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How To Plan A Networking Event /Art Show

Returning to in-person events and meetings following the pandemic was a welcomed change. As a graphic designer and abstract artist, I spend most of my days working alone. However, to combat the isolation (as I wrote in my June 2021 blog), I am a member of a fabulous networking group and two Chambers of Commerce.

Once businesses were able to reopen, I was thrilled to reconnect with members of each group in person. I also felt it was time to have another art show, so the following are the steps I took to combine my professional design and fine art business into one networking event.

Set Your Budget: Creating a realistic budget is the first thing you’ll need to tackle. Estimate the number of guests, venue costs, food/beverage costs (including paper products, etc.), table/chair rental, marketing costs, and other additional expenses. For example, since I wanted to host a networking event/art show, I needed an art gallery that was available during the late afternoon and permission to serve wine and cheese or finger food. I also included costs to prep my artwork, transportation fees, and installation assistance provided by Seija Rohkea.

Find A Location: The second thing you need is a location. The perfect place accommodates your guests, is easy to work with, and allows you to stay within your budget. I chose Hellada Gallery in Long Beach for these reasons as well as the following: 1) The size, location, and space were perfect for a unique networking event and art show. 2) The gallery was available for event rentals; 3) The gallery’s fee included tables, chairs, and access to a refrigerator if needed. I was able to install my artwork the day before the event and come back and remove it the day after. Gallery owner Marek Dzida was great to work with, and the event couldn’t have gone better.

Select Dates & Contact Group Representatives: Next, check with the venue for open dates, select a few for your event and contact the president or representative from each group. Inquire as to whether or not they’re willing to participate in a combined event and, if so, which date they prefer. I approached both the Signal Hill Chamber of Commerce and Long Beach LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce, of which I am a member and board member. The SHCC Board President Adalita Silva and Long Beach LGBTQ+ President Estevan Gamez supported the idea and were excited to participate. Taking into consideration the gallery’s availability and the event calendar of each group, we selected a date far enough in advance to accommodate all parties and secure the venue.

Sponsorship and Volunteers – So, with your budget and location secured, the fourth step is to ask for help! Since I am surrounded by a great group of people, getting help for the event proved easy. Terre Griley from A Change of Space and Kim Kingman from Kingman Virtual Assistance volunteered to be sponsors. Terre was the project manager and coordinated the venue, volunteers, and setup. Kim created a project timeline, detailed task list and provided funds for the food and beverage. We used Asana.com as our management platform and were able to list and assign all tasks, including priority rank and completion date.

In addition, I asked my friend, Branden Butler, to bartend, and each chamber provided a volunteer at their respective check-in tables. Thanks to Susan Wyant, who supplied tallboy drink tables, the gallery looked and worked out great!

Invitations and Marketing – The next step is to tell people! Once your location is reserved, and all groups confirm the date, it’s time to start your marketing and email campaign. Due to the limited space and location of Hellada Gallery, we decided this should be a free, RSVP-only event. So I created an open invitation, and each group sent it out via social media. We included the invitation on each group’s event calendar, and I added it to my monthly newsletters.

The advantage of having the event in an art gallery (aside from showing my work) is that people could come and go at their leisure. The gallery never felt overcrowded, and it was a fun, no-pressure evening with a lot of casual conversation.

Local art galleries are an excellent venue for networking events and a great way to support the arts. Galleries typically exhibit local artists, and art is a great conversation starter or icebreaker!

Many thanks to everyone who attended the event. Please check the links below if you’d like more information on the groups or businesses mentioned. You are also welcome to take a look at the picture gallery here. See you at next year’s event!

Hellada Gallery – https://hellada.us/

Signal Hill Chamber of Commerce – https://www.signalhillchamber.org/

Long Beach LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce – https://www.lbglcc.org/

A Change of Space – https://achangeofspace.co/

Kingman Virtual Assistance – https://kingmanvirtualassistance.com/