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(From Vegetarian Union of North America)

Reaching out through a table or booth at a public event

Setting up a table/booth at a public event

1. Be sure that the name of your group appears on a sign or banner prominently displayed and visible from a distance. People want to know who you are.

2. Have an appropriate amount of change in a cash box or other suitable container. The cash box should also contain a sales tax table (correct percentage for where you are selling), pens, pencils, tape, scratch paper, etc. As the day goes on, if you are accumulating a considerable amount of money in the cash box, take out all cash except what you need to make change and put it in a safe place (your pocket is safer than the cash box). Do not neglect to do this, so that the risk of theft can be kept to a minimum.

Keep careful records of financial transactions according to treasurer’s guidelines: keep a record of donations, memberships, sales, and sales tax, separately.

3. Make the table display as attractive as possible. A tablecloth perhaps, a variety of colorful books, shirts, eye-catching signs, posters, etc., will draw people over. Hang up shirts if you can instead of just putting them flat on a table.

4. Put free literature front and center to make it as easy as possible for people to pick up something and take it with them. Try to have a recipe sheet you can give away. Make it as clear as possible what is free and what is for sale.

5. Make sure all literature and merchandise on the table has to do with vegetarianism. We may be concerned about other issues, such as the use of animals in research, recycling, etc. but our purpose in tabling is to educate people about vegetarianism, period. Don’t permit the table’s impact to be weakened by including other issues.

6. As people approach the table, stand up and engage them in friendly conversation–just standing or sitting there looking healthy is not enough. Suitable openers might be, “Would you like some free information about the benefits of a vegetarian diet?” “Would you like a list of area restaurants that offer vegetarian meals?” (offer Dining Guide). “Have you thought about cutting down your meat consumption?”

7. Always provide a sign-up sheet that offers further contact. Usually that contact would be a promise to receive the next issue of your newsletter or to notify people of an upcoming event you’re planning. If you are tabling at a large gathering at which you might reasonably expect more than 75 people to sign your sheet, it is best not to promise a newsletter. Promise instead to notify about an upcoming event. It is much less expensive to print and send out a postcard about an event than to print and send out a newsletter, and quite often people who come by your booth at a large festival have only a surface interest.

Forward a copy of these sign-up sheets to the Secretary (or whoever keeps track of the mailing list) to be added to the mailing list. This is more important for small groups for whom adding a few new members would be a big boost than for large groups, which will probably find it too much work and cost for minimal response.

8. The person in charge of the booth should know prices of all merchandise for sale. Take an up-to-date price list of all merchandise. All items should be marked with the price, whenever possible. Please instruct volunteers to hold back an item of merchandise from sale if they don’t know the price–it is much preferable to miss a sale and have the item in our stock to sell later than to lose money by selling the item at or below cost. An exception to this rule might be the selling of perishable food.

9. Be sure to charge the appropriate sales tax on every item of merchandise sold. If you don’t do this, you lose money, because whether or not you collect sales tax from the customer, you have to pay it to the state, province, or city. If you have questions about what percentage of tax you should be charging, be sure to clarify that before the event by calling your local sales tax office.

10. As the day goes on, straighten literature periodically to maintain a neat appearance of the table. For outdoor events, have with you a plastic sheet of some kind for a quick cover if it rains, and a bunch of clean rocks (or rubber bands) you can use to keep pamphlets from blowing away if it’s windy. Protect the free literature as carefully from moisture and excessive dust as you would the merchandise for sale. We may be giving free literature away, but we have a considerable investment in it due to printing and paper costs.

11. Don’t permit the booth to become so crowded with your own volunteers chatting with each other that the public is discouraged from approaching the table. Cut short conversations with friends in order to serve the public.

Do visit with your volunteers during slow times, to get to know them better and help them feel involved with the group.

12. If someone asks you a question about vegetarianism to which you don’t know the answer, try to get their name and phone number. Offer to find out the answer and call them back–then do it. This is much preferable to giving incorrect information, or none.

13. If someone shows an interest in an item you can’t supply right then, e.g., a certain T-shirt in another size, give them a merchandise brochure and invite them to place an order for it. (Orders must be prepaid.) If they don’t want to do that, suggest they take the merchandise brochure along and place the order by mail.

14. Let all volunteers know you appreciate their willingness to give their time to the cause.

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