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Bicycle Buddha » Blog Archive » Tabling for dummies

Tabling for dummies

Quick tips for how to run a successful INFO TABLE or flyer a crowd at an event
humbly offered up by ME! carmen@emeraldcity.bc.ca

Tabling or flyering can be a very effective way to promote your issue, organization or event. It’s also a fun way to participate in events, with a cozy place to hang out and enjoy the action. But, you have to do it right or you will waste valuable time, space, and money. Here are a few tips gleaned from my many hours of tabling, for your use and pleasure – please feel free to share.

Quick tips for how to run a successful INFO TABLE or flyer a crowd at an event:

Your table should be visible and well located – get there early to snag a juicy spot. Keep it tidy and not overfull of stuff (like the one above, which is cluttered – but nice t-shirts eh?). Don’t place other people’s propaganda on your table unless it is really relevant. Keep your coffee mugs, lunch, and detritus off the table.

Checklist:
– folding table and chairs (if not supplied)
– tarp or clear plastic sheet to cover in case of rain
– shade/rain structure
– a large, clear, visible sign or banner above table height
– identifying t-shirts or hats for tablers if you have them
– stands/tripods for visual displays
– bright coloured table cloth
– fat markers, scrap paper for signs, clear tape and duct tape, string and heavy twine, scissors, knife, extra pens (several)
– if you have stuff for sale: change, envelopes, receipt book
– clipboards with pens attached on strings – and if you are walking around with them, big interesting signs on the back
– takeaway materials (flyers, stickers, goodies)
– rocks to weigh down takeaway materials

Getting people to approach your table, take your stuff, sign your thing, etc:

– identify and remember what is your highest priority objective for this table/flyering: eg, to gather petition signatures, recruit volunteers, gather contacts, sign postcards, distribute information, raise public awareness, invite people to an event, inspire further action, or…?

– remind your tablers that you are there to do a MISSION, not to socialize! Stay mindful of the crowd and make eye contact with people. DO NOT spend the whole event chatting with your lovely co-tablers

– also don’t spend the event shmoozing with friends over the table as they come around…keep an eye out for people coming by, and make sure your friends don’t crowd around the table so no one can approach

– DO NOT ATTACK PEOPLE – lure them to you like fish: make eye contact and gently beckon, wave your flyer or sign, and invite them to take it from your hand (don’t thrust it  at them)

– if you are walking around with a clipboard, do not gang up and swarm anyone

– ask if they have heard about this event/issue – as if, they should already know about it

– offer goodies or stickers – kids love stickers.

– if people approach, let them take a look at your table first, then ask if they live nearby or some other question which gets them personally involved

– LET PEOPLE TALK. Listen to their ideas and opinions respectfully – you might learn something. Do not interrupt. You can add information eventually, but the most effective thing is to LISTEN.

EXPERIMENT to see what points will interest or pursuade people. Different points work for different people. Some good angles may be:
-a recent “win”  (“last month the Provincial Govt. cancelled this dam project and now we need to move forward…”)
-a local angle (“did you know your street is slated for widening for more highway access?”)
-a timely hook (“what are you doing for Earth Day?”)
-an urgent timeline (“we need 10,000 signatures on this petition by Friday”)

– If people are opposed to your issue, or have objections, hear them out. When they are finished making their point, tell them you hear what they are saying, and then you may be able to gently offer contradictions or new information. Sometimes they are genuinely looking for more information, and may be partially onside or pursuadable. Don’t argue with people, you can’t browbeat them into submision – give them info and let them come to their own conclusions.

– DON’T ARGUE WITH TROLLS. It is usually obvious when someone’s mind is totally made up and they just want to rant or pick a fight – it is not worth your time to argue with them. Refuse to engage. Nod, shrug, look bored, and they will usually go away. If they don’t, politely thank them and say goodbye – that should signal them to go annoy somebody else.

– when people are interested, they will ask “what can I do?” – be sure to have an answer for them, or better yet, an immediate action (write this postcard! sign our alert list! fold this origami crane!)

– be sure to have a take-away piece to offer – esp. one that tells them clearly how to take further action – or what the next event/action will be (it is always best to have one planned)

Getting signups

Often, the most important thing is to gather names for your MAILING LIST – your list is gold. If so, make sure you have:

– working pens attached by string to clipboards
– signs on or near clipboards saying SIGN HERE FOR ACTION ALERTS (etc)
– clear pre-printed signup sheets with enough room for people to write in columns for: name, email, phone (if you really want it), interests/resources
– always fill in a fake signup at the top of every new sheet – people will hesitate to be the first name on the sheet! and they will only fill in all the info correctly if the signer above has done it, so provide a good example
– assure signers that they will not be spammed! (and mean it) – tell them exactly how often the list will be used and for what purpose
– if they agree to sign, ask them to write their email LEGIBLY and watch them write it, then repeat it back to them and re-write it neatly if necessary
– thank them warmly and sincerely!

I am available to do table tutoring for staff and volunteers. Ask me.

Happy tabling!

-C.
carmen@emeraldcity.bc.ca_

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