So let’s take it one step at a time. You have your list of people you want to meet who are potential supporters, and you have printed out their pictures so you recognize them when you see them. Now you are at an opening reception, alone. Don’t bring a friend or you are sure not to meet the person you are seeking, or even someone new, because you will be talking to your friend the whole time. Look around at the whole scene. See if you recognize anyone from your research. You may or may not see someone, but look. If you don’t see someone you know from your research, then be a detective. You can tell who is the wealthiest by the clothes they are wearing, their shoes, their watches, and other accessories. Now is the time to be brave; you really have nothing to lose here. If you recognize someone or they just seem like they would be a good patron from their dress and attitude, go up to them, be confident, and hold your head high, extend your hand for a firm handshake, and say, “Hello, my name is X, I’d like to introduce myself.” They will shake your hand back, and all the while, look at them right in the eye and be confident.
If you act too nervous or skittish, you will make the person you are trying to meet feel the same way. So do your best, and after introducing yourself, if they do not introduce themselves right away, ask them, “May I ask your name?” They will tell you, and then you can begin a brief conversation. Ask them what their favorite work in the show is and listen carefully to what they say. Respond to their words thoughtfully. If they say they do not like a particular work, ask why. Then in the conversation that ensues, offer your own thoughts. Don’t make jokes, curse, or say anything negative. Be upbeat and enjoy yourself. They will most likely ask what you do, and that is your opening to say that you are an artist. If they do not ask, then you can say, “I am an artist.” And then add your own comment about the show and why you came there.
Don’t talk too long because you want to end the conversation gracefully, so take out a business card and hand it to the person you are talking to, with the printed side facing them so they can read it, and say, “I’d like to give you my card.” If you don’t have a card, by the way, print some now! You just need your name and email address and either the word “artist” on there or something about your medium. I prefer just having the one word “artist” on mine. Then ask if you can have their busi- ness card. They will usually hand it right over to you, but even if they do not, tell them it was nice talking to them and to have a nice evening. Then shake their hand firmly, smile, make good eye contact, and move on to another person the same way. If you didn’t get their card, remember their name and write it down a piece of paper. At first you will feel awkward doing this, but after a little practice, you will get better and better, and before long, you will be collecting many cards from people who could be potential patrons of your art.
To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here. To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.