086: The Bologna Children's Book Fair in person (or at home)
A plan for Bologna
☕️ I’ll be “attending” Bologna from home, but one day I’ll make it in person. Whether you make the trip or find some ways clever ways to get plugged into the event from home, here are some ways you can get value from the event.
What is the Bologna Children's Book Fair
As an illustrator, the Bologna Children's Book Fair is a huge opportunity for you to gain exposure, make connections, and take your career to the next level. Whether you're attending in person or tuning in from home, it's important to make the most of this event. Here's what I would do before, during, and after the fair (based on the other trade shows I’ve attended in the past):
Before the Event:
Do Your Homework: Research the companies and individuals who will be attending the fair, and make a list of the ones you want to connect with.
Be Prepared: Make sure you have a portfolio of your best work, a stack of business cards, and a concise summary of your skills and experience. Also, take some time to tidy up up your online presence (website, social media).
Network, Network, Network: Take advantage of the fact everyone is in networking mode. Reach out to industry professionals and other illustrators to introduce yourself and your work. Attend local events and join professional organizations to build relationships before the fair.
Develop a pitch. A word-for-word presentation that you can use to describe who you are and what you do. Practice it a hundred times. End by stating what you offer or what you’re aiming to do at the fair. Have a 3-minute version and a 30-second version. But be ready to expand on the points in your pitch.
During the Event:
Get Educated: Attend workshops and seminars to learn about the latest trends and techniques in the industry. The timely nuances of these workshops will bring freshness to your practice.
Make Connections: Take advantage of this opportunity to make friends with industry professionals, including publishers, agents, and other illustrators. The focus should be on building relationships, not just promoting your work.
Ask for Feedback: Seek feedback on your work from industry professionals and other illustrators. It's a great way to improve and grow. A few personalized words from someone that inspires you could catapult you to new levels!
Collaborate: Look for opportunities to collaborate with other professionals in the industry. I’m part of a small critique group of illustrators, and a number of them WILL be attending, and I’m looking forward to experiencing it vicariously through them.
Quality Over Quantity: Make sure your work stands out by focusing on quality. That normally means spending more time revising each piece.
After the Event:
Follow-Up: Follow up with the contacts you made at the fair. Send a thank you note and update them on any new developments or projects you are working on. use your calendar to schedule follow-ups and write notes to keep that conversation alive, and remember their kids or their projects.
Reflect and Evaluate: Take some time to reflect on your experience at the fair. What worked well and what could have been improved? Use this information to make changes for next time. And set goals to evaluate yourself against.
Take Action: Implement any lessons you learned at the fair and make changes to your approach and portfolio as needed.
What to Do During the Event Even If You're Not Going:
Most of us will NOT be making the trip to Italy on the 7th of March, but we should still use the fair as a launchpad for the next phase of our practice. Here are some of the ways I’ll be ‘using’ the event.
Stay Informed: Research the fair and the companies and individuals who will be attending. Look out for recordings or online live events to keep up to date with the goings on in the industry. I’ll also reach out to attendees that I know to get a sense of the things that stood out to them.
Connect Online: Take advantage of social media and online communities to connect with industry professionals. Stalk the hashtag: #BCBF23 and jump into conversations always look to add value. Stalk their tweets and stories, see the fair to their eyes, and engage with them about it!
Reach Out: Reach out to the companies and individuals you're interested in working with to introduce yourself and your work. Use the event as an opportunity. One opener I’ve used is “Hey, I wasn’t able to make it this year, but I really wanted to introduce myself anyway.”
I made this checklist for myself, but I hope it’s helpful to you too. Whether you're attending in person or participating virtually, focus on building relationships, seeking feedback, and taking advantage of every opportunity to grow and succeed in the industry.
If you know someone who might find this information valuable, please share it with them. And please use the comments to share your own tips for networking and connecting with the industry. I’ve been really happy about all the recent activity in the comments and I hope it will continue.
See you in there!
I will be there, but in the middle of a 5-week interrailing round Europe adventure, so won't be able to bring a portfolio, etc. So my plan is to 'walk the show' and soak it all in and note down publishers I'd like to get in touch with down the road, particularly non-UK publishers. I'll also drop by the stand of a packager/publisher I've been working with to say 'hi'. And hopefully I'll also bump into other illustrators I know and catch up, but that's not an essential part of it this time. I'll also be staying down the trainline a bit in Ferrara, rather than in Bologna itself, so won't be able to hang out in the evenings (or not till late anyway).
Very excited to attend, though!
So much great advice! Thanks for sharing it.