5 Essentials for Face-to-Face Networking for Artists

Are you putting too much emphasis on the Internet when you could be benefitting from some good old-fashioned networking?

The value of face-to-face marketing is being drowned out by the cacophony of online marketing advice. I am just as guilty as the next advice-giver, but I’m going to start reminding you more frequently not only to get out of the studio but also to get out from behind your computer and meet real live people.

Amy Evans painting demonstration
Amy Evans talks with Cynthia Morris during a painting demo on gallery walk night at the CCI Summit in Breckenridge.

I recently returned from two days in the mountains for the Colorado Creative Industries (CCI) Summit.

By conference standards, this wasn’t a big one, but it was sold out. Two-hundred creatives under one roof helped each other solve problems, made connections, and exchanged business cards.

We dined together and, in the evening, walked from gallery to gallery like a clan of trick-or-treaters.

It was electric! And it’s not an experience you can duplicate online.

As someone who spends most of her time in front of her computer, I must remind myself what is required of face-to-face networking every time I venture out. Thought I’d share some observations with you.

1. Business Cards

Don’t go anywhere without business cards! I took 70 cards to the conference and came back with about half of them. I also collected numerous cards for people I wanted to stay in touch with.

Insider’s Tip :: When you exchange cards with others, make notes on them ASAP so you remember why you asked for them in the first place. Tomorrow is probably too late to recall your conversations with each person.

A sampling of business cards I came home with - most with notes on the backs.
A sampling of business cards I came home with – most with notes on the backs.

2. 10-Second Introduction

You have to be able to tell people what you do without putting them to sleep or monopolizing their time.

A good 10-second artist introduction is the result of trial and error. It doesn’t usually come easily, but only after seeing what works for you. Change it up! You know your introduction needs work when people don’t comment or ask further questions.

Insider’s Tip :: The goal of your introduction is not to share everything you do in 10 seconds, but to be interesting enough that people ask to hear more.

3. Images

You need words, but it’s always nice to have images to back up the words. At the CCI Summit, we decided the jewelers and fiber artists were lucky because they wore their art. Other artists need to find ways to show off their art in networking situations.

Insider’s Tip :: Get your images organized on your smart phone or tablet or carry a portable portfolio. When someone asks to see your work, you’ll be prepared.

Claim Your Authority Writers' Retreat with Cynthia Morris
Cynthia Morris's current postcards.

4. Invitations

If people are interested in you, they’ll want to know what you have coming up and how they can participate.

I was mesmerized by a poetry performance at the CCI Summit. I later looked for the poet and asked where I could hear her perform. She said she put everything on Facebook, but it would have been more effective if she had handed me a list of upcoming events.

In contrast, I watched my friend Cynthia Morris do what she does so well. She carries stacks of promotional postcards for her upcoming excursions and pulls them out of her bag whenever she sees an opportunity to leave them on a table or post them to a bulletin board. (She also carries thumbtacks for these moments.)

Insider’s Tip :: Carry invitations or announcements with you at all times. You never know when you’ll have a chance to share.

5. Follow Up

It doesn’t do much good to network if you don’t follow up with new contacts. Making notes on business cards, as I suggest above, makes follow-up much easier.

When you get home, take action that is appropriate for each contact:

  • Write a personal note or email
  • Send a Friend request on Facebook
  • Follow on Twitter
  • Add to your contact list and, if approval was given, to your email list; make notes in your database to help you remember each person

Insider’s Tip :: Following up is key to networking success. Without it, you become a collector of business cards – all talk, no action.

Please leave other networking tips in a comment or share your experience with face-to-face networking.

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52 thoughts on “5 Essentials for Face-to-Face Networking for Artists”

  1. Thanks for these great tips, Alyson! I’m a painter and I’m thinking that a two-sided, color postcard with at least three images pus my contact information would be great to carry with me and hand out!

    1. Holly, I’m no expert but I think one great image is better than three. I always shrink away from collage-type images of artwork on a card.
      My two cents, take it or leave it!

  2. Being a folk artist means all sorts of things to others. I put my images (both front – painting and back – sculpture) on my business card to save using too many adjectives describing the indescribable.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Gotta have the words, too, Robin. Images are good, but someone will expect dialogue.

    2. OH yes! I have words (and dialog) as well. But having the images of my work gave an initial understanding (jumping off point?) for my comments that follow…

  3. I have postcards and biz cards. When I pull out the postcards everyone wants one of those instead of the biz cards. I have a selection of 4 different post cards with 3 different paintings on each. (Like a series or limited edition) Information is printed front and back. I change these and up date these depending on where I am using them geographically . The card directs them to my blogs and website. Lists workshops & class links, website and studio gallery.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Mary: Is it mostly women that want postcards? One artist told me men didn’t know what to do with that size because it didn’t fit in a pocket.

    2. Lynnda Tenpenny

      Ha! I’d never thought of that, but it sounds true. I also have both with all my info plus my show schedule on the back of the postcard. Women are probably more likely to hang on to the postcard too.

  4. I tend to think that the world is my oyster, and it is, but forget about the opportunities that exist in my own back yard.
    It is almost impossible to define who your market is when you have no idea of the demographics of the people visiting your website. When you meet real people you can identify and characterize them (age, gender, and lifestyle). This makes it so much easier to refine website content to target the people that respond to your product.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Kim: It’s also easier for people to say, “Hey, I’d really like to work with her” when they feel good vibes. I found two coaches and my acupuncturist this way. I never would have hired a coach if I hadn’t met these women in person. And I certainly wouldn’t have thought about acupuncture if I hadn’t met Renae. Trust was involved in both situations.

  5. I have a postcard (of course – with all of my contact info) of my recent project that I send to people after I meet them. More than once people have commented on how nice in the age of electronic mail and social networking to receive snail mail.

  6. I just had a networking success story. I’ve done the Artexpo trade show two years now. At last year’s show, I met a person from a publishing company who was very interested in working with me. We talked for a long time, and promised to continue our conversation after the show. Well, I never heard from him again. I wrote, called, emailed, and no response. So I decided he changed his mind.
    Jump forward to this year’s show. I met someone who turned out to work with the first person. We talked, and after the show I followed up with a thank you email, in which I mentioned the conversation I had the previous year. She not only responded, she got me in touch with the first person (who just got overwhelmed and forgot to respond). She even introduced me to another group who also wants to work with me. Seems persistence pays off!

  7. Avery do a folding business card, which has revolutionised my networking. There is plenty of room (3 sides) for 4 or 5 images as well as a full side for my contact details.
    I also have my portfolio on my iPod Touch. I may have got some business today from my dentist because I showed the nurse the portrait of my son on my iPod!

  8. Great tips. I carry my business cards and art class brochures with me all the time, but I never thought of carrying a listing of art exhibitions…present and future. Thanks for the tip. That’s next on my list of things to do!

  9. On Apr 18, 2012, at 9:11 AM, Kevan Lunney wrote:
    i am a fiber artist. I was recently at a huge fiber artist conference. I received many cards from the speed dating style event. How to process these cards has always been a concern. What would the categories be, friend, buyer, mailing list for shows, mailing list for classes????
     what would the actionable steps be?
     What is the end goal? 
    since everyone at this conference does the same thing I do, I felt that although they could become friends and support, it was unlikely that they would be buyers. is it still worth while to promote yourself and shows at an event like this?
     I think I need to develop a left pocket/ right pocket system, as this speed dating format left no time for note taking and when I tried, it was a huge distraction as everyone was curious about what I may be writing.
    Thanks for your great newsletters.
    do you have any tips for negotiating your first proposal for a commission?

  10. I love (not love really) the photo with the sticky note!
    Which brings up a question for me. How does one keep tabs on how their art is marketed when the gallery is in another state? Any Tips?

  11. As always, you give excellent advice Alyson. For the past 6 years I’ve made a point of being more personally involved with the art community in my area and it has made all the difference in the world. I started slowly though, and offered to volunteer to help at my art organization and then at the art museum. My intention wasn’t to network, but to deliberately get involved with things that mattered to me; that I believed in and that needed support. This allowed me to get to know fellow artists and support people involved in the arts community in a natural way…something that just became a nice ‘extra bonus’ of volunteering. People got to know me, and what I do, and I got to know them and what they do. I try to go to as many art openings and receptions as I can, mainly to support the artists that I’ve met or to support the organizations I belong to but the side benefit is that there is a sincerity in the networking and that I meet folks in a relaxed way…I’m not trying to push myself or my agenda..or sell something. I think for me, that has been key…a sincere and real connection with folks. My work is now in 2 local establishments, one a co-op gallery in our downtown area and one a retail frame shop/gallery in a neighboring community. Plus invitations to hang in places like City Hall and local hospitals have come my way, which I wholeheartedly believe is part and parcel of getting out there and getting involved. The arts organizations and local museums benefit because they cannot provide the services they do, without volunteers, and as artists we benefit, because we are 1. Enriched by the experience… and 2. Become entrenched in the art community in a way that we otherwise cannot if we are just going to events hoping to meet the right people…

  12. Great tips. I carry my business cards and art class brochures with me all the time, but I never thought of carrying a listing of art exhibitions…present and future. Thanks for the tip. That’s next on my list of things to do!

  13. I receive another blog newsletter from the “sales guru”, Jeffrey Gitomer. He constantly stresses the importance of establishing relationships and what he is talking about is face-face relationships. People will buy from people they know and trust. One way to do that is to help your customer or your contact with a personal/professional need, be it a referral for a pet sitter, a vacation rental or tips to improve an aspect of their professional life, like Alyson so generously does for us.
    Also, “Hi Kevan. Fancy meeting you here!”

    1. Roger K. Lawrence

      Jan is absolutely right about the need for an artist to establish relationships. Adding to what Jan has said, build the relationships by, learning what the person is all about, freely offering them ideas or solutions that might benefit them, keeping in touch and making them a friend for life. You will find they will be there for you when you need them.

  14. Though I love social media, the best business opportunities have been found when I’ve traveled and met people through good, old-fashioned networking!
    A couple years ago my artist husband and I went to New Zealand on vacation. While there, we got new art business just by reaching out and meeting people.
    One was an agent that now represents my husband in NZ and Australia. We’ve gained a lot of business from that. The second was a client that just opened a big business here in California – we’ve been working with them ever since.
    I always say, “get out, have fun, meet people!” That’s where you can find some of your best new business “partners”!

  15. Another idea for FACE-TO0-FACE…..for the last couple of years I’ve been doing watercolor botanicals (with silly creatures and meanings hidden in the foliage) and I paint in COFFEE SHOPS a lot. People come over and LOVE them, so I get their names and email addresses, with permission to send them stuff. If people can spend four hours with their computers over a cup of coffee, why not we artists? WHAT a good deal this has been, and my cat doeosn’t paw over my water glass there! Barbara McKee (mckeedb@aol.com)

    1. I love that, Barbara! SO many people are magnetized to an artist creating in public. I like that you get to have fun time out in the world and that it’s drawing people to your business, too. 🙂

    2. Alyson Stanfield

      I love it, Barbara! This is awesome. Don’t be surprised if it appears as a separate post here some day.

  16. Great tips and ideas! I was recently at a networking event and couldn’t believe several people didn’t even have cards.
    Another important tip: make sure your info on all marketing materials is current. I tried to visit one woman’s website and it didn’t exist. D’oh!

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Lea: You’d think we wouldn’t even need to mention that, but apparently it’s not obvious to some.

  17. I just attended a marketing meeting last night where a graphics designer recommended business cards with blank backs so people can write notes on them.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Absolutely! I’m getting a new card this year. It may have something on the back, but there will be PLENTY of white space for notes.

    2. Alyson Stanfield

      BTW, Did you know it’s considered rude to write on the backs of biz cards in Japan? That’s what I’ve heard/read.

    3. on the front of my business card is my logo KevanArt then fabric+paint+thread, then the image of art, with title below. on the back is my name, fiber artist, curator, teacher, then my website, email and a big empty square taking half the card, ( vertical orientation) inside the box at the very top it says I received this card from: so I will write on it for the person, where we met and the date, or instructions, like- please email date of show in April. I invite people to write on my cards with this space.

  18. From necessity most artists spend many hours alone in the studio. It’s energizing to get out and meet real live people. Your tip about the notes on business cards is good – its easy to forget the person/ business.

  19. This post is so relevant to me, Alyson and not just because you included me! Thank you for that!
    My business has operated 100% online since 2008, meaning that I can be anywhere to do what I do. But I miss being in person with people.
    I’m working on directing my work back toward a healthy balance of in-person and online. I get SO much from being around people, and it can be a lot more fun to interact in person.
    Thanks again for this post; I’m glad to see it generate so much dialogue.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Cynthia: Absolutely. I need more of this in my life as well. That’s why the CCIS was so much fun and why I’m looking forward to the World Domination Summit in July.
      Oh, yes, and my workshops coming up! They play a HUGE part in helping me stay grounded.

  20. My iPad and iPhone were invaluable in my last exhibition. I sold several pieces that weren’t hung by showing them to people in my ‘portable portfolios’ 🙂 (I organised my own show so I wasn’t putting a gallerists nose out of joint!)
    I enjoyed interacting with the people who came along so much – you can’t beat that feeling of being in the space with your art and your clients . Magical!

  21. BTW, iPhone users might like an app called Shot MeMo which lets you add text notes to your photos – great for sneakily (or not so sneakily) snapping contacts and adding a few essential notes about them in situ.

  22. Thank you for your great tips! Like you, I make notes on business cards & put the date I met them & anything else I can fit into the space about our 1st meeting. I made sure when I created my business cards, that the texture of my card is easy to write on, with the back being all white with plenty of room to make a note. I find it is best to have the font clear & a good size to read right then, when you exchange the cards. I find it is frustrating to receive a card that has a small font, so the letters & numbers are all on it, but they are not easy to read…and impossible to make a note on, if the card has a dark back or is made on a photograph like paper (shiny) that won’t take additional notes. The uniquely sized business cards are difficult to file in my binder, so I prefer to give out traditionally sized & shaped cards in case they have a similar system of keeping the cards they are given. During the exchange, I ask if I could put them on my mailing list, and find they are happy to be asked!

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Christine: Yes, glossy surfaces make it very hard to write on biz cards!
      I used to process my cards and throw them away (preferring not to have stacks of them around) but now I keep the most interesting and hang them on a mobile in our guest bathroom. It’s kind of a hoot.

  23. I have to say that I was shocked to see the sticky-note label – that anyone WOULD do it or even thought of it – amazing.
    And I love it that Cynthia carried thumbtacks! why’d I never think of that….
    as always, thx for your good tips –
    aloha –

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Angela: Someone wrote to me to day saying that she found nothing wrong with the sticky note.

  24. Roger K. Lawrence

    I would add this as an essential: Develop your speaking and other communication skills if you feel you are lacking in these. You need to add these to your arsenal as quickly as you can. You will find the most successful business people, heads of corporations, or small businesses are the best communicatiors in the company. Remember, business cards, post cards are just forms of communication. Develop interpersonal skills and it will build your confidence and improve you business success. I will defer the question on how you do this to Alyson.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Roger: Absolutely! This is something I struggle with constantly. I want to be better and better. It all starts with that introduction.

  25. Here is my pitch with my introduction
    “Hi, I’m Phil Kendall and I’m an artist, a painter, I produce works of art that I would love you to have a look at.
    I could talk for hours about my art, but seeing it for yourself is better than any of my words.
    Here’s my business card it has all of my details on it.
    The next time you are online please checkout my website where you can see for yourself exactly what I do & what I’m about as an artist.
    Then when you have a minute please send me some feed-back via its contact page, please”?
    It really is that simple.

  26. I loved reading everyones comments and suggestions. Working as a sculptor is a lonely business and I am making a big effort this year to get myself and my work more visible. I believe meeting with people and saying the right things are critical though I struggle terribly with some of it. I am not quick on my feet with the correct comment but keep working to get better. I have a difficult time with a “hard sale”. People always tell me they love my work but getting a sale is another animal all together. I keep pushing for a better me as a sales representative. I think we all need to look closley at how we present ourselves and how we face people with our body language and our expressions. Remember to SMILE!!!!

  27. Hi Alyson,
    I’m a pen & ink and watercolour artist, thanks for all the good advice.
    I already knew about your book, but it wasn’t until another artist mentioned it to me some months later that my I got my act together I bought it. I’ve been getting my act together ever since.
    I took part in my first craft fair of 2012 a week or so ago, and although I made very few sales, it was a big networking success! Coincidentally I received your ‘face to face networking’ blog the next day – right on target.
    I’ve just started my blog – http://www.andyscordellis.blogspot.co.uk – and the craft fair is featured in my second post – ‘…village teas, superheroes, and greek coffee…’ hope you like it.
    Once again many thanks,

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Andy: I’m happy that you’ve found something I’ve written to be of value. Thanks for being here.

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  29. Hi Alyson,
    This post is helping me prepare for a huge networking event my daughter and I are going to tomorrow. Before reading the post I was a little afraid because I never know quite what to say at these types of events. Thanks to this post and your link to emptyeasel.com:
    I created a digital portfolio on my phone using Evernote (free productivity app). It took me about 38 minutes to find Evernote online, watch the 3 minute tutorial, create the folder, upload the images from my computer and type small notes about each of the paintings.
    When a turned my phone on and tapped on the Evernote icon, it automatically synched. Yay! I must practice my 10-second intro still BUT I can’t wait to meet folks FACE-to-FACE.
    Thanks for all you do, Alyson!

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Your Artist Mailing List: Rethinking + Assessing

Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

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Your Artist Mailing List: Rethinking + Assessing

Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

Where can we send it? 

To ensure delivery, please triple check your email address.

You’ll also receive my regular news for your art business.

Privacy + Terms