Have you ever wanted to attend a convention as an exhibitor? You know, have a booth, sell products, giveaway business cards, get photos with people, and have a great time while promoting what you do? Perhaps all of that sounds peachy but you're just not sure if you're ready, or where you would even start?
If any of that sounds like you, then welcome to my world of nervous excitement at the thought of exhibiting, and enter Anna Lee of GlitzyGeekGirl fame to lay down some useful facts!
She recently had a booth for the very first time and was kind enough to answer my barrage of questions about the experience. She provided wonderful information and advice for any first timers (and those who hope to be first timers) out there!
Abog: From what I’ve read on your blog and Facebook page, The Heart of Texas Comic Con was your first time as an exhibitor. How did that come to pass? I saw something on your Facebook page about being invited, so did you request a booth or were you actually invited to be an exhibitor? What was the process (registering, assigned booth space, etc.)?
Anna: This was the first year for the Heart of Texas Comic Con in Waco, Tx. It was put on by a few of my friends that I have met through other conventions. I got an email from one of the founders asking if I would be interested in coming as a cosplay guest. I was excited to be personally invited to a brand new convention. I was also asked to help judge the costume contest along with a few of the other cosplay guests. After a few emails back and forth to get all the details straight (like if I would have a table, could sell things, etc) I decided to accept!
Abog: Before this opportunity came up had you been interested in exhibiting at a convention?
Anna: Yes I have! I've considered purchasing a booth at local cons before so I could have a central location to sell goodies and meet people. The prices for a booth can be expensive. I don't make a profit from my hobby. So all the money I receive from purchases of my prints and jewelry goes straight back into my website and supplies. I'd still like to have a booth at one of the bigger Dallas conventions someday, but I'm worried I would have to raise my prices to pay for the booth itself. And I'd hate to have to do that! So I was really glad I was able to go to the Heart of Texas Comic Con as a guest and not have to worry about booth cost.
Abog: What made you decide or realize that you were ready to have a booth? If you had any reservations or worries about it, what were they?
Anna: At the last couple local conventions I've had a handful of people come up to me and say "You're Glitzy Geek Girl aren't you!" That's when I decided having a booth would beneficial. It gives you a landmark for friends, fans and newcomers to come chat and snap a pic. I did worry that no one would come by my table. I am not a big name celebrity AT ALL, but I was happy to see several of my friends come up and give hugs and high fives.
Abog: What type of preparations went into your setup? Do you feel that you over or under prepared?
Anna: Since the Heart of Texas Comic Con was out of town for me, I made a big list of everything I needed. Not only did I have to make sure I had all my costumes, but I also had to make sure to bring all the supplies for my table. I made some jewelry and wizard wands, and I also had some prints made of my cosplays. The week of the convention I realized I still hadn't ordered a banner. So I had to spend extra on shipping to get a small banner in time for the con. One thing I wish I had brought was a better table cloth. I grabbed some extra fabric I had at home, but it didn't cover the table well.
Abog: Were you selling any merchandise, or were you there to promote your website with meet and greets and small giveaway items? If you were selling merch, what was your thought process for deciding how much of each item to bring?
Anna: I expected to just have people ask for my photo while in costume so I decided not to bring too much merchandise. I knew I wanted to have some business cards at my table so they can check out my blog, and I love to give out free stickers and buttons. I just recently started making jewelry and wands to sell so I brought those with me just for fun. I didn't expect to sell much, but my wands went fast! Those were the best seller. Also, people were eager to grab a card after I told them I share tutorials for my costumes on my website.
Abog: Based on your personal experiences with meeting exhibitors at conventions, what type of an experience with attendees were you expecting? And a follow up: what was your actual experience?
Anna: When I visit tables at conventions I don't like to be bombed with a lot of questions and sale pitches. So as an exhibitor, I tried not to make anyone feel pressured to buy anything. People came to my table to see me in my costume, which most vendors might not have as a perk. After they snapped a photo with me, I would ask if they wanted a free sticker or button. Everyone was very nice and after they looked at the prints of my other costumes I think they were more interested in buying something or at least taking a business card.
Abog: What was the feel of the convention and your fellow exhibitors? Do you think that a sort of camaraderie develops with the people who are on either side of you/across from you?
Anna: As an exhibitor you feel like you're part of a small community. Everyone has their own spot, you get to know your neighbors and we would all walk around to say Hi to one another. I knew several of the other cosplayers in attendance so we had a great time. On Sunday I actually shared a table with Krystle Starr in the other room. Sunday was a little slower so not as many folks were coming into the room we were in on Saturday. We were able to share a table in the dealer's room to get more traffic. Krystle and I made a great team!
Abog: Being new to the exhibitor scene, do you feel that your experience was heightened or diminished by appearing in costume? Which factors led to you appearing in costume for the weekend?
Anna: I was happy to appear in costume because I work very hard on my outfits. It was nice to be able to talk to people one on one about my work. At other conventions I feel rushed around the con floor or hallways. At Heart of Texas I could sit at my table and share conversations easier. Since I was invited as a cosplay guest I wanted to stay in costume all day. However, wigs and corsets aren't the comfiest. Next time I would like to bring a change of clothes for the last half of the day.
Abog: Did you have any extended moments of being alone at your table while people walked by? If so, did you appreciate the breaks in conversation, or did this leave you feeling nervous about people’s level of interest in your booth?
Anna: There were not many times that someone wasn't walking by or asking for my photo. The Heart of Texas Comic Con was a huge success. For its first year I was surprised how many people came out. I rarely had a chance to sit longer than a couple minutes. I did appreciate the volunteers coming by frequently to ask if I needed any water. They were incredible!
Abog: What are some of the best things that happened over the weekend? Strangest? Most challenging?
Anna: The best thing that happened was giving advice to girls that wanted to try cosplaying for the first time. I was able to share with them a few tips and give them my card to check out my tutorials online. The strangest and most challenging thing was judging the costume contest. I have entered a few before, but have never judged until this con. It was really difficult to narrow the contestants down to just a top 3. Even with the help of the other judges, we were very impressed with all of the entries. I was happy to acknowledge the winners, but it was hard not to include more because everyone deserved it.
Abog: Do you plan on attending any conventions as an exhibitor again in the future? If so, what would you do differently for your booth?
Anna: March 28-30 I will have a booth at Animation Celebration in Lewisville, Tx. This is a three day event and because it's local I expect to see a lot of my friends come out. I definitely plan to have a better table cloth and plenty of business cards to hand out. I'm planning to make several more wizards wands to sell, too. Also, I am debuting two new costumes so that is exciting.
Abog: What advice would you give to a person or group of people who want to exhibit at a convention, but they’re not sure if they’re ready?
Anna: My advice would be to look closely at other tables at conventions and see what you like and don't like about their setup. Take note of what types of banners are more eye-catching and what type of products you think will sell well. Be prepared to make a big list of everything you need like extra cash to make change, sharpies and pens if you are going to sign things, and also an inventory sheet so you can keep track of how much you sell. Try to create a lot of buzz about your booth before the convention so people will know to look for you, too.
Abog: If there’s something else you’d love to share that I didn’t cover in my questions, please share away! I’m super curious about your time running a booth and I believe your excitement and positive experience will help and encourage others who are thinking about exhibiting, too!
Anna: I think if you decide to get a booth remember to have fun! I know there's a lot of business to it, but try not to think about the numbers too much and just enjoy the experience. Even if you don't sell a single item having a booth at a convention is still a great way to meet new people.
I hope Anna's advice is helpful to people! It was quite informative for me and gives me hope that someday A Bit of Geek will have a booth at one of the local conventions!
Have you ever attended a convention as an exhibitor? What advice would you give?
*All images in article and on header image are from glitzygeekgirl.com