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Here for all to share is a compilation of the fruits of this discussion to date. Despite dealers often being criticized as a negative lot, that is not my experience–deep down we are in fact immensely positive. Despite the disappointments we may encounter, we continually pick ourselves up, dust off the pain of poor sales (which we often look at as personal criticism), and march optimistically on to find more wonderful things and show at more shows which we are convinced will be better than the last.

These lists so far support that analysis as there are many more positive Do’s to share with committees than Don’ts!

Lists for Success of Charity Art and Antiques Shows

The Do’s for Show Committees

1.Set a goal for fundraising, reach it (usually within 3 years) and then maintain it. Too much energy is often wasted to “make a bit more” each year. Clarity of mission comes above all else.

2.Set a goal for a well balanced number of dealers representing generalists and specialists, making sure that everyone realizes it is the Show Committee’s responsibility to be sure every dealer succeeds financially. When dealers return every year, you know you have created a successful show!

3.Urge/require EVERY show volunteer to pledge to buy at your show (a minimum of $500 per member is fair and reasonable–and will have a huge impact on the show’s success).

4.Buy early at the show–opening night and first day (after all you had set-up to scope it out!)–then tell all of your friends how excited you are with your purchase. If it is large and still on the stand, bring them by to admire it and meet the dealer.

5.Create a Young/New Collector’s Booth.

6.Create a Hot Design Tips booth showcasing area designers each year, always using only antiques drawn from the show floor together with new fabric and color trends.

7.Create a second evening event geared to a younger group/party hearty crowd — Antiques are Hot” party, etc–with affordable tickets (35-50 per person) with plenty of good beers, interesting wines (all donated of course) and lots of fun finger foods. Add some floor tours conducted by young dealers, young designers, or young in the know committee members.

8.Start all lectures as the lead-in to the day’s excitement of antiques shopping! Have good lunches and cocktails available from noon onward on the floor and mix in some short mini-lectures/chats at various booths throughout the day–an educated clientele is a buying clientele.

9.Set a new standard for your show–move it forward to include mid-20th century modernism BUT be equally firm in standards of quality.

10.Choose your Honorary Chair(s) with an eye to their support of your charity AND their buying support at the show. Remember that with your limited advertising resources you have a “deal” with your dealers–a guarantee of sales. And all of you know who your financial players are–make sure they attend the show, have a great time and are encouraged to not only support you but your dealers.

11.Do choose speakers who will drive their audience straight onto the floor to buy with enthusiasm. Unsure about a lecturer? Call a few of your dealers–they know the good ones and the bad ones. (See some Do Not listings related to this.)

12. Create a fail-proof method to maintain institutional memory. This is happily easier today with computers! Committees owe it to their successors to reveal their failures as well as their successes.

13. Create a dynamic website, easily used with hours and events stressed, and then use facebook, linkedin, twitter, etc. to push it! This is the major route to the younger audience. Your dealers all have–hopefully–strong websites, blogs, etc. Interact constantly with them to stimulate Google and other search engines to bring you to the forefront of the art and antiques world. You want every committee member and friend of your charity visiting regularly.

14. Examine other revenue streams that contribute to your and your dealer’s success, such as catalogues for the show. If you have a catalogue, feature your dealers and make sure their contact information is complete and accurate.

The Don’ts for Show Committees

1.Limit “themes” for a show to ideas that encourage antiques and art collecting. Don’t spend valuable energy on excessive decorating around a theme. At the most successful shows throughout the world, antiques and art are THE theme! Spice it up with a historical collection, etc.–a good snag for PR.

2. Charity shows have a limited advertising budget–spend it ALL and spend it wisely. Focus locally to regionally except for a very few city shows that can draw buyers from across the nation and from Europe. Do not horde the budget to benefit your charity–this money came from dealer rent and you are morally obligated to spend it.

3.Don’t have seated dinners–they kill the activity on the floor, which is why you are having this show instead of a costume ball, etc. Float your party on a sea of fine liquor, excellent champagne and wines, pass tray after tray of superb appetizers and fill every aisle with delightful small food stations, cheese displays, fruit displays, and exquisite desserts.

4.No Silent Auctions. Have an on line auction at another time of the year as another fundraiser–do not sap the strength of this event. Too many of your patrons do not understand that buying these items does not really support the show–only buying from your dealers guarantees a successful event.

5.No lecturers from auction houses–they are not your friend (despite offering their speakers for free) as by seeking to undermine dealers they undermine your show’s future. No dealers, no show.

6. No lecturers with products to sell (unless they are your dealers and they will never self-promote, only show promote). Especially dangerous are the prominent designers who now have all sorts of reproduction lines to peddle–not exactly a stimulus to art and antiques buying.

About the Author

Mary Helen McCoy

Mary Helen McCoy

Mary Helen McCoy is a woman with a mission – that is, to deliver to her clients the ultimate in period furniture and decorative arts. Her firm is considered one of the nation’s premier sou...