include familiarity with former APE attendees, more segmented rooms all with air condition, options of public transportation, and ease of finding the main entrance. Cons include crowding with walk paths which meant more paranoia for keeping your newly purchased artwork in pristine condition, food was a few blocks away unless you wanted to buy more expensive options located at the entrance, and parking was out of the question unless you didn't mind finding a spot on the side of the street even further away than the food locations. Overall, I'd say the change of location was an interesting twist, but provided more problems than solutions, and certainly more frustrations for attendees and exhibitors.
The new location definitely stumped a few artists in what to prepare for their booth space. For example, last year's APE had at least two chairs, a few stand alone outlets, and a long black table cloth provided for exhibitors. This year provided one chair, near our station we found one outlet box with four outlet spaces which was several feet away, and no table cloth. Thankfully Mel and I brought along a table cloth and extension cord as a backup.
When I took breaks from my booth, I would observe the presentations and popularity of other booths. Which seemed to attract attention first, how were they set up, what was selling and what was wasting space, etc. Occasionally if an exhibitor had a free moment I would discuss with them what their experiences were like thus far. One commonality that I noticed were that vertical banners attracted the most attention. I learned there are two great locations to get a quality banner for cheap: FedEx on Van Ness street if you're local to SF, or Speedpro.com. Vertical banners not only show off your name and artwork style, but if placed right behind you it'll also frame you the artist that really sells the image of "this is me, and my work".
How you set up your work in your limited space is also an interesting challenge. Due to technical difficulties with printing, we were unable to dedicate time for finding the proper supplies needed to best display our work vertically. Although I believe we utilized our horizontal space really well without it being too crowded, having a vertical display would have more likely made sales. When walking around, I noticed three efficient methods of vertical displays to consider for future set-ups: pipes and clips, wire mesh frames, and wooden boxes. Pipes and clips seemed the cheapest solution with three pipes making a frame around you, and hanging your artwork end to end with each other via clips. Not the prettiest, but definitely shows off all your work. Second method was using wire meshes like you would find Office Depot or Walmart using to sell electronics or supplies. Definitely had a cleaner feel and looked more professional. The only downsides was lack of originality to really show off the branded look. The wooden boxes display was possibly the best in presentation where everything had a distinct place that best fit the artist and their additional supplies which would often be hidden from attendees. Certainly this route is pricier and the staging supplies aren't nearly as easy to pack up and travel with. However, if you plan on doing multiple conventions, I would suggest taking the time to see if you can make it work to your advantage. How can you make the experience more memorable? That's was the most important lesson I've learned. Usually attendees buy artwork on the last day of conventions and exhibits. If they remember your work, but can't remember your booth then there's high chance of them hunting for you and giving up. After the exhibit, I received several emails stating they were happy to see my work, but on the following day had difficulty finding me so they could actually purchase work. The saddest email was probably of one attendee hunting for my booth for 2 hours, and giving up since they at least had my email to refer back to.
Holding my first booth was such an amazing experience. I am grateful to share the experience with my fellow artist friend Melinnie Irawan, and for everyone who came by to support me. I definitely plan on attending future conventions and exhibits to sell my artwork, which will always be noted in my Calendar. If you missed me at APE, want to purchase some of my works, or have questions for me please feel free to write. I will be sure to respond within 1-3 business days. Thank you for reading and hope my words benefit you today.