I’ve tabled once in my life — NYCC Artist’s Alley 2012. I am no expert on tabling. However, I am a customer, so that makes me an expert on being a customer. There are many types of customers — I fall into the category of “semi-introverted, comic creator, networking-minded, highly selective, indie loving”. I don’t expect all tablers to care about pleasing me or catering to my specific tastes and beliefs in customer service. For what it’s worth, here are 6 tips that I hope will come in handy:
1. Display your name / product title prominently. If it is missing, you are already one step behind the pack. The first thing I do is look at the banner, then I scan your product offerings, and then I look at the people behind the table, in that order. Emblazon your name into my memory before I “enter” your store! I think these vertical banners from Vistaprint work really well, and they retail at only $45.
- If the creative team of the comic has more than one person, or if there is an entourage at your table, make it clear who the rockstar artist and writer are (name tags, etc.), because that’s who people probably want to talk to. If anybody is helping at your table, please make it easy for the customer to differentiate the helpers from the rockstars. It’s disorienting when I think I’m talking to the creator but I’m actually talking to her boyfriend.
2. Make the extra effort to say “Hi!” Sometimes I was so close to stopping by a table and for some reason I backed away at the last moment. A “Hi” would have brought me to your table to look through your stuff.
- After you’ve hooked me over to your table, I will pick up your book and flip through it. Now’s a great time to throw out your 30 second spiel. This may sound elementary but many times I have flipped through books in complete silence with a penetrating gaze upon me! *sweat beads*
3. Have a Luke Skywalker “feel the force” perception of the 5 square feet in front of your table. If you do not, the following things may happen:
- People may be blocking your table. Kindly ask them to move so that the area in front of your table is easier to approach.
- Be aware of people who are waiting to talk to you. Sometimes I’ve waited patiently trying to get in position to talk to the creator, and loud people have cut in front of me. Of course, you the creator can’t say, “Sorry rude dude, this quiet dude has been waiting to talk to ME,” so my suggestion is just try to spot and engage the waiting customers before the loud cutting person takes over (they always take over!).
- Waiting version 2: Be super aware if people are holding your book and waiting to buy it (it’s a distinct look, it kinda looks like a begging dog — tongue may or may not be hanging out). Even if you are conversing with someone, you can tell that person to wait a moment while you process the waiting customer’s transaction.
4. There are times that tablers really push the “buy now buy this buy that buy to learn more” thing beyond my comfort level. I know it’s hard to gauge the customer’s threshold for that, but think of it this way — how do you want to be remembered? Will your potential customer leave your table with a pushy salesperson memory of you? My mind can draw a distinction between comic creators who were reaching into my wallet, and those who welcomed me with unconditional love!
5. I sometimes forget to carry cash (totally my bad). But hey, it happens. If you don’t have a Square or Paypal swiper yet, think about trying it out right away. The swipers are usually free and you just have to do some bank verifications. Once you get your swiper set up, practice swiping it so you can get it on the 2nd or 3rd try. (Watching a frustrated tabler swiping your card 10+ times is uncomfortable.)
- Speaking of credit cards, give the credit card back as soon as you’re done with it. I’ve conversed with tablers who have held my credit card for several minutes while we talk! Yep, uncomfortable.
6. Other things that you may want to think about when you table:
- Do you want your potential customers to see you eating? Your table is not your living room sofa, it is your pride and joy, your storefront! If you have to eat and someone approaches your table, hide away your food, finish the food in your mouth, and engage the customer. Whenever possible, get away from your table to eat, or eating energy bars on convention days.
- Do you want your entourage at your table? I find that that usually leads to three negative outcomes: 1) the table is too crowded, 2) too many people with nothing to do, 3) entourage people having too much fun and looking unprofessional.
- Do you want to come out from from behind your table to talk to customers? For some customers, this may invade their private space.
So the last comic convention customer has left the building and you’re tired as heck. Where did the last two to four days go?? You did good, you did good. It’s almost impossible to walk away from a tabling experience without tons of positives happening. Believe me, I am always super impressed with all the tables and everyone’s enthusiasm toward the comics medium. Long live comics and comics mingling events. And when I table again, I expect all of you to write up a list of 18 things that I did wrong, alright?