As my banner to today’s article says, you truly can never tell, predict or anticipate when opportunity might come a’knockin’ on your door. That might seem obvious but today’s article is also a tale of how an opportunity came my way suddenly and unexpectedly – and a possible lesson you can learn from my experience.
On our podcast, we have talked a great deal about tabling at conventions.Part of those convention discussions almost always turns to the importance of a positive attitude – even when things may not be going as well as you had hoped. In some ways, this article today is an example of exactly why it’s so important to have a cheerful exterior when you’re sitting behind a table and how an unexpected opportunity might come your way because of it.
So here is what happened…
Earlier this year, I got accepted to table at a first time event called The Smudge Expo. It was a local event that was being held in the old Newseum building in Arlington, Virginia. It was also advertised to be a great way for kids to learn about cartooning as there were cartooning workshops for kids to participate in during the entire event.
When I got to the event, it was set up like an art museum but it was on two floors and I was one of about ten tables that were situated on the second floor. At first, this worried me as it appeared as if the only way you could get to the second floor was by a single elevator. Foot traffic is very important at conventions and I was afraid there wasn’t going to be much foot traffic for me as I was the last table at the end of a long row – but… I was seated right next to two double doors. It was only later on that I learned that those doors lead directly to where most of the panels and workshops were being held. As it turned out, I actually had quite a bit of traffic flowing by my table throughout the six hour event which brings me to a few lessons I have been trying to live by when I table at shows.The first one is:
Resist the urge to moan and complain about where your table is positioned in a show
The fact is, looks can be very deceiving and if you let your assumptions pick at your brain, they can affect your overall attitude for the entire show. I am a firm believer that if you look like you’re having a good time (even though you may not be), people will still come to your table because you appear to be inviting them over. If you display a poor attitude, people are going to pick up on that and they’ll be reluctant to visit your table. Positivity breeds positivity.
At Awesome Con this year, I had a very similar worry as I was placed pretty much in the heart of the Kid’s Section and I wasn’t sure if Capes & Babes was the most appropriate for the kid’s section. But as it turned out, kids and their parents couldn’t get enough of my Minion Mash-up prints and I ended up securing more commissions than any previous convention I had ever tabled at – so that just proves one can never, ever predict whether or not they have “a bad table position” or if they are simply projecting a bad attitude because they don’t like where they have been positioned.
This second tip is very hard to do since it basically fights the human nature part in all of us but here it is:
Resist the urge to expect equal or greater success at repeat shows
What I mean by that is this:
One year you may go to Incredible Con (totally made up – I think) and do extremely well. Then the following year, you have this attitude that “I did really great at Incredible Con last year so this year, I’m going to do even better!”.
That’s a perfectly natural thing to feel. It’s kind of like an athlete saying “I hit 35 home runs last year so this year, with just a little bit more work, I’m going to hit 45 home runs”. The problem is, no one has the ability to predict the future and sometimes, simply assuming a greater amount of success than the year before can lead to disappointment – especially if your goals are set a little too high. So what have I personally done to combat that? Well, one thing I have tried to do is:
Quit setting expectations for a show
For me, I was absolutely one of those that would fall into the trap of thinking I would make X amount of dollars at the same show last year so that means I’ll make even more this year. Every single time I did that, I never reached my “goals” because they were always too unrealistic to ever be achieved – and that would leave me with a disappointing feeling even though I may have, in reality, had a very good show.
One way I have stopped myself from falling into this trap is that I try to pay my convention table fees in advance through commission work. In my head, if I pay for a table through commission work, that table essentially becomes “free”. so when I get to the show, I’ve already paid for my table in advance through outside work. In the past, I would sometimes have to purchase my table from the paycheck of my day job, so throughout the event, I always had an invisible tab in my head thinking about how much money I needed to make in order to first pay off my table. When I pay off my tables through commissioned work, I don’t have any of those invisible tabs running through my head.
This is mostly just a mind trick I play on myself but being a former baseball player, sometimes, playing tricks on your own mind can be quite beneficial – especially if it keeps your confidence high and your spirits up.
But I digress…
By now, you might be wondering what all of this has to do with opportunity knocking and that would be a fair point.
Getting back to The Smudge Expo, this was a show that I did as I described above… I paid for the modest table fee via commissioned work, so once I got to the event, the show was already paid for (in my brain). The show was also only 30 minutes from my house as well and free parking for the day. All of that was important because all of those factors feed into me having a positive and fun experience at a first year show. For example… the show was only from 12 noon to 6:00pm but since I essentially tricked myself into thinking I had a “free table”, it was no skin off of my back sitting at a table for six hours. I have certainly wasted other saturdays simply sitting on the couch watching TV show marathons – at least here, I had a chance to earn some money.
As it turned out, I was right…
It took a while for the event to get rolling and people to start walking by all of our tables but once they did, they were very receptive to all of our work.
And those double-doors I spoke of earlier? Yeah, that ended up being a pretty good gateway to lots of foot traffic. And I ended up doing quite a bit of caricature sketch card work. In fact I ended up being so busy, I was actually the very last one to pack up my stuff and leave the show – a show that turned out to be pretty profitable after all.
But what does any of this have to do with opportunity knocking?
Glad you brought that up.
A few weeks ago, I got an e-mail from the organizers of The Smudge Expo that remembered my caricature work. As it turns out, they sometimes do promotional events with a bar that’s located next to their building. One of those events was something new they called “Yappy Hour”.
The bar has an outdoor patio so an event was created where people could bring their dogs – yes, you read that right – to the outdoor patio during the usual Friday night Happy Hour (6 – 8 pm). They can sit, drink a little bit and enjoy each other’s dogs. hence the name, “Yappy Hour”.
So, the organizers contacted me and wanted me to come to a couple of Friday night “Yappy Hours” and draw caricatures of people and their dogs. After some discussion about financial compensation, I attended my very first “Yappy Hour” where I drew about five dogs in total – all free to the patrons of the bar. It was something that I had no idea what to expect but as it turns out, I had a really great time, people seemed to really love the idea and they can’t wait for me to come back in two weeks.
And all of that happened because I attended an event earlier in the year and projected a very positive and energetic attitude throughout the event.
This is why we say it’s so very, very important to remember that when you’re sitting behind a table at a convention, you’re not simply an artist sitting behind a table. You are your own brand. And if your brand speaks to people, there might come a time and place where YOU might get invited to your own “Yappy Hour”.
And, just in case anyone is curious, here are the caricatures I did during my very first “Yappy Hour”…
Chris Flick just figured out how to put his photo and bio information at the end of these Webcomic Alliance articles. When he’s not wracking his brain on how to do that, he’s busy being a full time web and graphic designer working in the Washington DC area. When he’s not doing that, he’s working on his Capes & Babes webcomic which he created back in 2007. When he’s not doing ANY of those things, he’s usually at a convention on the east coast of the United States.
Chris has over 900 Capes & Babes strips. You can read them all by going to his website, Capes & Babes. You can also visit his woefully outdated portfolio web site at CSF Graphics. And if you’re interested in seeing some of the wild Minion Mash-ups Chris has become known for, you should visit his Pinterest Minion Mash-Up Board. You can also find Chris on Facebook and Twitter by doing a search for “Capesnbabes”.