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Selling yourself

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How final-year students can show off their work to best advantage without having to incur too much debt

For a student, an exhibition is the best promotional opportunity: the chance to trap the attention of clients, peers and friends in an intimate environment;

yet most people perceive the solo show as being too expensive and time-consuming to consider as a marketing option. Even a modest display of drawings can cost a few hundred pounds. Add a display case or two, some tensile wires and lighting, and you are in the thousands. How then, to put on a great show with minuscule resources?

With the exception of a small contribution towards expenses by the school itself, no major grants or bursaries are available. Increasingly, however, industry is willing to step in and provide the necessary financial and operational support. Small practices, as well as students, have much to gain from this growing trend.

Unit 11, a design unit at the Bartlett, shows how it can be done. As many marketing budgets are tied up for months and years ahead, contact was made with companies early, and continued right up until the opening night. Four types of variously-priced packages were developed to be competitive with other promotional media. Companies were told of visitor numbers and assured of a degree of exclusivity.

Crucial to the success of the exhibition was the partnership package, which was developed to obtain non-financial assistance in addition to a lump-sum contribution to production costs. Larger companies like Corus, which has a history of association with the architectural sector, are willing to work with architects in this way, as part of a longerterm marketing programme.

Just two weeks before the opening night, coldcalling was the most powerful weapon available:

telephone and fax were used in tandem to sell a clear message and the pitch was tailored to suit the company precisely.

With this dynamic approach, the revenue gained was sufficient to cover not only the fabrication costs of the exhibition but also to make enough profit to pay for photographic equipment for the future use of the unit.

In the Bartlett's case, joint undertakings allowed for the purchase, developing and editing of a stop-action 16mm film used by to explore specific aspects of the students'projects. These will no doubt be sent out with CVs for many years to come.

Simon Goode devised and managed the marketing of the Unit 11 exhibition during his diploma years

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