How to table intentionally during a non-election year
We have entered an off-cycle year. Have opponents of the Libertarian Party stopping their recruiting efforts? No — and we mustn’t, either. Odd years are a prime time to dive in to outreach events! Everyone is a bit calmer now that the election is over—that goes for both LP activists, and the voters and prospective members we want to meet.
Winter events include car shows, gem and jewelry shows, career fairs, makers’ fairs. And in southern climes, farmers’ markets can run year-round. Consider the event where you will be tabling, and choose two or three LP policy planks that fit the theme. Home and garden expo? Stock up on your property-tax-is-theft fliers. Bridal show? We support private marriage agreements. Gun show? No party is stronger that the LP on the second amendment.
Be intentional about your outreach and you will be more effective every single time your team devotes time and money in an outreach table.
How? Here are some tips for tabling intentionally.
Focus on your goals. Is your goal to promote your organization? Promote your message? Promote an upcoming event? Recruit new members, voters, volunteers, candidates? Sell merchandise? Don’t try to focus on all of these things at once. Pick your top priorities and focus on those.
Timing is Everything
Pick your timing carefully based on target audience, location, local events, etc., so that you can maximize your effectiveness.
If at all possible, have two or three team members man the table. This helps give leeway, in case someone has to step away to solve a problem or take a restroom break. If your event runs for multiple days and you need to organize many time slots, consider using an on-line tool such as SignUpGenius.com.
Confirm with your volunteers the day before, to make sure they remember to show up, that they understand the value of tabling, and know these basic tips.
Location, location, location!
Position your table as optimally as you can. Sometimes you get to choose your spot; sometimes you don’t. If possible, position it where there is the most foot traffic.
Set up before the event or your allotted time frame begins. This will help your organization to:
- look organized, and
- have plenty of time during the event or allotted time frame to perform the tabling.
On your feet, soldier!
Bring your comfortable shoes, and ditch the chairs. Your team needs to be standing, not sitting. Standing will help them interact with visitors more actively. If chairs remain behind the table, your team will be undoubtedly use them. So remove the temptation unless, of course, one of your team members is elderly or disabled.
Provide limited quantities of each material on the table itself. Keep extra copies out of sight, in files below your table. Too many copies on a table makes the materials look unpopular, and visitors are less likely to approach your table.
Keep it tidy
Keep your table tidy. No drinks or trash on the table! Monitor this carefully and regularly.
Step back and look at your table. Is it appealing and welcoming? Does it present your organization, cause, and/or candidate in a positive light?
Consider connecting your table with relevant local events and issues. If there is an issue in the news that folks are passionate about, consider putting a Libertarian twist on it, create handouts and talking points, and use the table to educate voters on the Libertarian approach on this issue. Consider highlighting this issue in your signage.
Always remain calm and professional, especially when it is challenging to do so. There will be confrontational situations when visitors are difficult or even trying to egg you on. Don’t take the bait. Other folks are watching. One of the best ways to win folks to our cause is to be extra polished, calm, and professional.
If someone is trying to put you on the spot and you can’t think of a good response, consider asking them for their contact info. Tell them that you’ll be happy to e-mail them once you’ve had more time to think over the matter. Respectful and reasonable visitors will appreciate this and take you up on it. Others who are just trying to make your life difficult most likely won’t. Either way, it avoids your being distracted for a long period of time with a difficult situation. You need to be able to get back to focusing on outreach to other visitors.
When conversations happen, try to move the discussion over to the side of the table so as not to block the table and materials from other passersby.
Avoid chitchat among team members
Avoid conversations among your team members. You are all there to reach out to others, not to chitchat with each other — no matter how tempting it may be. This is another good reason to set up before the event, so that your volunteers can chat a bit before the tabling begins, thus will be less tempted once the event is underway. Again, everyone needs to stay focused. Table intentionally!
If you are collecting money (e.g., from collecting dues, selling merchandise, accepting donations), keep the money in a locked box, out of sight.
Actively engage visitors. As folks approach, focus on them. Make eye contact. Smile. This will make them more likely to come to your table. Get their attention. Hand them a flier or brochure. Ask them if they have heard of your organization or cause. Invite them to come to your event. Invite them to sign up on your sheet or participate in your drawing.
Photographers and news crews tend to show up when you least expect them. Event hosts, and even venue management, may hire professional photographers to work the event, taking both posed and candid images of attendees, sponsors, speakers, vendors, and others.
Therefore, it is not unreasonable to expect that a photographer will be sharing a picture of your table (even if it’s just in the background) with anyone from an art director to a friend. If it is a good photo, chances are it will be considered for use in news articles, on social media, and any number of other places.
If your table looks nice, professional, and it not only represents your organization well but the event itself, the photographer will find you. They are on a mission to get great event shots to turn in, and you want your table and your brand to be a part of that wonderful opportunity for exposure. In other words, keep a smile on your face and branded materials (if at all possible) in your hand.
After the event
Make sure you or a highly reliable person has the contact info which was collected. Type up that info ASAP and share it with whoever is appropriate, for example, the state party, county party, national party, candidates.
Follow up with your new contacts. Thank them for stopping by. Send them a link to your organization’s web site, and potentially web sites of other relevant groups or candidates. Invite them to your next event. “Friend” them on Facebook. And so on. Be friendly, but respect their privacy, and don’t annoy them.
Consider how your tabling went. Was it productive? What would you like to have had on hand that you didn’t? What can you improve upon next time?
Consider writing up a short, upbeat article about how the event went, and share it in your newsletter, web site, in e-mail blasts, and/or with your social-media audience. Be sure to recognize your team members, mention any special visitors, share images from the event, and thank everyone for attending.
Tremendous resources are available to activists, candidates, and campaign volunteers of the LP of California, as an affiliate of the national Libertarian Party. Many of the tools are easily accessible at the web site LPAction.org, managed by Andy Burns, the LNC’s state affiliate development specialist.