In Part 1, I talked about the various types of convention-goers I’ve noticed so far. It’s by no means conclusive, but it can be a small guide to how to open up a line of communication with someone who is approaching or passing your booth/table. Also keep in mind that this is simply how I felt comfortable chatting with people, and your level of comfort will vary.
I’ve never been the type who felt at ease trying to start a conversation with every living soul who passed by. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, it just didn’t feel like me. I spent the first hour or so of Spectrum watching the various types of convention-goers and deciding how best to bring them over. It didn’t take very long to notice some trends, and to come up with some opening “lines” that didn’t sound too “used care salesman.” I was pretty nervous at this point, because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to easily talk to mass amounts of people without getting all bijiggity.
I made sure to smile at anyone who looked over my way, as an opening welcoming gesture. From there, I noted their reaction. If they moved on quickly or gave a small smile and looked away, I basically left them alone. Now, I’m not sure if that is the right thing to do, but I put myself in their place and felt I wouldn’t want to be harassed if I showed no interest in a table or booth. Everyone is different, though, so that could obviously vary.
If they gave a good smile or nodded my way, and were close enough that I wasn’t yelling at them, I would ask how they were doing. You generally get “good”, “fine”, “ok” as replies. Again, if they gave a short reply and moved on, I let them go. If they responded positively to my question, and veered toward me, it was a good sign that they were open to conversation and more open to looking at and possibly purchasing some of my prints.
I like to ask people questions about themselves, because it puts people at ease and because I’m curious about everybody! Generally, my questions started with asking if this was their first time at Spectrum. You’d be amazed at how many people have been to all of them so far! I joked with them that now they have to go to all of them so they can be that one guy who has all of his Spectrum badges in 20 years. You hear that, Spectrum?! KEEP IT GOING!
What it must be like organizing an event for fantasy/sci-fi artists
I also asked if they were an artist or a fan or both. I got a pretty even mix of all three, and with those who were artists, there was an automatic subject to talk about: our art.
My favorite convention-goers were the artists who were interested but unsure about whether they should ever have a table or show their work. I loved it if they had their sketchbook or a portfolio with them! I know not everyone is like me, so you may not be as interested in these types of guests as I was, but they were a lot of fun to talk to. Once they realized I wanted to talk to them, they had a million questions about the industry, what it’s like to have a table, how I got “so good”, etc. I put “so good” in quotes because, like any artist, I never judge myself as “good enough”. But it was fun talking to those who believed in me more than I believe in myself, if that makes sense! I spent lots and lots of time talking to the Dabblers. It was fun encouraging them to pursue their dream so that they could someday be sitting where I was. It feels good to build others up.
If the individual stated they weren’t an artist but a fan, I loved hearing who they were there to see, if they had specific favorite artists, or hearing what brought them in. Was it dragons? Knights? Magic the Gathering? Let me tell you, the M:tG autograph gatherers are extremely interesting and fun to talk to. They are like bounty hunters on a mission. They will hung you down if you’re a M:tG artist! A few of them said they look forward to hunting ME down for my autograph on Magic cards in the future, and that made me feel really good.
You think I’m good enough for MAGIC!?
You may think that engaging in conversations would be a waste of time, but there were a few people who didn’t show much interest in buying a print, but after talking for a bit, they chose one to take home. A couple of them came back later and purchased something. I also believe that chatting with people shows that you’re approachable, and others who may be shy or intimidated will see that they, too, could approach you when you’re available.
The challenge was when I was in conversation with one person, and others walked up appearing to be interested in chatting too. I tried to bring them into the conversation as well, and if not, the very least I could do was make eye contact and smile in a way that assured them I am eager to talk to them as well. Sometimes they didn’t get a chance and would walk away, sometimes they’d stick around, and sometimes they would return later when I wasn’t busy.
The bottom line is that as artists, and especially as introverts, it can be easy to lose ourselves in a sketchbook or to sit down and hope someone comes up to buy our prints. Unfortunately, this won’t work out well at all, in my experience as both a convention-goer and now as having had a table. I know I’m not an expert since I’ve only exhibited once so far, but this is also coming from talking to numerous other artists. If you hide behind your sketchbook, people won’t want to bother you and they’re more likely to pass you by. Think about what it’s like to be on that side of the table, are you going to interrupt an artist that looks like he or she is working? I know I’m not!
I hope this post has helped in some way, and if not, well… here is a sketch I did that I may or may not take to finish! Yes, the bottom corner says ‘dead guy’.