Stephanie’s Printsource New York experience and top tips!
Yesterday we were thrilled to share with you part one of our three part series about Stephanie Davies, the winner of The Ultimate Portfolio Builder Printsource competition which she entered last year.
In part two today, Stephanie has written an article about her Printsource New York experience. This is quite a long post but it’s broken down into four sections, packed with SUPER VALUABLE insight looking at:
- Setting up your booth
- Engaging with buyers
- Connecting with exhibitors and other designers
- My success at the show
Over to Stephanie…
Hello, my name is Stephanie Davies, and I was lucky enough to win the 2016 Printsource Competition on the Ultimate Portfolio Builder course. I want to share with you all my experiences and tips of exhibiting at a trade show for the first time.
Setting up your booth
It’s really important to be super organised! I managed to set up my booth within half an hour, but it was all the planning and organising I did beforehand that made it so much easier.
I was really grateful to be given such a great spot at the show. My stand was down one of the main isles and placed near some of the larger agencies, which helped attract different kinds of attention. At Printsource, I would say there isn’t really a bad spot, the show is laid out in a very fair way for all the exhibitors, but I have attended other trade shows in the past, which have new exhibitors in very small booths placed slightly off the main track. I think it’s important to wait and invest (if you can) in a good-sized booth and have the confidence to suggest where you would like to be, as this is just what the larger companies do!
I was really pleased with the final set up and I had many compliments from buyers and other exhibitors about my stand. I think it’s a good idea to group your prints to create an overall ‘mood’ for each wall. I had prints from three different collections on my three walls, but also made sure the prints worked well together as a whole (as much as I could) by choosing prints with accents of the same colour and spacing them out evenly. I made sure my table covering and props complimented the prints well, and that everything fitted well into the shows season of Autumn/ Winter.
I found this to be very important as one of the first comments an exhibitor said to me was ‘It’s so refreshing to see somebody being aware of the season, I’ve seen so many Spring/Summer prints being displayed which will be so much harder to sell!‘. I had nice comments about the autumnal and earthy tones in my work compared to many bright stands. I do think that having bright prints displayed on your stand is a great idea and important if your work is usually bright and cheerful, but I would keep in mind to be aware of the season and too many clashing colours which may dazzle the buyer in the wrong way!
For my booth, I was provided with three 8x8ft walls with stretched fabric over them to hang my work on, hooks, a table, three chairs, a waste paper bin and a set of lights. The lights are quite bright and so I think it’s wise to use an uncoated stock for your artwork to be printed on, instead of a shiny coated stock which will easily reflect the light and make it less easy for buyers to see your work.
when buyers come to look at your stand, they would usually prefer not to come right into your booth, but to look from their walk way
I would say that you have to think about how the buyer will experience your booth, and there are some psychological points to consider that will make it easier for the buyer to view your stand. For example, once everything was set up and ready, I looked round at other people’s booths and realised their tables were much further forward than mine. I found out that this is because when buyers come to look at your stand, they would usually prefer not to come right into your booth, but to look from their walk way. With the table at the front of the booth, it looks much more inviting to the buyer to sit down and look through your work without them feeling they are having to walk within your personal space to do so.
I also bought cushion mock-ups with me to place on the chairs. This seemed like a good idea at first because buyers would be able to interact with them, but I found that they stopped people from wanting to sit down, as some felt as though they shouldn’t touch them and they became an obstruction. I found that the cushions were much better placed around my booth where people could see them.
Engaging with buyers
It can be really scary if you’re doing a trade show for the first time and don’t know what to expect. I was quite nervous just before the show opened, but after speaking to a few visitors I felt much more at ease. Everyone was generally very lovely and complimentary to my work.
I thought a lot about body language and how you should present yourself to buyers. I found that people generally don’t approach you very much if you’re stood still and smile at them. Although you may think this would be professional and polite, it can come across as looking too hopeful that they will come over and talk to you. The best way I found is to give the visitor a chance to look at your stand without you giving eye contact straight away. I was always writing in my notebook, and so if I saw someone approach I would finish the sentence I was writing and then engage in conversation as they were looking. This technique seemed to work really well as it gives the visitor the impression you’re keeping busy at the show even when it’s quiet. I also found that having a chat and keeping it informal (when appropriate!) really helped build a relationship with the buyers.
There are so many different questions and requests you may get asked at a trade show, so I think it’s best to be prepared for just about anything! Some buyers didn’t know what licensing or buying outright meant, whilst others knew far more than I did and I found myself standing back a little bit more. Within reason, I think it’s good to say yes to most things that you get asked. For example, one lady asked me if I took commissions to do a custom print, which I told her I’d be more than happy to do.
If a customer asks ‘What helped inspire this print?’ A great response would be ‘I designed this based on the ‘Unfinished Florals’ trend that’s appearing on WGSN lately‘
If you’re planning to take the Ultimate Portfolio Builder, I would really suggest making the most out of your 90 days complimentary access to WGSN for a trade show. The information on here is so useful and key to securing trend-focused customers. Use it as a tool for finding all the emerging trends for the following year, and see what key trends you can link to your style of work so you can design with them in mind. The buyers at Printsource like to feel like they are talking to someone who knows their stuff about upcoming trends. Also, I would say don’t be afraid to name drop ‘WGSN’! If a customer asks ‘What helped inspire this print?’ A great response would be ‘I designed this based on the ‘Unfinished Florals’ trend that’s appearing on WGSN lately‘, and maybe drop a few names of fashion designers who have explored it. A lady even said to me ‘I love that you’re trend aware, that’s very promising‘. It can help reassure them that they are buying something that will be competing with their more high-end competition.
Connecting with exhibitors and other designers
When the show is quiet, it’s a nice idea to walk around and chat to some of the other exhibitors. Getting to know them is just as important as getting to know the buyers. I was really lucky in that all the exhibitors I spoke to were really friendly and went out of their way to help me out if I needed anything. I asked one exhibitor if a certain big chain brand had been to visit yet, and he told me that they weren’t visiting this year, but he will forward me the email address of the top buyer as he felt they would be interested in my work. I was really overwhelmed by some of their generosity.
When the show is quiet, it’s a nice idea to walk around and chat to some of the other exhibitors. Getting to know them is just as important as getting to know the buyers.
I didn’t have the chance to talk to some exhibitors, as some were busy almost constantly. The show was a variety of individual designers and larger agencies. The agencies usually get the most business as they have built up a trusted reputation year by year. They also have a very large selection of work from various artists, and some buyers prefer to come to those agencies only and then leave after they have made their deals. I think it’s important to know this because it’s easy to feel small when you are next to the bigger stands, but both types of businesses work very differently.
On the second day, students are able to look around. Some exhibitors didn’t like the idea too much as it meant they would be missing out on trade deals whilst talking to them, but I found that all the students I met were very aware of that and were really respectful. I felt like I made some good friends while I was there, and also met some students from Make It In Design, which was amazing!
Everyone was really supportive and we even met the next day in Central Park for the ‘Sketch Doodle Draw‘ event organised by Make it in Design.
My success at the show
Even though this was my first trade show representing myself, I feel that it was really successful and I truly didn’t expect the amazing response I got. I am now in touch with a high-end fashion brand in New York about a new collection of women’s apparel, and a leading UK high-street store have invited me to show my work to their buyers at their London head office. Smaller companies which sell a range of products such as linens, table cloths, bed sheets, cushions, quilting and even eye wear would like to work with me and I am currently chasing up all the leads I have gained from Printsource. I also managed to sell whilst at Printsource which was something I was not expecting! This is a big achievement for me and I’m looking forward to seeing my work on their new product lines next year.
I think the key is to not presume you will sell all of your prints, but to think of it more as a platform to open doors.
I think the key is to not presume you will sell all of your prints, but to think of it more as a platform to open doors. Talking to other exhibitors, it can be tough when it’s your first trade show as no one knows your name, and you won’t of yet built up a trusted clientele, but if people like you as a person and you come across well I think you’re bound to make some great contacts and hopefully sell too.
Many exhibitors said that they make more from selling after the show by chasing up their contacts, and so I am now starting to chase up every contact that I got at the show and sending them the relevant low res .pdf’s of my work depending on which pieces they liked. I think you can only get out of a trade show the work you put into it, and so it’s vital that every lead is explored. You never know who might be waiting for you to contact them, or who regrets not buying one of your prints.
Go back to part 1 here to watch Stephanie’s video, read her lovely words of thanks and see her beautiful work
Take me to Part 3 so I can read Stephanie’s top 10 essential exhibiting items and read her thoughts on The Ultimate Portfolio Builder
Join us for The Ultimate Portfolio Builder starting this September 5, 2016. Delivered in association with Printsource New York – could you be following in Stephanie’s footsteps and win a FREE booth at the August 2017 Printsource New York show?
Find out more about this advanced and powerful surface pattern design course and join us today.
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