Tabling is when one or more individuals volunteer their time to set up an information table filled with brochures, fact sheets, miscellaneous items, or any type of free literature available for the general public to review, take home, and hopefully share with others. Tabling events commonly take place at special events such as festivals, community 'home days' events, social justice gatherings, and conferences.
Setting up an information table in a busy area of town, festival, or special event is a very effective way to reach a large number of people. Choose a spot with a lot of pedestrian traffic. Find out where other groups in your community set up tables, and get a list of festivals and fairs from your local Chamber of Commerce, Department of Parks and Recreation, or Department of Tourism.
Once you've chosen a good location for a table, call the mayor's office, the city manager's office, or your local police station to find out about the regulations that you'll need to follow. Ask the following questions:
- Do I need a permit? (Permits are usually easy to apply for but may take two or three weeks to process.)
- How often can I use this spot?
- Are there any restrictions on the type of equipment that can be set up?
- Are there any regulations on selling items, such as buttons and bumper stickers, at a table? (If so, you can ask for donations instead of charging for the merchandise.)
- Ask for several copies of the application form to save for future use.
Setting Up Your Table
To set up the most successful table that you can, you'll need the following items:
- One or two card tables or a folding display table
- A folding chair
- Leaflets or Pamphlets
- Posters—some mounted on plywood and covered with plastic
- An easel or other support for the posters
- A plain tablecloth (recommended- but not necessary)
- A donation can
- Sign-up sheets (so that you can contact activists for future events)
- A cardboard or wooden sign or a banner with your group's name on it
- A plastic drop cloth (in case of rain)
- Lots of clear paperweights—small but heavy
- You can order a "Table Pack" from PETA, which includes literature, sign-up sheets, and posters.
- To save money, check thrift stores for inexpensive card tables, table cloths, etc..
Arrange your table neatly and attractively. Remove rubber bands from pamphlets so that people can easily pick them up. Keep an eye on your donation can; don't let someone walk off with it. Leave a five-dollar bill and some change in the can to encourage people's generosity!
If visitors to your table seem interested, ask them to leave their telephone number and e-mail address. Thank them and let them know that you'll keep them posted. Encourage them to help by contacting their congressional representatives about a particular bill or company that you are targeting.
Don't spend so much time with one person that you miss contact with others who may be interested. Be especially sure not to waste time and attention on someone who disagrees with you; you may alienate people who overhear the argument. Instead, clarify your position briefly, express regret at your disagreement, and turn to someone else as quickly as possible. You may feel as if you're "backing down," but arguing at a table is a waste of time and can cause you to miss potential supporters.
Above all, remember to smile. Be friendly and patient. You, too, were once unaware of animal abuses. Let others know that your background is much like theirs, but that once you learned about animal suffering, you decided to take action. Lifestyles and attitudes are easy to change—you're living proof! And you can show others how to be more compassionate, too!