A common characteristic among YAL chapters, and other organizations similar to YAL, is the focus of increasing membership through the sign up sheet. Obviously getting more sign-ups is important to spreading influence on campus and is an appropriate way of measuring growth, so libertarians should ask themselves: “How can my organization increase the chance someone will agree to sign up for our newsletter?”
This blog will explain the eleven principles of increasing your newsletter base when tabling. These are easy, simple to understand principles that every serious chapter should follow. I must caution you, these are only principles for getting sign ups, not tabling in general. Please read the YAL Guide To Effective Tabling or other blogs on tabling to understand how to represent your organization on campus.
The first step in this important inquiry is to examine and understand the average student passerby. First, since you are most likely tabling during common hour, the average student who walks by your table is probably in a hurry. Chances are they are on their way to lunch or their next class, so they don’t have time to waste going from point A to point B. Second, most students probably don’t initially care about your table. Unfortunately, students don’t give care that you have a fancy table and banner with a bunch of economic books. For example, even if you tabled at the busiest area on campus with a textbook perfect table, but just sat behind your table the entire time, you would be lucky to get even a handful of sign-ups.
Let me repeat myself, student’s aren’t going to be drawn to your pretty table as much as you think. Third, and this is important, the average student walking by your table is half daydreaming. What this means is they probably will not allocate their full attention to any one thing.
So knowing these important facts, how can you increase your hourly sign-up rate? Well, before we get to that, let me explain why it’s vital to your organization’s success on campus to get as many sign-ups as possible. First, getting sign-ups is easy; therefore, you can have a large influence on campus through your newsletter and reach students you normally would not. Second, having a regular professional newsletter will not only allow you to keep a large contingent of students updated on meeting times and what your organization is doing, it also separates you from other groups on campus. Think about it: How many other organizations on your campus have a professional newsletter?
Along with giving your chapter legitimacy, a professionally newsletter that has a large base will help expose students to libertarian principles through online tools such as Learn Liberty. (If you don’t have a newsletter, click here to learn how to design one.) They only have so much free time in-between studying and their other habits. The newsletter is always there waiting to be opened when they sit down and open their email accounts. Lastly, the newsletter doesn’t drain your organization’s resources. Handing out educational flyers with your meeting times can be expensive, especially for a new chapter. Sending a newsletter is free, it only takes time to insert each student’s contact information. (This is why using MailChimp is important.)
*Before going any further, please read the Guide to Building an Effective YAL Chapter. Please remember this is a supplement to the guide and should be read after mastering the basic guidelines.
Now, let’s get down to how to increase your rate of sign-ups.
1. Ask them to sign up for your newsletter FIRST, before anything else.This is important. Why waste time talking to a student for five minutes only to find out he/she is not interested? When you table, you might only have three members to work with. You need make the most of your time. When you discuss your chapter before asking for the sign up, you will find, many times, you are wasting time and resources since it’s very difficult to identify students who might be specifically interested in your cause. Each chapter has a limited amount of resources at their disposal; use your resources in the most effective way possible. This is done by asking for the sign up first then transitioning into the benefits of joining your organization.
A typical way to do this would be the following: You: “Hello, can you do me favor and sign up for our newsletter?” That’s it! There is nothing complicated about it. If you are familiar with sales, you know that asking for the sale is an important step in the selling process. The same concept can be applied with asking for the sign up. This requires you to approach people so hopefully you’re not an introvert.
2. Now that you have their name, use it in the next sentence.Using someone’s name in a conversation, especially if it’s the first time you met, will help you built trust with that person more quickly than otherwise would. Using their name also makes your conversation more personal and again separates your organization from others on campus. Here’s an example. You: “Hello, can you do me favor and sign up for our newsletter?” Student: “OK.” You: “Thanks (Insert name here). Have your heard about our organization on campus?” Here is where you can go into what your organization stands for, or maybe have them fill out a Politically Homeless Quiz. Remember, having students sign up for your newsletter is a way to transition into the details about your organization by creating a personal connection with each student.
3. APPROACH. APPROACH. APPROACH. You can’t hide behind your table and expect students to approach you. It just ain’t gonna happen! You are there to talk to students, not to sit behind your table. If you tabled during common hour but didn’t proactively approach students, you wasted your time.
4. SMILE! Always smile when you approach students. Approachability is a big issue for any organization recruiting on campus. Every time you approach someone, you are representing your organization. When you smile and talk to students, they will remember your organization based on their experience talking to YOU. Word spreads fast. You don’t want to be remembered as “that group of awkward libertarians”.
5. Play each team member to their strengths. If someone is great at approaching people, assign him/her that task. If one of your members is extremely shy, it might not be a wise decision to assign them the task of talking to strangers.
6. Spread out! Don’t congregate in one area. Nothing is scarier than having five random people approach you all at once. Assign people different areas on campus. Your main headquarters should be manned with at least two people. Everyone else should be in different areas. This allows your organization to reach a wider area each time you table.
7. It doesn’t matter if the student is a Democrat , Republican, or an Independent. Your purpose is to first get them to sign up so you can then expose them to libertarian principles. Remember, most students don’t know they are libertarian; they might just associate with a certain political party because their parents do or they just don’t know any better.
8. This brings to the next point: GET TO THE POINT! Remember when I said students will only give you about half their attention? Well, you need to take advantage of the 30 seconds you have with each passerby and hit them with the important facts after they sign up, then move on to the next person. Now if a student starts to ask questions about your organization, or shows more interest, take the time with him/her. I’m not saying only take 30 seconds with each student, but on average you have about 30 seconds with most students. Take full advantage of those 30 seconds
9. Have girls approach guys and guys approach girls. This is pretty simple. You know what I’m talking about guys!!! Right? OK, I’m sorry.
10. If they say no, move on to the next person. Don’t waste time asking why. Your time tabling is short and thus, valuable. It shouldn’t be wasted persuading someone for 20 minutes why they should sing up when you could be getting 20 other signatures at the same time.
11. End the conversation on a positive note. Always remember to thank the student for signing up and remind them to check their email for your newsletter.
Follow these steps and watch your number of sign-ups grow. Remember, just because you get more sign ups doesn’t mean more members. You have to follow-up on those who showed promise. These steps are covered in the Guide To Build An Effect YAL Chapter.
One last thing: have fun! Always remember that tabling is a great way to learn how to communicate about liberty. After each engagement, think about what went well and what didn’t. Always seek to improve yourself. If you can, listen to other team member engagements. Feedback is an important tool we can use to improve ourselves and others at our effectiveness at communicating Liberty.Published in