How to Work a Booth

I’ve been doing some spring cleaning (shut UP! I know it’s June!), and while sorting through old papers, I found my copy of the Friends of Lulu booth guidelines from 1996. Since convention season is heating up, maybe some small publishers might find these tips helpful. (I’ve heavily excerpted the document to make it more general.)

Opening the Booth

A coordinator should have been designated in advance to take charge of booth setup. Make sure that all boxes and supplies are on site. Set up the banner or any signage to be sure the booth is visible. Set out brochures and promotional material attractively; make sure the table isn’t cluttered or over-stocked. Put up signs announcing time and location of any panels or professional signings.

Key Booth Contents

  • Brochures/flyers and membership renewal forms.
  • Money belt and receipt book. Give everyone who gives money a receipt, whether membership fee or donation. Make sure the money belt is secure at all times, and return it to the booth coordinator at the end of the day.
  • Clipboard for mailing list signups.
  • Items for sale (usually t-shirts). The coordinator should let everyone working know what is for sale, the prices, and whether or not to charge tax.
  • Supply box. Contains scissors, tape, shipping forms (to return booth setup), pens, poster board.
  • List of panels/signings for Lulu-related events.
  • Tablecloth or covering to make the booth distinctive and attractive.
  • Staffing schedule, setting out who’s working the booth when. Try to schedule at least two people, making sure that at least one of them is experienced. Keep shifts short if possible to allow people to recharge.

Working the Booth

Remember the purpose of the convention appearance. Friends of Lulu’s goal is to sign up members and spread the word about the organization.

Be professional and knowledgeable about the organization.* Keep the booth tidy. Keep in mind how you like to be approached; be sensitive to regional and convention differences in expected behavior. Don’t spend too much time socializing; remember, you’ve volunteered to work. Don’t act starry-eyed when a professional approaches.

*Half of the FOL booklet is a Frequently Asked Questions list to bring new volunteers up to speed on the organization and what to say and not say when representing them.

If you’re working the booth, you must be able to talk to strangers comfortably. If you would like to assist but you aren’t outgoing, let the coordinator know, so she may find you other appropriate duties. As people walk by, make eye contact and initiate conversations. One good opening question is, “Are you familiar with Friends of Lulu?”

Acknowledge anyone who approaches. If you’re in the middle of a conversation with a potential member, excuse yourself briefly and let the new visitor that you will be right with them. Give out brochures so visitors have the key information to take with them. (But don’t push a brochure on someone who clearly doesn’t want one.) If a member stops by, make sure they’re aware of current projects and activities. Offer them the opportunity to renew their membership.

Keep personal items out of sight. This not only looks more professional, it helps prevent theft. Also, don’t eat, drink, or smoke at the booth.

Clearly label materials as “free” or with the price in large, bold lettering.

Closing the Booth

The coordinator or someone she’s designated will close the booth by boxing up the supplies and taking responsibility for the money belt. She will also double-check the receipt book against the forms and money collected.

The Big Picture

Make sure someone’s at the booth at all times.

Select conventions to attend early (even as far ahead as the end of the previous year). Consider audience and demographics.

Figure out the purpose for the convention appearance and evaluate the experience afterwards to see if the purpose was met.

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