Help us have a great info booth!
September 12, 2013 12:04 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for tips, tricks, and any advice on how to make our festival info booth useful and interesting- to both patrons and volunteers.

I work with an arts organization that puts on a three day art festival each summer. This year I've been tasked with running the info booth. Help me make it a worthwhile & beneficial thing!

I've watched the info booth in past years and it has really been lacking, so I am excited to take it over. Here are my big concerns:

1) Info is staffed with last minute volunteers (read: kids who need to fill a requirement for high school)- so sometimes the booth is manned by teens who are bored to death and looking at their phones the entire shift.

2) The booth is manned by people who don't know enough about the festival to be any help.

3) The booth consists of a bunch of flyers and programs and a few maps tossed on a table that no one touches.

Assume I'm starting from scratch.

If you've ran an info booth, what did you do differently?

What requirements can I realistically ask for from volunteers?

How did you keep your volunteers engaged while no one was needing help?

What other things could an info booth provide?

Any suggestions you could give, or even your best experiences using help with an info booth would be great. I'd love to turn it into a prized volunteer position.
posted by haplesschild to Society & Culture (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The most successful info booths I've seen combine the "we have programs, maps, and flyers" purpose with some other service - souvenirs sale (glasses, water bottles, t-shirts), freebies (temp-tattoo logos, water, buttons, mints), or artist signings.
Practically speaking the info booth is often combined with the first aid tent, lost-kids, volunteer check-in, etc, which is much less interesting for the average "person who doesn't need anything".
Assuming you get people to come by, make sure your volunteers are prepared, and actually able to help. i.e. can point to the bathrooms and other major sites without looking at the map, know the major events going on, etc.

Another thing you could do is to have featured artists, or featured events, and have posters up about that person, basically broadcasting the answer to the question "what do you think is something I shouldn't miss today?"
posted by aimedwander at 1:01 PM on September 12, 2013

Is it feasible to have volunteer training? You can work them through a lot of FAQs as well as generally acceptable behavior, etc. It also helps as a small barrier to entry so you get more dedicated volunteers.
posted by radioamy at 3:00 PM on September 12, 2013

I helped run one at Burning Man and one at the WTO a long time ago. Tips...

- Do you have internet access? Having a laptop where info was lookuppable (by volunteers or people themselves) is useful.
- make maps SMALL and DURABLE and have icons for things people want (bathrooms, exits, foods, first aid)
- have handouts with relevant information that people have wanted before at previous festivals, again try to make them small.
- have ways that people at info booth can communicate with other services they might need (first aid, organizers, cops) and that they know how and when to contact these people
- make sure info booth people know policies (media policy, lost child policy, emergency policy/procedure, keys locked in car, lost and found) and who to contact if stuff is "above their pay grade"
- make info booth work a perk of some sort of and have things for volunteers that are special (shirts, hats, bottled water, outlets to plug in phones) but make it clear that this is a trade off for expecting them to be attentive and whatnot
- WHITE BOARD - maintain an active FAQ with actual questions people have actually asked you that come up often. Also good for schedule changes if there are weird last minute ones

And you should think about whether the info booth is just supposed to be responsive (i.e. people answer questions when asked but otherwise just chill out) or proactive (i.e. where you actively try to anticipate people's information needs) and whether it's supposed to be static (sit here and wait for questions) or active (it's okay to leave the desk to go answer a question) and think about staffing for that. Set up some expectations and maybe have people doing a little stats gathering. What questions were asked a lot? What information did people seem to always need/want and not have? Can you roll that into better services next time?
posted by jessamyn at 3:56 PM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

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