By Jeri Goldstein
Attending trade shows and booking conferences can put a huge dent in your wallet. If you have decided to explore the world of conferences as a means of boosting your career to a new level, the following will help make your experience more satisfying and save you unnecessary expenses.

When launching into the conference scene, it is wise to plan ahead for two years. I know many artists who have plunged into a new conference and found themselves in over their heads both in money spent and inadequate knowledge to benefit from all their efforts. To avoid these mistakes I suggest doing some research and taking it a bit more slowly.

In the Trade Show:

The trade show or exhibit hall of any conference tends to be the hub. It is often the one place during the conference where you might expect to find specific industry professionals. Most conferences designate many hours to trade show time. As a first year attendee, you should spend a great deal of time exploring the trade show. If you apply the following method of exploration, you will leave the conference with valuable information and a sense of accomplishment, which will help you attain your conference goals the next year.

Three Times Around:

Before entering the first trade show session, go through the conference program book which lists exhibitors. Note any that are of particular interest to you. Remember your goals? If you are looking for an agent, check the booths of agents of interest. If you are searching for touring services, star those booth numbers in your program. Use your program book notations to be sure to seek out those booths once you've had some time in the hall.

First Session:

Walk around the hall and become familiar with the layout. See as many exhibits as possible, and attempt to find some of those you've noted in your program. While walking the hall, note those exhibits that jump out at you. Spend some time examining them to answer the following questions:

1. What attracted you at first sight?

2. What display elements were used to create and enhance their look such as, graphics, photos, cut-outs, posters, video, audio, backdrops, flowers, rugs, give-away promotional items, etc.?

3. How far from the exhibit were you before you noticed it?

4. What kind of informational items were available to attendees?

5. Were the handouts clever in any way?

6. Did the exhibit have a theme?

7. Did the booth have a cohesive look? Did all the elements relate to one another?

8. How were the booth attendants dressed? What was their demeanor?

9. Were there any booths that really stood out to you? Why?

10. Could you see yourself having a booth in the trade show?

Companies that pay to exhibit are there to sell their merchandise and services. If you are at a booth of a booking agency, they are specifically there to pitch their artists to presenters. They are not in their booth to be solicited by artists looking for agents.

Second Session:

Get to all the booths you were originally interested in checking out. Use the above questions to examine each of those booths. Take available information to read at your leisure. Speak with the representatives at the booths to find out more about their services and company. When appropriate give them some of your promotional material or at least a card.

A brief word about soliciting in the exhibit hall: Companies that pay to exhibit are there to sell their merchandise and services. If you are at a booth of a booking agency, they are specifically there to pitch their artists to presenters. They are not in their booth to be solicited by artists looking for agents. Please make note of the representative; take their agency brochure; introduce your self and take the agent's card and then contact them at another time outside the exhibit hall or after the conference. Let them do their job in the exhibit hall.

Final Sessions:

Spend time attempting to see as much or all, of the exhibit hall as is possible. Make sure you had time for each booth of special interest to you. On these final rounds, take note of whether some of the booths actually accomplished what they seem to have set out to do. Were there any really impressive displays? Did this trade show exploration spark ideas for your own display?

Once the conference is over, you will have gathered a great deal of information and seen many examples of good and bad methods of promotion. All of this research will help you create a presence at the next year's conference that will likely be more creative and purposeful. You will avoid excess expense and target your audience more directly with interesting displays and materials.

Jeri Goldstein is the author of, How To Be Your Own Booking Agent The Musician's & Performing Artist's Guide To Successful Touring 2nd Edition UPDATED. She had been an agent and artist's manager for 20 years. Currently she consults with artists, agents, and managers through her consultation program Manager-In-A-Box and presents The Performing Biz, seminars and workshops at conferences, universities, for arts councils and to organizations. Information about her other programs are available at or phone (434) 591-1335 or e-mail Jeri at

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