With over 20,000 students milling around you, buzzing to and from over 200 booths, the Anteater Involvement Fair can get a bit overwhelming. Looking at all these people, you may be tempted to ask yourself, “What’s the game plan? What can my team do to get the most out of this event?”
As you try to craft a plan of attack during a rare moment of peace, waves of students swarm your booth, forcing you to address multiple questions simultaneously — and all you can give are hurried half responses. Multiple voices ask to sign up for the email list, but there’s only one clipboard, and a dried out pen kept around as it occasionally still produces a dribble of ink.
Really though, you weren’t unprepared. You initially had a plan for an impressive flat-screen display, complete with big letters, bright colors, and cool graphics that all combined into the perfect attention grabber. Unfortunately, this came crashing down the moment you realized there was no electric outlet in Aldrich Park, leaving your magnificent plan as nonfunctional as your display screen.
You signed up for boothing for the increased exposure to students who would benefit from your program or club, but instead you’ve got a black screen, a broken pen, and a wavering audience. You find yourself asking, “Where’s the reset button?”
Does this situation sound familiar?
Boothing is an art form, and like any art form, the more you fail at it, the better at boothing you will eventually get. Take it from us, the more you booth, the more experience you gain — and by this point the Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning (OVPTL) has a LOT of experience (and failures!) to share. Let us help YOU get the most out of your boothing experience — putting you and your club on a path to success!
Know Your Space – You may have heard this one before, but it might take you a few horrible setups to heed the advice. It is extremely important to know the space where you’re going to be boothing, as each location will have specific requirements. Whether that’s Aldrich Park or Ring Road, make sure to consider environmental factors like muddy grass, potential rain, or heavy winds, and plan accordingly. Wind is a particular problem when boothing in Aldrich Park, so make sure to bring along plenty of objects to weigh or tape down your materials and your canopy’s corners — and keep an eye out for falling branches! Once you get a mental picture of what, where, and how things are going to proceed, you can better plan your strategy.
Come Prepared – Do you have a booth in a box? If you don’t, you need to get both. A good booth means an easy transport, set-up, tear-down, and take-home process. Once you have figured out the elements to your booth, you should figure out how to fit it all in a single box, preferably something with wheels for easy transportation. Having wheels will give you the ability to carry other items besides the essentials that can help make your booth more distinctive and memorable, such as banners, decorations, and special props. More things mean more opportunities to gain attention, which translates to increased traction at the event where you’ll be boothing. Some departments use spinner wheels, banner signs, and picture cut outs. Whatever your props may be, plan to carry them to and from the event. Make this part easier by making your booth “mobile.”
Overestimate – Have you ever been in a situation where there’s more people in front of you than you have clipboards? You need to be prepared to collect their information as fast as possible, making it in your best interests to streamline the process for everyone involved. To make sure it proceeds smoothly, bring more than enough pens and sign in sheets to take down multiple people’s information during peak times of interest. When boothing, it’s best to be over prepared, which means bringing extra pens, extra swag, extra paper, extra tape, extra flyers, extra everything.
Be Outgoing – Attitude is everything! Your booth set up could be the first (and last) impression people will have of your program or club. Cultivating a relaxing, positive environment is key to making people want to pause long enough to read materials, create connections, and exchange stories.
Most importantly, GET OFF YOUR PHONE! If you sit behind the booth staring at your phone, talking to your co-boother rather than the audience, your booth will exude low energy, and generally not do very well. On the other hand, while it is important to be outgoing, always remember the difference between outgoing and annoying. Be respectful of all those who pass by your booth, but be excited to share your story! Engage with them to let them know what problem you’re solving, how you’re solving it, and who you’re solving it for. Get to the point because less is always more. Consider rotating between a few easy, attention catching phrases which can be used to draw in even an highly distracted mobile audience.
The More Help, the Better – When you’re dealing with high traffic, it’s a numbers game. The number of people working with your booth is directly proportional to the number of contacts you can make at an event. Having two behind the booth and two out in front of the booth is a nice assurance that the booth can handle a large crowd. If you have extra people, send them around to all the other booths to gather information and broaden the scope of your contacts. You never know where you might find a strategic startup alliances or more emails to add to your own mailing list.
Fortune is in the Follow Up – You may have heard this age-old adage before: “Fortune is in the follow-up.” Therefore, make sure you follow-up with the contacts you make — if possible, immediately after you booth. This may seem very obvious, but it’s astounding how many people do not follow up after an event. I’m sure you have signed up for mailing lists and then never heard from them afterwards. That is bad business. Have people on your team ready to input the names and emails the same day (or as soon as you can) and get your follow up email out as fast as possible. Remember that people sign up for a ton of stuff, and you want to make sure you are in their inbox first. Make a good impression right out the gates, and it will earn you recognition and respect. If you get a massive amount of contacts you should allocate most of the entire day after the event organizing follow-up correspondence. Once again, for good measure let me remind you that, “Fortune is in the follow-up.”
In order to support your boothing efforts, the OVPTL has purchased two pop up shades, and if your unit or department needs to borrow them so that you can booth in the shade, email Ryan Foland at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange reserving one.