05 May 2011

Genealogy Conference Vendors

Days 1 and 2 of the current Geneabloggers discussion looked at planning and speaking at genealogy conferences. Today's topic is selling goods and services at conferences.

As a professional genealogist who also self-publishes indexes and research guides, I have had a 'sales table' in three different situations: (1) at small seminars where I am a speaker; (2) at the biennial Local and Family History Fair run by History Queensland; (3) at the NSW & ACT State Conference. Whatever the venue, assembling and packing all the 'vendor gear' takes longer than you might expect, especially if the display includes posters, banners etc.

Here are a few tips based on my own experience.
  • When you agree to do a talk, ask whether you can display and sell your publications or other wares. (I often speak at public libraries, and some do not allow sales.) Unless you are driving and can take a folding table, ask the organisers to supply something suitable. On the day, put the table where you can keep an eye on it.
  • Take a carbonless receipt book, a money belt and lots of change.
  • Take a notepad or A5 pages printed with your name and contact details. When people ask questions, jot down your answer (a book title, Web address etc) and hand it to them. I use a clipboard, and I attach a pen with string so I won't misplace it. I design my own notepads with Vistaprint.
  • Items that may come in handy are a magnifying glass, spare pens, sticky tape, yellow highlighter, paper clips, rubber bands and plastic bags.
  • If possible, keep the items that are for sale separate from the freebies (business cards, handouts, leaflets, bookmarks etc). Use price labels and signs such as 'Free leaflets'.
  • If you are on your own at an all-day event (as I usually am), arrange in advance for someone to come over occasionally and keep an eye on your table while you take a bathroom break.
  • For all-day events, take plenty of water and some food that is easy to handle. (I favour nuts, apples and cubes of cheese.) You do not want to put sticky fingers or sandwich filling on your display!
  • Take Butter Menthols or something similar for when you begin to lose your voice!
  • Many people seem afraid to touch a display or speak to the vendor. Encourage them by smiling and saying, 'Please take a free bookmark' or 'You're welcome to pick up the books and have a closer look' or 'Do you have any questions?'
The thing that I find most difficult is being on the sales table all day on my own. On the rare occasions when a colleague and I shared a table, the job was easier. Vendors at larger events will have a different point of view, and I look forward to reading everyone's comments.


  1. From my experiences, over the years, Judy, you are right on target, again, as expected. Excellent discussion. All potential and likely speakers should read, listen and take your points as true! ;-)

  2. Dr. Bill, thanks very much for your kind words. Tonight I have to write about what it's like being an attendee. So much I could say... Where to start...?! :-)


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