Creativebias Helpsheet: Showcasing for Performing Arts
October 2006 (Creativebias)
Showcases, trade fairs and exhibitions
A Guide for Performing Artists and Performing Arts-related Businesses
What is a showcasing opportunity?
A showcasing opportunity is any event that gives artists within the creative industries an opportunity to display their work to a large number of potential customers and industry contacts. It could be anything from a trade fair, to an exhibition, to a sponsored promotion.
Before attempting to perform at major performing arts events it may be useful to organise your own shows locally. It may be best to begin by running free events with other local artists. This will give you invaluable experience and will help you to start to build a network of contacts.
How can it help me?
These events are useful for performing artists and businesses as they provide exposure to an audience who might not otherwise hear you and give you the opportunity to meet lots of other people involved in the industry.
A showcase is the sort of place where you could attract interest from theatres, agents, retailers, distributors, journalists, radio and TV and all aspects of the entertainment industry.
What might it be useful to know before I go?
You should research the event before you go, by going to the website or speaking to the organisers, so you are aware of the various companies and businesses that will be there.
Be aware that in all creative industries word of mouth is often powerful in building a company's reputation. Treat each person you talk to as a prospective client or contact and remember that if somebody is treated badly or gets poor service they are likely to tell others about your shortcomings.
How can I prepare?
If you are in a performance group it may be useful to create a 'press pack' containing photos, biography, details of upcoming performances, cuttings from any reviews you have received and contact details. You can then give this pack to any people who express an interest in your work. This gives a professional impression of your company and allows industry figures to see the group as a 'whole package.'
If you are going to be based on a stall or a stand, make sure you have eye-catching displays, with lots of colour and the name of your product displayed clearly and regularly around the stall. Have enough press packs to give away, although it might make you seem popular if you run out, you could miss out on the vital contact!
If you are performing, make sure you turn up on time as this is not just any normal opportunity, and practice regularly in the weeks leading up to the performance. People in the entertainment industry hear and see performances all the time, so extra work on your act or songs will make you stand out.
Prepare exactly how you are going to sell your business/product to potential clients. Write down the key strengths of the business and make sure you mention them in every conversation. Be prepared to change your pitch slightly depending on the nature of client you are talking to. The most successful sales people will adapt to each individual customer to emphasise the qualities of the product that most appeal to their area of business.
What questions shall I ask?
Once you have researched the event, highlight any potential investors or companies that seem relevant to your project and get in contact with them in advance and arrange a meeting at the event. Find out the name of the company's representative at the event and ask around your contacts to found out any information you can about the person.
There is no use going to any showcasing event or fair without first building a small list of appointments and planning how to create a 'buzz' around your product. If lots of people are talking about your product before the show, meetings can 'snowball' at the event as companies will not want to miss out on what could be 'the next big thing.'
It's useful to talk to anyone you can at events. People who appear to be representing one company may also work for or have links with other areas of the industry. Explain what your company does and ask people about theirs. There are no set ways of 'networking' but it may be useful to:
- Print out business cards with the name of your company, a contact phone number email address and website. Try and make them interesting but uncomplicated.
- Be clear and confident when talking about your work and your aims for the future.
While you're at the show, remember to regularly pool research information with any team members you have. Individual observation should be balanced with group intelligence to help gain a wider perspective on the event.
A group can gather far more intelligence than any one person can collect alone. Compare notes before, during and after the show. This will help you spot strengths and weaknesses in your product and business.
The Three Point Plan
It may be useful to see networking at trade fairs and events as a three point process:
1. Contact the potential client before the event, arrange a meeting, and briefly discuss ideas.
2. Meet at the event, follow up on previous conversation and if both parties are enthusiastic, arrange a deal.
3. Follow up meeting after the event via phone or email and seal the deal.
Take your time over any decisions and don't be pressured into confirming any deals at the event, you may end up with a deal that is not quite as good as it first seemed.