Listen, it is natural that people love to mingle and talk about their last art fair experience. I truly get that. However, why does it have to be as soon as you pull up to your booth space and start erecting the canopy and unloading the first thing people have to talk about is how awful shows are, poo poo the fair before it starts and get all kinds of grumpy? Misery loves company - well, yes. But can't the subject be changed? Setting-up at shows can be frustrating - realizing you forgot something, issues with neighbors hogging extra footage or inches, or time issues ... Why add to it by talking about negative things? Traveling to shows I am trying to put myself in a good mood telling myself - I am going to do well - this time you will meet your sales goals! Forget about past yucky shows this is make up for them, all while listening to upbeat music too. Am I the only one feeling this way? We all know shows aren't great - they haven't been for awhile. Complaining about it won't make it better, just jinx things in my opinion. So, I am opening the floor to you all - what are some great subjects you have talked about at shows? What makes for meeting great art friends at shows? And importantly, how do you deal with negative complainers at events? I can tell you I deal with negative complainers by simply ignoring them and trying to not let them get to me. I had one at my last show and she would just barge into my booth and say things like "I still haven't made my booth fee" or complain about something else.

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  • Well there are two simple words to deal with this: SHUT UP. But then we're not rude so I just look at them as say "I'm sorry you're not having a good show but I don't engage in negative conversation at shows, ever. So let's talk about something uplifting."

    These negative attitudes are killers for sales. The patrons walking by have ears, they do overhear what exhibitors say and they don't walk a mile in our shoes and they don't know what it means to be in the art show business. They just think what fun it is, we get to go to shows and be surrounded by all this great beautiful stuff all the time. How many times have we heard them tell us that. But while they are walking by they overhear exhibitors bitching about their lousy sales ... and they glance in the booth and wonder ... what's wrong with that work? They don't stop and buy. - martha
  • One of the most effective ways to deal with complainers is to kill 'em with positiveness. I go into "Pollyanna" mode and that usually sends them running. If they continue to return and bitch, I firmly inform them that my booth is a Negative-Free Zone. If they start up again, I repeat the statement. That's how I deal with the chronic complainers that I don't care to have in my life.

    As for friends who are expressing their frustration and fears, I try to buck them up a bit and get them stepping on a more positive path. I try to get them laughing at something so they feel better about the world.
  • Meg,

    Thank you for your response. I don't know whether or not this was the show Christine was complaining about, but it sounds like you as the promoter did everything in your power to make the best of a bad situation. I agree, you cannot move 150 exhibitors. It's just not possible.
    You as the promoter will always get people you cannot satisify no matter what you do, so you just cut those people loose.

    Up here in New England we had a terrible summer. It rained almost every weekend, and we had the dreadded mud too. Sometimes exhibitors had flooded booths, but there's nothing that can be done other than just work around it. At one show, we had a major complainer and the other exhibitors told her to "just deal with it!" and stop complaining. She had water coming into her booth. So I merely took a stick, carved a trench behind her booth and the water went down the outside. Problem solved. That's what I mean by experience.

    It's one thing to complain, and another to constantly complain. If you have a problem, it makes no difference how long you have been doing shows. Three months or 30 years. But the biggest and loudest complainers who feel they have the right to tell the promoter how to do their job, are the ones doing this for 3 to 5 years. Hey, I was like that too. So Diane and I, along with another crafter started our own shows. Boy, you sure learn a LOT about the other side of the fence! And now that I call myself a "recovering" promoter, I always try to solve the problem, rather than cause it.

    Like just taking a stick and carving a trench in the ground.
    • I've only seen it from our side of the fence. I'm just a volunteer for a volunteer-run fair. I take my job seriously and the Board of Directors wants nothing more than a great show and to make the artists feel welcomed. If I can step on my soapbox for a moment, putting on a show is enormously time-consuming and back-breakingly physical. I don't know if artists have any idea of how much we work throughout the year to put together a show. Fundraising! It's a huge undertaking to go begging for money. We hit the ground running in January, and don't let up until a week before showtime. It costs a huge amount of money to put on a show. Tents, tables, set ups, parking, concessions, electricity, entertainment, is a considerable amount of time. As the economy tanked, festivals were hit with significant losses in funding and grants and as a result, several had to make painful cutbacks. We no longer have a paid staff member. Does anyone out there know what that means? We were without a paid leader. We had to take it upon ourselves to figure out how we were going to accomplish it all. Remember, we are all volunteers! Hours and hours of work throughout the year. We're composed of retired people, small business owners, some who are in between jobs (laid off), and otherwise fully employed in other areas. This is a work of heart and a work of art. When I hear or read the word "promoter" I get kind of annoyed because some of here aren't exactly the stereotypical promoters. We're on your side. We're not in it to make money. In fact, we barely break even. In fact, we wonder how we can possibly sustain our level of personal commitment.
  • Everyone... Please lets stay on topic, I think the conversation is straying away. I think every point mentioned has been valid, but I think we all can agree we have had our fair share of complainers, situations where we don't know if we are handling it properly, etc. Chris is a good soul - I have known him for years. When it comes to conversing on a message board, the sad thing is it is hard to convey a happy tone or mood in a post as it can be misconstrued. I firmly believe if someone says they are trying to help and don't mean any offense, I believe it. Why else would they respond or offer advice? On that note I would prefer staying on topic, if possible. - Michelle
  • If you got there early, do you really think you could get the promoter to move the whole tent? You think with all your show experience, that you could have picked a better location for the tent? Here comes the part on walking a few miles in promoters shows. You don't know why they had that location. If it wasn't to your liking, you should have checked everything out before you booked the show. Some things just can't be changed.

  • It is not the number of years one does shows that makes them "experienced" it is the total number of shows. I have done 30-40 shows a year in five years. 150-200 shows (400-600 days of shows) gives me more "art festival" experience then most artists/crafters out there.

    I believe because of this, I have enough experience to be able to give constructive feedback on these posts. I also admitted in the first post that I should have known better and spoken up. There is absolutely no control we have over rain, but we do have control over mud. And I should have talked to the promoter about moving all 150 of us out of the 1 foot deep mud and onto higher grounds. (some of us were able to move out of the mud the next day but we could have had a beautiful mud free art festival if all the artist were moved "prior" to anyone setting up (this would have been under the control of the promoter and the promoter alone)....I didn't get there until half of the artists were already set up so the logistics were a bit difficult at that point to get everyone and their stuff moved)
    • Hi Christine, I believe I was at the fair that you're referring to, as one of the Festival board members, not the director. (The director is no longer with our organization, and we are now a Board-run event for the time being.) That particular event, weather-wise, was one of the most horrible experiences any of us have ever been involved with.

      In our defense, may I add a few caveats? The rain that came was in the form of a hurricane up from Texas and a tornado on Friday night. The weather swept up through the Plains and even our local great weather forecasters had no idea so much rain was about to be dumped on us. We considered cancelling but decided to honor the artists who wanted to come in spite of the impending rain. We thought that if you were strong enough to come, then we were strong enough to help you. There were only 63 artists who decided to set up, and the rest called and cancelled. I don't blame them. Sometimes you just have to walk away from a losing situation.

      Those who stayed were all given the opportunity to move to other locations and many did. We have no control over where the event is held (it was either those grounds, or nothing else) and that's a fact. We don't own that meadow and the developers have no other spot for us. The site has to go through fire safety inspections or it will be shut down. There are so many, many reasons by a whole festival can't just move somewhere else.

      Our only alternative was to cancel the show. In hindsight, we often think we should have. However, we sent out several email blasts and other communications telling the artists that if they wanted to come, we would help them with everything in our power. Oddly enough, in spite of the mud, several artists did have a good show. One had his best show ever. One gallery owner purchased an entire inventory of one artist. But several artists did not do well and had zero sales. This year the show had beautiful weather and our best crowds ever. Some artists had incredible, eye-popping sales, others' nothing.

      In my defense, as someone who works on the other side, we did absolutely everything we could to accommodate our beleaguered artists. I myself was sick for weeks afterwards. I got a bad foot fungus from my shoes and feet being wet for days on end, working as a volunteer for 12 hours a day for five days straight to help. We were working out in the mud, hauling straw and helping as much as was humanly possible. But if this is the festival you are referring to, I think we did an extraordinary job of accommodating our artists. We would have moved heaven and earth to help any artist. Our surveys showed tremendous gratitude the artists had for how the festival was managed in spite of a once in a century rain storm.

      One more thing. To show our gratitude, our Board voted to give every single one of the artists who stayed to set up one full point on top next year's jury score average(1-5) scale. This virtually assured that each and everyone of them sailed through the jury process. We had great response to that offer and most artists took us up on it. It was so nice to see them come back again to show them what a beautiful festival we have here (most years!).

      I don't know what else we could have done. I would never have thought that any artist who asked to be moved would have been denied. There was plenty of room with all the cancellations. But the entire field was in such bad shape, and the markings were all long gone. It was hell on earth. All the extra straw we had delivered in didn't put a dent into the mud. The concession tent was like a water bed.

      But as the board member who takes care of all the artists and their communications and needs, I wasn't aware that any artist was denied a move if they asked. I wish you had spoken up because we would have done anything in our power to help you. I wouldn't have thought that was complaining or whining in the least. We called the whole thing "Festival Woodstock" because literally we were all covered with mud and rain. I didn't think I'd ever be clean again!

      Anyway, I'm sorry about the bad experience you had and wish you all the best, and sorry we didn't see your application this year.
  • I must admit when I read Christine's first post I thought "Oh, a whole five years experience". I don't want to dismiss her post, but the five year comment didn't help make her point. We have all had bad shows with bad weather at bad locations run by bad promoters. Put it in "Won't do this show again and move on." Learn from the veteran crafters and keep an open mind on everything.

  • Greg Heihn said:
    Hey Chris
    Here we go.
    You said:
    You see, when I was doing shows for five years I too knew everything. I was "well experienced" too. I started telling others how promoters should do things. He should do this, he should do that. I've got news for you. After only five years on the show circuit, you are just past the apprentice stage. I speak from experience here. I was in the exact same place you are now. I see this at almost every show I do. The ones who complain the loudest are the ones with 3 to 5 years experience.

    Now we need to have done and have so many shows and years under our belts to qualify to make comments, talk to promoters,have opinions etc. Perhaps you should create a blueprint for us all so we know where we stand "according to you" so we know when and what we can say on this site or to promoters and other artists according to our individual experience!
    Those types of comments are not constructive.
    We all have a right to express ourselves!
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