The Chris Pancratz Memorial Space Activist of the Year Award
Where and How to Recruit New NSS Members
You can recruit anywhere, anytime. Begin with family, friends and colleagues. You can recruit at your chapter meetings. You can attend events by other organizations and speak to them about NSS. You can attend festivals and fairs with an NSS table, presenting your vision for space to the public at large.
This is an easy first outreach project for a chapter that will give your new members a way to get to know each other and encourage their future participation in chapter activities. You need:
Always get permission in advance. Ask if they have chairs, tables, display boards and electric outlets, if needed. Be prepared to send them an information sheet about your chapter, an NSS brochure, your newsletter, an Ad Astra, etc. along with a formal letter requesting permission. Find out when you can setup and take down your booth, who your contact person is and if you have permission to sell materials and memberships.
Even a few colorful pictures on an exhibit board behind your table will attract people. For more elaborate displays you can include three dimensional items like models, colorful space books or a rear-projection slide show. Include a prominent poster about your next meeting or event (see Exhibits below).
Try to schedule at least two people at all times. If you cannot adequately cover your booth at certain times, such as during weekdays, cut down on the hours or number of days. Pair new workers with more experienced ones. Assign a set-up and close-down person to the first and last time period of each day who will take care of the cash box and other valuables.
You must have something with your group’s name, address and phone number, possibly including membership information and a brief description of our purpose. However, you do not want the site to be littered with paper that has your group’s name on it, especially since you paid to have it printed. So, avoid giving handouts to young children or obviously uninterested people. Chapter newsletters, Ad Astra, a list of your upcoming events, and information sheets about specific space topics are all useful handouts. To avoid waste, do not give these away, but charge only a token amount — the “price” could be filling out and returning your survey. Handouts are better than an information sign-up sheet if you want to limit mailing expenses.
This is probably the best thing you can have at a booth. It draws people in, gets them thinking about space and adds to your contacts and membership. Be sure to include a place for their name, address and phone number. As always, clearly mark OVER on the bottom if it is printed on both sides. Date the questionnaires for your own reference.
Try to carry items that reinforce your goal: space posters, NASA literature, T-shirts, buttons or books. Remember inexpensive items if there are likely to be many children present. Keep careful track of your cash flow, and tally your money and goods each night. If you are not allowed to make sales at the site, you could include a merchandise list in your handouts. In a mall you can contact a book store in advance. They may want to prominently display space books and magazines and may even donate copies for your exhibit (and later your library) if you tell people where they can get them.
Be sure to have a place to keep your materials overnight, if the booth will be up for several days. Keep items such as cameras, projectors, slides and films, extra cash (and purses) locked in an office, cabinet or car when they are not in use. Keep a close eye on the cash box, merchandise, models, sample literature, books and even your posters! If your booth is outdoors, bring paper weights or sheets of plexiglass to keep papers from blowing away. Models will need special protection from the wind. A sun shade, umbrella or plastic drop-cloth may save your day.
Good close-up photos of your booth will be useful to evaluate its impact and to help in planning future efforts. Get shots with lots of people for your Chapter’s Presentation Book.
Allow enough time to send for NSS brochures or copies of Ad Astra, to have handouts printed or to make posters. Your people also need time to arrange their schedules and transportation.
An exhibit may be unstaffed, or you can add a booth that is staffed all the time, only during high traffic hours, or as your schedules permit. Every community has potential sites for a space exhibit; just take a careful look around. Office building lobbies, science museums, public and college libraries and schools all have room for temporary exhibits.
You can slant an exhibit for special locations: space art for an art museum or ocean surveys from space for an aquarium. Federal buildings, central post offices, city halls and state houses are useful for bringing the message of space utilization to the politicians and staffers who use them.
Shopping malls are ideal. They may provide free standing display boards and tables, let you sell merchandise, or they may even advertise your exhibit. Do not overcommit your chapter, but it is all right to do a small exhibit if the mall knows precisely what you have to offer.
While exhibits can be placed almost anywhere, most chapters have limited resources of manpower and money, demanding careful site selection. Before deciding where to place an exhibit, ask yourself:
- How many people will see the exhibit?
- Can you have a booth?
- Can you sell material and/or memberships?
- Does the site provide mounting space (walls or free standing peg boards)?
- How much time is there to prepare for the exhibit?
- How much material will be needed?
- Can your workers get there without too much difficulty?
These are some of the questions which should be addressed in a feasibility study. You should carefully consider chapter goals and resources in selecting sites in order to get maximum exposure at minimum cost. For example, you might decide to pass up a mall opportunity if sales are not permitted, or if display panels and tables must be rented.
The first step is to make initial contact by telephone with either the superintendent, building manager or public relations department. A few site locations such as museums and libraries will have someone solely responsible for temporary exhibits. Once you reach the right person:
- Introduce yourself and state that you are calling for the ___ Chapter of the National Space Society, a non-profit international organization devoted to public education about space development.
- State that your organization can provide an exhibit about the space program and future uses of space.
- Describe the exhibit materials which will be available.
- Mention whether your exhibit could coincide with the upcoming anniversary of an important space
event or a space observance proclamation.
- If your group has provided exhibits at other sites you can mention these.
- DO NOT use the words space settlement or extraterrestrial resources. Instead refer to space
stations and large satellites, which sound more realistic to an uninformed public.
As a rule, the response will be a request for written information about the National Space Society and your exhibit. The decision to host an exhibit may rest with a committee, and your contact will need a tangible document to present to them. Follow points one through six in preparing your request.
A site often sets up a meeting to talk directly with chapter representatives and see examples of exhibit materials. This may be scheduled during the phone call or in response to your written proposal.
If you do not have a representative who is free during regular business hours, you may have to take time out of a working day. It may be possible to visit several potential sites in one day if that is the case.
Appearance is important at the meeting. Business attire such as suits and ties reinforces the impression that yours is a responsible, professional-caliber organization. This cannot be recommended strongly enough.
Your Chapters Presentation Book will be of great value at this meeting. Good pictures of previous exhibits and other activities, along with request and thank-you letters establish your credibility. It may also provide incentive to your contact to make sure that his site also sends you formal letters to be included in the book.
If this is your first exhibit, the book can contain the letter from Headquarters officially recognizing your Chapter, photos of a work session, an NSS brochure, etc. Explain that you will be placing letters about and photos of THIS exhibit in the book.
Usually, if a site agrees to host an exhibit, the exact dates and set up and tear down times will be negotiated at this meeting. Once the arrangements are agreed upon, it is a good idea to request a formal letter of commitment from the site to the chapter. Not only are such letters of great value in documenting exhibits, they also help to prevent misunderstanding at the time the exhibit is set up.
What Will They Provide?
This varies drastically from site to site and can significantly affect your costs. One could rent a projector for you, set up pegboards in advance and be willing to repaint them. Another could require you to provide your own projector and a hammer to set up pegboards. Still another might not even provide display boards! Check the condition of the equipment provided. If repairs are necessary, find out if they will make them or, failing that, if they will pay the costs if you repair them. Some locations have picture molding on the walls from which material can be hung.
Make sure you know who will be available during setup to help if needed and what method you are permitted to use to set up; tacks, velcro, tape, etc.
Some sites have good security and others don’t. Find out. Are the premises patrolled at night as well as being locked? What are the insurance provisions? What about crowd control for valuable items? Are cases which lock provided for models and other enticing liftables? What about roped off areas? NASA requires good security arrangements for its models, so find out in advance.
Some sites provide display space only, while others may have rich potential for a multi faceted exhibit. For example:
- Can you tie in with a local or national event such as Space Week?
- Will libraries provide reading lists and advertising for your exhibit?
- Can you coordinate talks at a library or elsewhere during the exhibit?
- Will schools send groups of classes?
- Will stores in the mall or surrounding area carry a space theme during the exhibit?
- Can you share exhibit space and costs with related organizations?
- What about speakers?
- Can you show slides or videotapes? (Can you borrow video equipment from a store in the mall?)
Good Public Relations
In addition to your site contact, you will interact with other people at the site such as guards, maintenance people and store owners. Remember that you ARE NSS to them, and your conduct will affect their attitude towards the Society and its message. Courtesy is the rule here — expressions of appreciation and friendliness. Also, be careful to understand and abide by the regulations of the site. You are a guest on their premises. Be prompt in keeping all appointments and be careful not to annoy by creating disturbances or blocking passages.
- Verify site arrangements before you arrive to set up.
- Have a master plan of the layout ready. Allow MORE time than you expect to need for setting up.
- Decide in advance how your materials are to be fastened to the mounting surface.
- Put a sign on each pegboard or in each case which identifies the National Space Society and your chapter address. Somewhere in the exhibit include a list of upcoming events or other information about your chapter.
- Put handouts with your chapter name and address in a holder on the wall or at a booth.
- Wire/large paperclips
- Thumb tacks/pushpins
- String/fishing line
- Stapler & extra staples
- Rubber bands
- Marking pens
- Pens, pencils & paper
- Food & soft drinks
- Rubber cement to reaffix peeling pictures
- Masking, scotch & double-sided tape
- Extension cord & connectors
- For models: Model repair; handbook; thread/fishing line
- For exhibit tear down: Cases for panels; workbox boxes for models.
Take pictures of work sessions, booth activities and the exhibit itself. A notebook at your booth should be used to record information on who worked, for how much time and how many people were needed, problems that developed and how they were solved, contacts made, and especially funny, inspiring or memorable comments and events.
Send thank-you notes to the site and individuals who were of help. These can include a report on the impact of your exhibit. Respond promptly to inquiries which result from your exhibit. This is one of the best ways of getting new members.
Lest this sound too intimidating for a young chapter, one summer five members of a chapter in Boston created 40 exhibit panels and set up five separate displays in three weeks. They explain, however, that all materials were on hand at the start and that none of them got much sleep during that period. While they don’t recommend this method, it shows what can be done if you are determined.
Professionalism: You Are What You Appear To Be
Executives are busy people, and the more likely someone is to be useful to you, the busier they are likely to be. It is a self defense for the sanity of such people that they quickly cull that which deserves their attention from that which does not. This determination is based on subtle cues learned over many years of dealing with people, and such cues are usually accurate; otherwise the person would not be where they are. If the classification is unimportant or energetic but too inexperienced to accomplish anything, you will find it very difficult to gain any further attention.
What this means to you is simple. Always be professional in dress, manner, attention to detail, attention to QUALITY. If you are sending a letter, it should be on letter head, printed letter quality, contain NO spelling errors or typos, be formatted as a standard business letter, well aligned on the page, no mudges,etc. You must strive for perfection; attempt to have the same polished look as letters you receive from large corporations. You may bet your behind your entire group wail be pigeonholed in someones mind based on the first glance at your letter. Never take a chance with the first impression you make, whether in person or in proxy; it is very likely to be a permanent impression.
Professionalism covers every facet of your appearance and behavior at any time you are representing the National Space Society. This means dressing appropriately, being well prepared and being on time. If you are going to be late or are not prepared, you always call and apologize for the impending delay. No excuse is acceptable after the fact except your own death. And if you have agreed to be on a talk show, your notice had better be DAYS in advance. And even then you may get a bad reputation, unless you already have a very good relationship you can afford to strain. When dealing with a scheduled media appearance, there are no acceptable excuses for not showing up. If necessary get a replacement, because even though they will be polite and understanding (read: professional) when you call to cancel, your throat is cut.
Whether the powers that be in your local community come to view you as a group of cool professionals or a gaggle of insignificant sci-fi freaks is entirely up to you.