That booth life

My feet, ankles, and knees are tired in that “I just stood on concrete for 3 days” kind of way.

It’d been about 8 years since I’d last run a booth at the National Youth Workers Convention. Generally speaking, I’m not convinced that something like that is really our sweet spot at the Cartel… but with the forthcoming Student Justice Conference locally at Point Loma Nazarene University we felt like we kind of needed to be there since it’d be the largest gathering of SoCal youth workers we know about.

Here are some observations from my weekend.

The Good

  • Have you heard about The Youth Cartel?” This was my line… and it was super fun to introduce a few hundred brand new people to our lil start-up.
  • Just like we’ve experienced on the phone, via email, and on social media… people love the idea of the Student Justice Conference. I guess the trick is just getting people signed up.
  • Wes Trevor is the man. He helped me run the booth, he made it fun, and we did better when he was there.
  • The exhibit area was well organized, everyone played by the same rules, stuff like that. It was nice to have a volunteer floating around and making sure everything was OK.
  • It was great to run into regular blog readers. That was a bit mind-blowing. I see the stats, I know people read, but when it’s “real people” in front of you… it’s just kind of cool.
  • I was privileged to spend two days with my kids. Paul worked the booth with me all day Friday and Megan did all day Saturday. It wasn’t always fun but I think it was great that they were willing to do it.
  • Being a local event was awesome. Sleeping in my bed is awesome. And I liked offering friends advice on where to eat and stuff. Yeah, San Diego!
  • I loved seeing a bunch of friends. Even though the booth was generally slow I had a steady stream of friends stopping by to chat and catch up. Sometimes life gets lonely and it’s good to remember that you actually do have friends.
  • It was fun hearing, “Oh, you are the guys who ship stuff with green soldiers… right?” Yep, that’s us. It’s always great to connect with the #tinyrevolution.
  • As an event organizer it was important to change perspectives and see the event from the vantage point of the exhibitor. That perspective will continue to make our events better for our exhibitors.
  • We sold a few books. Not as many as we’d hoped or needed to, but I brought home fewer than I took.
  • We did the booth our way. As we brainstormed having a booth for the first time we looked at the costs and thought… “It’s not any fun or ‘Cartel-y’ to spend all of that money on buying one of those pop-up booths and more money on little stuff with our logo on it.” So we decided to make our booth out of stuff laying around in my garage… mostly cardboard… and then just give people money instead of pens or t-shirts. Most people got our slogan “We didn’t waste money on this booth… so we could waste money on you.” It was the honest truth of what we were doing.
  • We seemed to do better than a lot of other exhibitors. People hung around, they were curious, while they were suspicious– as soon as they got who we were and what we were all about, their suspicion turned into something more fun. We aren’t out to appeal to everyone– but when we connect with someone there’s energy there and it’s fun to see in real life.

The Bad

  • When you are exhibiting at an event the only matrix that really matters is traffic. And there was good traffic on Thursday night when they promoted it big time and Friday night after the big room. Outside of that? It was very, very thin. We would have done just as well if they’d only opened the exhibits after the last evening session. I slept on the floor Saturday afternoon and no one noticed.
  • Relatively few people at the event seemed to come into the exhibit hall. Again, as an organizer, I know how hard this is and we are just learning how to get it right more than we get it wrong. But it’s hard to justify being there when a good majority of the people willing to go through the exhibit areas are just looking for free stuff. We were giving away dollar bills and we had a hard time finding people to give them to. For real. I brought home lots of $1 bills.
  • I didn’t like the side stage they put in there. I get why they do it… it is an incentive to buy a booth… but it made it very hard to talk to people when there was a person talking over you on a microphone.

The Odd

  • There were people who turned down $1 bills. They must have been senior pastors. 
  • The schedule was such that I didn’t do anything at the event outside of the booth. I have no idea who spoke, what the seminars were all about, etc. Literally, all I did was work the booth, eat a meal, or go home.
  • As much as I love our tribe, there are people who are so wounded that they seem to take it out on everyone. It seems they need to remember mom’s advice: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
  • I’m happy to be out of the loop with what’s going on inside the host organization. (and my former employer) People would ask me about it and quite frankly, I just had no idea what they were talking about and that was super refreshing. My focus is on what we’re doing and that’s plenty for me.

If you were at NYWC this weekend, what were your favorite things? 






One response to “That booth life”

  1. Jonathan McKee Avatar

    I thought your booth was really creative- I loved the cardboard “we didn’t spend money on this booth” look. My daughter was laughing… she loved it. It was awesome seeing you, meeting Megan (after reading about her in so many of your blogs) and watching you try to give away $1 bills to people who were looking at you like, “What’s the catch?” I flashed back to the three years in a row where we did our booth for and our purpose was to simply let people know where they could find free youth ministry resources. We were giving away free Krispy Kreme donuts and over half the people wouldn’t come over and get a free donut because they didn’t want to be “sold”… and we weren’t selling anything! Working a booth is hard! I hear you there. Keep up the good work, Adam. YC rocks! (How many other ministries provide a free weekly “YouTube You Can Use”!!!)

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