Booth Managment at Public Events

After working scores of public events for the AMA over the years, I have collected some tips I think might be useful for members doing booth time at a mall show or a conference.  My list is far from complete so feel free to send me an email with ideas from your experience and I’ll be happy to add them to this document to share with others.

Most of my experience at conferences or AMA club events is centered on using the venerable AMA FPG-9 (Foam Plate Glider, 9-inch) as an attraction to catch the attention and imagination of folks as they pass by.  The glider is easy and quick to assemble and flies reliably. Also, this glider is inexpensive to reproduce, making it ideal as something that can be given away along with club contact information and AMA literature.

If the event is large, a small team of club members is ideal; two or three club members can assemble the gliders for visitors while another one or two can share information about the club and what it does.

It is great to have the help but do not be afraid set expectations with these volunteers early.  For example, it may seem obvious, but Rule Number One is: No cell phone texting while working in the booth; a volunteer absorbed in an electronic device cannot engage folks who are there to find out about what that AMA has to offer.

If you are at a conference where you are competing for attention with other exhibitors, have a team member step outside the booth and make short flights with the glider, an activity always guaranteed to attract a crowd.

Tips for those doing the FPG-9 assembly:

  • It's best to have at least two "built-examples" on the table - competed gliders so visitors can see what the final product looks like. It is a handy reference worth a 1000 words of explanation.
  • The pre-cut FPG-9 blanks are a great time-saver but you still need scissors to separate the fin from the wing and - very important – you must show the visitor how to cut the wing and fin slots a bit wider (to about 1/16 of an inch), so the fin and wing slide together without warping.

When doing a large public event, chances are good that adults and children will arrive in waves, so crowd control to maintain order is always useful.

  • If space permits, set up a single-file waiting line (think TSA or Disney), using brightly colored surveyor tape that is available at any hardware store. Tie the tape to the backs of chairs or, if you are outside, attached it to tomato stakes.  Doing this will prevent folks from crowding around you, forcing them to wait in line at a distance as you help each visitor assemble a glider.  It also eliminates friction if children (or their parents) try to force their way ahead of others who arrived earlier.

These suggestions are appropriate if you have adequate flying space so children can leave the booth and fly their gliders at the event.  However, there are stories about accidental flight-line aircraft damage at public events so it is understandable when model or full-size aircraft owners are concerned about children becoming too excited around their planes.

If lack of safe flying space is a problem, I suggest making a handout using some of the text taken from the instructions included in the FPG-9 kit.  We created these instructions for Arconic company employees to use during classroom visits and to enable teachers to do follow-up activities.  A two-sided handout featuring the pattern for the glider, with instructions taken from the text in the kit, along with contact information for the club will enable you to send each child home with a glider blank, ready for assembly.

Before visitors leave the booth, be sure to show them how to cut the fin and wing slots wider, how to score the control surfaces with a pen, and how to tape the fin and wing together at a proper 90-degree angle.  Some partially assembled built-examples work well to make things clear. It is also good to show them launch technique: a snap of the wrist (not like a baseball) and a little “up elevon” to make it climb.

Doing this will move visitors through the booth at a much faster rate than assembling a glider for every person who stops by.  What you do depends on how much volunteer help you have and whether visitors have a place to fly the planes without getting in the way of others.

Most of all, have fun!  Your enthusiasm will be contagious which is the best recruitment strategy to promote club membership and interest in the AMA.

-Written by Gordon Schimmel, AMA Education Outreach Specialist

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