|MAKE EXHIBIT BOOTHS WORTH THE EFFORT|
|Every community has opportunities for setting up some sort of table-top or booth exhibit in a public place as a method of publicizing your organization and recruiting new volunteers. It's a traditional technique that continues to be useful, but it can be very time and labor intensive.|
Your goal is to create an exhibit that represents you well. Although you can spend a great deal of money on display boards or printed banners, it is possible to design a low-cost exhibit that does the job for you. Start by looking for a volunteer with some experience in creating exhibit booths and you will not have to struggle alone.
Here are some variables that affect the content and format of what you will display:
- Will you be staffing the exhibit all the time or will the materials be unattended?
- If unattended, do you want visitors to focus on large visuals only, take-and-read literature, or something more interactive such as a self-running slide show or video?
- How will the display draw visitors to your table or take action after the exhibit?
- How can you make the materials portable, lightweight and durable? (You will want to use the basic exhibit materials as often as possible.)
- Will the public be walking all around the exhibit or just in front?
- How can you get some height in the materials so that the display will be visible from a distance?
- How can you create banners or posters that are adaptable to different ways of being mounted?
- Will there be space under or behind the area to store packing and inventory boxes?
- Which parts of the exhibit content will be considered permanent and which can be changed to suit each venue?
Budget, time available, and artistic talent will affect all of your choices.
Communicate Clearly and in Several Ways
Once you have determined your physical format abilities and limitations, your biggest challenge (as always) is to focus your message.
Is this exhibit trying to accomplish more than one thing? For example, it is common to use a booth to explain an organization's services to prospective clients as well as to do volunteer recruitment. So you need to design the exhibit to communicate both as clearly as possible. For example, perhaps you can divide the space so that your volunteer recruitment message is separated from the other information.
Because most people will only spend a few moments at your booth, it is vital to have printed materials to take away to read when they have more time. These days, the single most important bit of information is your organization's Web site URL! You can also give people the option of signing up for more information to be sent later. This gives you the benefit of obtaining their names and addresses for more personal outreach and follow up.
These days it is comparatively easy to set up a laptop with a video, but the truth is that many exhibit areas are noisy, visitors want to move on, and - unless you can project the image to make it larger and eye-level - it will probably be ignored. The laptop itself also needs to be secured from theft.
Location, Location, Location
Because staffing a booth takes enormous time, this recruitment option may be too costly (in the time and energy to staff it) when weighed against the likely payback. So your most important decision is selecting the right place to put your exhibit.
You can ask to include a volunteer recruitment table at an already-scheduled community event, piggybacking on the work of others to get out a crowd. The variety of such events is endless, from job opportunity expositions for high school seniors to health fairs. Work with your potential source of volunteers to determine the best type of exhibit, timing, etc. for that location.
If you participate in community-wide events such as shopping mall fairs, you can hope for increased visibility but have to accept the fact that the majority of people who come by will care little about your work. On the other hand, if you have found a spot within an event targeted more closely to your work, you will be meeting a large number of people with great potential to fill your needs (and probably have less competition from other volunteer recruiters). For example, if you need volunteers to do home repairs or winterizing for seniors, it might make sense to exhibit at a local home improvement show.
Once you know where you'll be exhibiting and who is likely to be in attendance, you can then adapt your exhibit as much as possible to each location, such as changing photographs to show scenes of greatest interest to that audience.
This Quick Tip comes from
Susan J. Ellis, President of Energize, Inc.
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