Monday, 7 October 2013

Setting up a booth at events: Is it worth your time and money?

On Sept. 21 and 22, writers, readers, booksellers, and professional organizations gathered in five cities across the country for Word on the Street events.

Described as a national celebration of literacy and the written word, the event features readings, signings, children’s activities, and a marketplace.

In Saskatoon, the Professional Writers’ Association of Canada Saskatchewan Chapter shared a booth in the marketplace with the Saskatchewan branch of the Editors’ Association of Canada. Our tables were set up by 9:30 a.m., and volunteers from each organization manned them all day until 5 p.m.

PWAC-SK member Darrell Noakes at The Word on the Street in Saskatoon.
photo: Ashleigh Mattern.

Was it worth the effort?

PWAC Sask didn’t gain any immediate new members from participating in the event, but then again, we didn’t expect to. This is an event mostly for readers, and while some readers are also writers, most people weren’t heading to the event looking for professional support.

But by the end of the day, we had spoken to dozens of people who hadn’t heard of PWAC before. Our name was in the promotional material, and who knows how many people took note as they walked past, without talking to us. As a way to advertise the PWAC brand, it was a pretty affordable venture.

Also, sharing the booth with the EAC gave members of both groups a chance to chat with one another. We even hatched plans to do more collaborative work together since our organizations have such similar aims. 

Organizing the event did not take too much effort. A form mailed, a cheque sent, a few emails, promotional materials ordered, and we were good to go. And now we have leftover promotional materials that could be used at our next event.

To booth or not to booth?

When the discussion comes up about whether we should do it again, I’ll vote that we do. Word on the Street is a fun event, so I certainly didn’t mind spending the day there.

Next year, I’ll also recommend name tags for the booth sitters, and more prominent signage to boost the advertising factor, both of which the EAC had at their table.

But not every event is created equal; fellow PWAC member Doreen Pendgracs posted a story about her experience at a trade show, but she did not see much value in setting up a table there. Her view is worth a read!

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