Tabling: Education through a table or booth at a public event.
Until recently, I haven’t organized the effort myself, I’ve simply volunteered to staff booths for women’s organizations, animal organizations, etc.
So last weekend was my first real chance at organizing a tabling event. I shared some thoughts already, but I have more to share. Here’s what worked and what I’ll do differently next time:
- Know your target: Once I got a clear picture of the event, it became obvious to me that our booth shouldn’t have graphic posters or videos. That’s because there were so many small children present. I wouldn’t expose my own 5-year-old (if I had one) to graphic animal slaughter images, so I won’t do that to other children, either. If the audience had been college students, a graphic video or poster would be more suitable.
- Get help: In the past I’ve shied away from many activism opportunities because I have strong need to be self-sufficient and I crave the ability to refrain from compromise. But I’ve found that in many ways I don’t need to compromise, I just need to find those who are willing to help me do what I want to do.
- Tabling tools: I forgot to bring a tablecloth. Luckily, a friend had a picnic blanket he let me borrow and we covered the table with that. Next time I’ll go to the fabric store and buy a few yards of something plain or something cute. A colorful or elegant tablecloth draws the public’s attention and brings people up to the booth. (It can also help with cleanliness.) Some of the tools I didn’t forget: a couple extra chairs for volunteers, lots of leaflets, hand sanitizer for food handling, napkins, water for me and volunteers, and of course a smile.
- Leaflet mentality: Even though the table is there and it’s easy for people to take a leaflet, they’re more likely to walk away with a leaflet if you hand it to them. Many of the same principles that apply to leafleting apply to tabling, such as listening and offering practical solutions, responding to confrontational people, etc.
- Volunteers: Next time I’d like to have some sort of explicit appreciation for them. Sure, they got a few cookies and some water, but a little vegan button or patch would be nice.
- Paperweights: I thought of it but didn’t follow-through. Luckily, the wind wasn’t strong. We used paperclips and rubber bands to keep bunches of leaflets together in case the wind blew.
- Recipes: We ran out of all the leaflets that contained recipes. Even though we gave out more “Why Vegan” pamphlets than anything else, the most popular leaflets that people reached for and picked up themselves were the recipes. So, if you have vegan food at your table, have lots of vegan recipes too. (If you offer store-bought food, show people the package and tell them where they can buy it.)
In general, tabling is really pretty easy. The only major downsides are
a) the hassle of the equipment, food, leaflets, posters, etc. that you have to carry and
b) the cost of a booth at festivals, conferences, etc.
For some events it might make sense to skip the table and just do leafleting. But if you want to give out food, make a stronger group statement, or even just have room to spread out then you’ll want to table.
- Guidelines for tabling – International Vegetarian Union
- Tabling – PETA
- Get Involved – Farm Sanctuary