Though it has been three years since I've been to a UUA General Assembly (and I've never been to a UCC General Synod) the memories stick with me. Some of the best -- and early on, most impressive -- relate to the Exhibit Hall. That's where -- apart from meeting up with friends - you get new resources, find out about programs and meet organization representatives and UUA staff. The impressions you develop about the exhibitors may be more valuable to you than what they have to offer on the spot. After all, in most cases, you can order what you saw and don't have to haul it back in your luggage.
Those hosting the exhibit hall have other goals. Renting exhibit hall space goes a long way to make General Assembly pay for itself. The better the exhibit hall and the more visitors it gets, the better rate the General Assembly office can ask in rent, and the less pressure there is to raise registration fees. Get it? (That's why the Cyber Cafe, the UUA Bookstore and Beacon Press at St. Louis were at the back: to drive traffic through the hall. Ditto the bathrooms.)
But the exhibitors have goals, too though they are not always obvious or conscious. At root, there seem to be three constant goals: to inform, to influence and to sell. Most of my readers won't care about selling goods at General Assembly. Let's look at informing and influencing.
The affiliates that exhibit run from the barely organized to the well-run and focused. Yet IÂ have a hard time thinking back to exhibitors who seemed to come to General Assembly with a clear plan of making use of their space. If "being there and being seen" is the goal, then this is the time of year to come up with something better. I also question using the exhibit hall to do programming as time pressures and noise are persisting problems.
But here are a few goals an exhibitor could have, most of which have measurable outcomes.
- push people to its website
- push people to featured GA programming
- identify congregational contacts
- identify potential member contacts
- enroll or renew members
- launch a campaign or program
- distribute general literature
- distribute program-driven literature
- "interview" potential candidates for a program or committee
- be interviewed by potential members or stakeholders
- express a visual identity
- meet to leave for off-site activities (like dinners)
Can you think of others?