Sharing a Convention Booth
Sharing a booth at a convention is an excellent way to secure a larger presence at a convention than your could afford on your own. And if your comic and the comics of your fellow exhibitors share a common theme or approach, the synergy could help you to cross promote at the table and boost the sales of each other’s merchandise. But like all experiences that involve a group of people, things can get nasty fast if you don’t spend a little time discussing expectations, ground rules and contingencies before the show starts. Here are a few topics to discuss.
Set-up and tear-down
Erecting and striking a booth can entail a lot of moving parts and a fair amount of work. It’s not fair to place all of the responsibility and labor on one set of shoulders. Try to make sure that everyone is pitching in to help get the job done.
Division of labor
Beyond set-up and tear-down, there’s lots of responsibilities involved in running a booth. From shipping booth supplies to the convention center to picking up a box of bottled water, there ‘s plenty of things to keep everybody busy preparing for the show. Get on a conference call and make a list of the things that you’ll need — banner, tablecloth, money box, etc. — and divide up the jobs so each member pitches in.
If the group is too large to occupy the booth at the same time, you’ll want to agree of a schedule ahead of time. Try to make sure that every member gets an opportunity to be at the booth during times that you expect traffic to peak.
It’s inevitable that someone will be engaged with a fan when its time to abdicate his place at the booth. This person should wrap things up as quickly as possible. If there are people waiting in line, he should announce when he is scheduled to return to the table. When your time’s up, your time’s up.
Every booth tends to have a corner or area that seems to get the most traffic. I say “seems” because I’m also pretty confident that if someone’s looking for you, they’re not going to miss you standing three feet to the left of the “hot” corner. Nevertheless, some corners of the booth might get blocked by a neighbor’s traffic… they might have bad sight lines to the surrounding aisles… there might be any number of reasons that a boothmate might not want to be pigeonholed in one spot behind the table.
It might be wise to set up a rotation so that no single member of the group gets stuck in a bad spot all weekend long.
Depending on how much space you have behind the table, you might need to discuss what should happen when someone is not scheduled to be at the booth. If there’s room to hang out, there’s no problem. But if space is going to be tight, make it clear: When you’re off the schedule, you’re out of the booth.
If you are behind the table — but off the clock — it would be an excellent idea to help your boothmates out — finding T-shirts in the needed sizes, making change, running for lunch, etc. But never loose sight — you’re there in an assistant role during that time — nothing more.
Cross promotion is a tremendous strength of exhibiting as a group. When you’ve wrapped things up with an attendee, it’s incredibly nice to direct them to a boothmate that you think that person might find interesting. Heck, if you exhibit with some cartoonists long enough, you sometimes get a feel for what their fans tend to be like, and you might well direct them to that boothmate right off the bat.
But poaching is illegal behind the booth. If your boothmate is addressing an attendee, you are not to address that person unless you are addressed first. And even then, your conversation should be carefully directed so you don’t overshadow your friend. Only when your boothmate has finished with the attendee — completely — may you address that person fully.
Don’t be a barnacle
If your shift is up and there’s no room for you behind the table, don’t block your buddies — scram. There’s a whole convention out there. Go enjoy it.
Speaking of barnacles, another benefit to exhibiting with friends is that they can help you scrape a few. I’ve always wanted to try this… and maybe someday I will… but you could easily set up a signal among your boothmates (a kick under the table, a pull of the earlobe, etc.) that means “I need to get out of this conversation.” At the signal, your boothmate could call your cell phone or interject with a pressing issue or tell you your house is on fire. It could be a powerful weapon in the Battle of the Barnacles.