Putting Your Best Face Forward

Well, the temperature has shot up and summer is finally here in Victoria.  And, as we all know, the summer months in Victoria are full of festivals.

For nonprofit agencies, summer festivals can be opportunities to showcase the missions, activities and needs of their organizations.  Whether an agency is running a festival itself or simply attending one alongside other agencies (e.g. participating in a small fair), it’s best to know how to put a professional face forward to the general public. 

In this vein, and because we run volunteer recruitment fairs of our own each year in various locations, Volunteer Victoria developed a Volunteer Fair Preparation Guide.  It’s full of tips for any nonprofit agency that is contemplating how best to staff a booth at a festival, fair or any other public event this summer or fall – and get the most out of the experience.  It talks about how to plan your attendance at a fair (identify goals and define measurements of success), gives tips on what to do during it (network with other agencies), and even recommends what to do afterwards (follow up soon after with potential volunteers).

In particular, we highlight in the document how crucial it is to train individuals – whether they be volunteers or paid staff – well to staff the booth and interact with the public.  Whomever represents an organization at a festival or fair is the face of the organization to booth visitors.  

Here are some tips for agencies on choosing and training potential booth staff, in order to put their best face forward:

  1. Choose individuals to staff the booth who have pleasant and engaging personalities,  excellent levels of customer service and solid knowledge about the agency and what it does.
  2. Train booth staff in what excellent customer service means to your organization (e.g. friendly, courteous, timely, helpful service).  Give booth staff concrete scenarios to learn from, or ask your staff to provide examples of great customer service they have received.
  3. Develop guidelines for maintaining a presence at the booth.  Volunteer Victoria recommends having two people staff the booth to ensure that it is never left empty if one person has to step away.  (Or, bring a “back in five minutes” sign to use if there is no choice but for one person to staff the booth alone.)  Additionally, booth staff should be given guidelines around eating and using cell phones at the booth.
  4. Advise booth staff to stand as much as possible and use open body language to encourage visitors.  They should also be advised to halt conversation amongst themselves when visitors approach the booth.

For our member agencies reading this, don’t forget to implement these tips when training your booth staff this fall.  Our volunteer recruitment fairs start up again in September at the University of Victoria, and registration is now open!

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