Tricks and Treats for Successful Pop-up Events

Highland Planning recently “popped-up” at the City of Rochester’s Halloween at the Market event. Is that a dance move, you ask? While pop-ups can include dancing from time to time, a pop-up is a drop-by outreach event at a location that naturally attracts lots of stakeholders. A pop-up is a key go-to-them outreach strategy, designed to engage with people who might not otherwise attend a public meeting or learn about a project through more traditional channels. The Halloween at the Market event – an annual celebration at the City’s Public Market – brings thousands of people and provides a safe, fun place for kids to trick or treat.

What goes into a great pop-up event? Here are some of our favorite tricks and treats to get you started:

  1. Location, location, location! Go to where the people are (or will be). Is there a farmer’s market nearby? An upcoming festival? A special community event? Find out about opportunities to have a table and distribute information there. Consider who will attend and why they’re going. Will the people that you want to talk to be there? Where do you need to set up to make sure that people see you and stop by? Work with venue organizers to ensure a spot that works for you and for them.
  2. Make it sparkle. One of our core values across the board, but particularly when it comes to pop-ups, is “make it sparkle.” You don’t necessarily have to have twinkly lights as we did for our Halloween pop-up, but you should pay attention to details! Make sure you have everything you need for success – pens, comment cards, poster boards or maps, photos, sticky notes, hand sanitizer, and general office supplies like tape and scissors are good supplies to have on hand.
  3. Get their attention! People come to events with certain goals in mind – and giving you input on a roadway design is probably not one of them. How can you get them to stop and talk to you? Be clear about what you’re doing there – use signs and banners to grab attention. Make sure your staff are prepared to engage. Stand in front of your table, not behind it! Prep workers with a catch phrase or question that will stop people in their tracks.
  4. Make it FUN. Giveaways are great, but just handing them out doesn’t give you much chance to talk to someone. Go beyond the typical 6-foot table and flyers and offer an interactive, playful element at your pop-up. This not only gets attention, it gives you a few minutes to engage and introduce your topic. Games, prizes, and giveaways are some of our favorites – we especially love spin-the-wheel!
  5. Plan for the weather. Lots of pop-ups are outside. Weather can pick up at any point! We’ve found that jugs of water or cans of vegetables are handy to keep on hand in case you need to weight something down. Don’t try to put boards on easels at outdoor events unless you have a very solid plan for how to anchor the easels to the ground or a wall. The slightest whisper of wind will knock them over every time.

What special tricks do you have for pop-ups? We’d love to hear them!

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