EVENTS

Clubs Fair and Tabling

Published 3rd August 2020

EA Exeter

This guide compiles resources from LEAN, CEA, EA Oxford, Harvard EA, Haverford EA, EA Wooster, EA Cambridge, EA Oberlin and 80,000 Hours.

The optimal approach to presenting EA at a Clubs Fair will vary between universities, size, and age of your group. This guide aims to compile the key ingredients for a successful Clubs Fair according to different groups’ experiences.

Many groups have produced their own guides for the Clubs Fair, which we list under ‘In-Depth Guides’.

Contents

What is Tabling?

Tabling is when a university group sets up a table to promote their group to passing students. The most common time to set up a table is the Clubs Fair. Many universities allow groups to set up tables where there is a lot of foot traffic, such as near the cafeteria around lunchtime. The advice on this page focuses on Clubs Fairs, but most of the advice can be applied to other tabling opportunities.

What is a Clubs Fair?

A Clubs Fair, also known as Freshers’ Fair, Activities’ Fair, or Orientation, is an annual or bi-annual student extracurricular fair that most universities host. Usually held over a few hours or days at the beginning of the term, student groups can register to set up a table and talk to students who might be interested in joining their group. Many students, especially first-years, will be trying to figure out which groups to get involved with. This makes Clubs Fairs an excellent opportunity to invite new people to your EA group.

Aims of Attending the Fair

  1. To get people to sign up for your group’s mailing list or equivalent. Some groups take this opportunity to gain as many sign-ups as possible. This approach prioritises quick interactions with as many people as possible, following the reasoning that it is hard to gauge people’s genuine interest at a Clubs Fair and optimising for sign-ups gives as many people as possible the opportunity to engage with the group further. Read more about this approach in this forum post about Oxford’s Clubs Fair. This approach can work well in fast-paced, crowded Clubs Fairs. However, you want to avoid pushy pitches which can leave a bad impression. We want people’s first exposure to reflect the kindness and thoughtfulness that defines the movement. Each university has a different Clubs Fair atmosphere, so check out how other clubs are soliciting mailing-list sign-ups and make sure your approach doesn’t stand out for being too aggressive.
  2. To briefly introduce effective altruism and give people a chance to interact with your group. If your university’s Clubs Fair is quiet or you are doing tabling at other times of the year, you will have enough time to have longer conversations. You could also try an engaging activity such as a Lightning Giving Game where participants receive money and must choose between different donation opportunities.
  3. To invite people to meet for a one-on-one. Make a note of people who seem especially interested in EA when you speak to them, and either ask them if they want to have a one-on-on during your conversation or follow up with them afterwards via email to invite them for a one-on-one meeting. You could also include an option for people to sign-up for a one-on-one while signing up for your mailing list.
  4. To encourage people to attend your first event. Aim to run your first event within a week of the Clubs Fair. Advertise it using posters, handouts, and in conversation during the Fair. Soon afterwards, send an email to your new sign-ups with the event details.
  5. To identify other people who are already familiar with, and interested in, EA. These could be the most useful connections, especially if your club is new, as they might be interested in taking leadership roles. Follow up with these people with a one-on-one soon after the Fair.

Before the Fair

  1. Find out what your group can do at the Clubs Fair. Seek information from your Student Union or other organisation that does administration for clubs. Find out whether your group can participate in the fair, what the fair involves, and whether they have funding for you to get materials for your table.
  2. Apply for money to cover costs. If your Student Union does not provide sufficient funding, apply for CEA’s Group Support Funding. You can include Clubs Fair costs within an application for General Group Funding.
  3. Prepare a system for collecting sign-ups. You may choose to use paper sign-up forms which you type up later. If you do this, ensure you leave plenty of space for an email address, and that you check the writing is legible before the person leaves the table. Alternatively, you can use digital sign-up forms on phones or laptops, such as the in-built Mailchimp Sign-up form (see this example from Haverford EA), a Google Form or a Typeform. If you’re using digital forms, keep a few paper forms for backup.
  4. Recruit volunteers to help out at your stall. Where possible, try to have multiple people at the table at once so that they can support each other, allow each other to take breaks, and talk to as many people as possible. Also, try to have some diversity among volunteers to make the group appear welcoming to a range of people. Scheduling your volunteers’ shifts in advance helps.
  5. Prepare yourself and your volunteers. Volunteers should be able to succinctly and accurately describe EA and your group’s activities. Consider holding a volunteer-training meeting in advance to:

    • Motivate your volunteers by explaining why the Clubs Fair is so important
    • Explain what your goals are for the fair (e.g. collecting as many mailing list sign-ups as possible) and why
    • Offer an example pitch and give volunteers time to practise pitching to each other so they can receive feedback
    • Make sure everyone knows how to access the system for collecting sign-ups
    • Give volunteers some written guidance for them to take away and digest.
  6. Prepare your stall. Book a table with the Student Union. If you have a large group, consider getting extra tables to make your stall more prominent. We suggest this checklist of items:

    • Table Cloth
    • Posters and Banners with the group name and a description of EA, since most people don’t know what “effective altruism” means. If your posters and banners include photographs or pictures, make sure to include images representing a variety of EA cause areas, so people with a variety of relevant interests could be attracted to your table. Make sure you figure out how they will be displayed beforehand in case you need to bring any extra items
    • Flyers with the time and location of your first event. Also include a shortened link to your mailing list, which bit.ly can help create
    • Stationery to put up posters and tape down flyaway materials. Sellotape, clips, and large pieces of cardboard can be helpful
    • Several fully charged laptops, tablets or smartphones for sign-ups
    • Paper signup sheets and pens if you’re not using devices or if you run out of power
    • Food and water for your volunteers
    • EA-branded T-shirts for your volunteers
    • Lightning Giving Game materials if you choose to run one of these games

During the Fair

  1. Approach people. If you’re aiming to maximise your number of sign-ups, you will need to attract people’s attention as they walk past your stall, rather than only speaking to people who approach you first. Calling out can feel awkward, but becomes much easier after a bit of practice. Read more about how to approach people in the pitch guides linked below.
  2. Lightning Giving Games. Some groups have run quick giving games during the Clubs Fair - this approach will likely result in fewer sign-ups, but allows individuals more time to interact with your group members. See here for guidance on running Lightning Giving Games.
  3. Give your pitch.
  4. Stay motivated. Make sure your volunteers take adequate breaks according to their needs. One way to motivate yourself and your team is keeping track of how many sign-ups or conversations you’re getting every 30 minutes and trying to beat your record.

Sample Pitches

A pitch has four components. The opening catches attention, the spiel summarises EA, the sell shows listeners what your group offers, and the call to action might encourage them to sign up. Throughout the day, you can experiment with your pitch and see what works, what feels comfortable, and what best achieves your aims, whether that’s getting sign-ups or sparking conversations.

Below are some example pitches to get you started. In any of these pitches, if someone doesn’t want you to continue speaking to them, just say ‘No problem, have a great day’ and move onto the next person.

Quick Pitch

[Opening] Hi there, do you want to do good with your career?

If they say ‘Yes’

[Spiel] Great! We’re Effective Altruism X. We’re part of a growing social movement that’s interested in using evidence and reason to figure out the best way to help others. [Sell] We’re interested in how we can use our careers to have the greatest social impact. [Call to action] We can send you more details on email if you sign up here (push laptop in front of them) and we’ll let you know when we’re running events.

Offer them the laptop or form to sign up

More theory-focused

[Opening] Hi, have you heard of effective altruism?

If they say ‘No’

[Spiel] Cool! Effective altruism is a global community of people trying to figure out how to improve the world as much as possible using evidence and reason. It turns out some ways of helping people are orders of magnitude more effective than others, so it’s really important to figure out what they are.

[Sell] Our groups hosts speakers, workshops, and a weekly discussion group aimed at helping our members build their plans for how they will help improve the world.

If they say ‘Yes’

Combine [Spiel] and [Sell], e.g. Oh cool! Our group runs events all about this question of working out how to do as much as good as possible using evidence and reason. We run speaker events, workshops, and a weekly discussion group to help our members build plans for improving the world.

If they’re still interested

[Call to action] We’ll let you know about the details through our mailing list! You can sign up here.

Offer them the laptop or form to sign up

More group-focused

[Opening] Do you want to do good with your life?

If they say ‘Yes’

[Spiel/Sell] We’re Effective Altruism X. We run events about which careers, charities, and causes to get involved with if you want to maximise your social impact. This coming week, we have [a cool-sounding event]. Does that sound good?

If they say ‘Yes’

[Call to action] Sign up to the newsletter and we’ll send you a single email outlining all our events this term.

If they seem unsure

If you’re not interested, you can unsubscribe in one click.

Career-focused

[Opening] Hey, do you want to make a difference with your career?

If they stop and look at you or say ‘Yes’

Hi, I’m XXX, good to meet you.

[Spiel]​ We’re from Effective Altruism X. Did you know that you have 80,000 Hours in your working career - that’s huge, isn’t it? We’re about using that time to have the most positive impact on the world. Sound good?

If they say ‘Yes’

[Sell] At the moment, almost no advice addresses how to choose a career that makes a real difference. Careers services don’t think deeply about impact. So our club puts on talks from people who’ve gone into jobs doing lots of good. And we hold more personal events like workshops and one to one coaching. This term we’ve got loads of events, from XXX, to XXX.

[Call to action] Sound good? Let’s get you signed up!

More tips

Find more ideas for ‘pitches’ and other tips in the Communicating about EA guide.

Keep in mind that framing these conversations as ‘pitches’ could cause you to come across as overly salesy. Your aim is to provide enough information so that the person you are talking to can decide whether they are interested in learning more.

While you want to paint EA in the best light, remember that EA won’t be for everyone and that’s okay.

After the Fair

  1. Thank your volunteers. Perhaps buy them food or go and hang out somewhere afterwards.
  2. Follow up with your new sign-ups. If you used paper sign-up forms, type up the email addresses as soon as possible. Send out a welcome email informing them of the details of your first event, and perhaps telling them a bit more about the society.
  3. Schedule one-on-ones. The sooner you do this, the less likely people will have become busy with work or other club activities.

In-Depth Guides

Clubs Fair Guides

All of the above are directed towards optimising sign-up numbers.

Guides for Volunteers

Pitch Guides

Lightning Giving Games

What is a Lightning Giving Game?

Offers of money are good for attracting attention, and interactive activities are good at getting people to engage. Lightning Giving Games can do both of these things. They are usually run at universities, Clubs Fairs or other tabling opportunities. They involve giving $1 (or a similar amount in local currency) to each participant to donate it to one of 2-4 charities.

Ben Kuhn from Harvard EA describes how he used a Giving Game to attract people to his club.

Aims

  • Attract people to your table
  • Get people thinking about different approaches to doing good
  • Give you more of an opportunity to talk about effective altruism and your group
  • We list additional aims under each approach to choosing charities

Types of Lightning Giving Games

Approach 1: three excellent charities with a range of cause areas

EA has a tremendous breadth of cause areas. This version highlights the fact and shows how difficult it can be to choose between different cause areas.

Cons:

  • Some participants immediately dismiss cause areas they don’t think are important or choose the cause area they already like the best without engaging with the details about the charity
  • Some participants might find the charities too different and dislike having to compare

Charity ideas:

Notes on choosing charities:

  • We recommend avoiding meta-EA charities. For meta-EA charities to be appealing, a person has to buy into EA’s importance. A Giving Game is just the start of this process.
  • Avoid charities whose function and merit would take a while to explain. For example, we don’t recommend choosing an AI Safety charity because many people won’t immediately agree that AI is a large threat to humanity.
  • Harvard EA conducted an experiment looking at the effect of using more speculative charities such as 80,000 Hours and Machine Intelligence Research Institute. They found that those charities are less likely to produce email list sign-ups than global health charities.

Resources:

  • This document has posters for running a Lightning Giving Game with the Against Malaria Foundation, the Humane League, and the John Hopkins Centre for Health Security

Approach 2: Two-step Giving Game, with one excellent charity and one appealing but ineffective or harmful charity

There can be a vast wide difference in effectiveness between charities. This version shows that we can’t trust our gut-feelings to give us an accurate indication of whether a charity is harmful or helpful.

Cons:

  • Only covers one cause area. To counter this, it would help to have a variety of posters representing different cause areas on your table.
  • Takes time. For this approach to work properly, facilitators will have to take a few minutes to explain the game and help people make an informed decision. It could be off-putting for someone to find that their charity of choice doesn’t do much good at all.

Charity ideas:

A note on choosing charities

We recommend avoiding using Guide Dog charities or other particularly well-loved local charities in Giving Games. These charities’ interventions indeed tend to cost a lot of money for comparatively less benefit. However, pointing out their flaws can be offputting for people who have benefitted from the charity, either directly, or through family and friends.

How the game could work:

  • This resource has two pages per charity. Show the first “initial information” page, state that this is the sort of advertising information a charity might use, and explain what each of the charities does. Make sure you are positive about both charities.
  • Get people to pick which charity they’d choose based on this information.
  • Then flip the pages over to show the “evidence” information, and explain what the evidence shows.
  • Allow people to ask questions.
  • Ask people to make their final choice.
  • More information and FAQs for these two charities are here.

Approach 3: Three Global Health Charities

Choosing between charities is difficult. This version allows people to use data to inform their choices.

Cons:

  • Only covers one cause area. To counter this, it would help to have a variety of posters representing different cause areas on your table.

Charity ideas:

Notes on choosing charities:

  • GiveDirectly is a good charity to include because their approach contrasts with disease prevention charities and often sparks good discussions.

Resources:

  • Giving Game materials - this is for a long giving game involving the Against Malaria Foundation, GiveDirectly and Schistosomiasis Control Initiative. You can trim the charity information to make it a Lightning Giving Game.

Preparing to Run a Lightning Giving Game

  1. Secure funding to donate to the charities

  2. Select 2 or 3 charities

  3. Choose how people should submit their vote. Some groups recommend not letting people see how many votes each charity has because they may try to help the less-popular charity. Other groups recommend showing the votes because it is visually attractive and will draw people to your table if only to figure out what’s going on.

Options:

  • Get a pile of $1 notes or $1 coins.
  • Physically hand them to people for them to donate.
  • If you have paper money, you can pin the bills to a board, like so:

  • If you prefer not to use real money, use ping-pong balls or marbles.

  • Set up your board or containers and charity information on your table, along with details on effective altruism.

  • Prepare what you are going to say

    • Get participants. An effective opening line for Lightning Giving Games is “Do you want to donate someone else’s money to charity?”
    • Describe the charities VERY briefly
    • Explain EA
    • Ask people to sign up for your group

Lightning Giving Games Checklist

  • Posters with blurbs and photos of each charity
  • Money or tokens
  • Money jars for each charity or a pinboard with 50-200 pin tacks depending on the size of your fair
  • Sign-up forms for your club
  • Posters or flyers about EA

During the Game

  • Each game takes a few minutes, so try to get two or three people interested at once.
  • Make sure you ask if they have any questions.
  • Once they make their choice, they can put the money in the container or on the board.

Key points you could bring up during or after your game:

  • Most people choose charities or causes to support based on very little information
  • We have limited resources, so if we want to make a large positive impact, it pays to look at the evidence for which cause is best to work on
  • We decide between cause areas and interventions using the Scale, Tractability and Neglectedness framework
  • We care about other cause areas not shown in this Giving Game (give examples)
  • There are opportunities to help asides from donating, such as volunteering and using our careers

After the Game

You might like to present the results of your Giving Game during the first event after tabling.


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