Sorella and I completed our first tour as convention vendors this past weekend. The writer in me never shuts off and I couldn’t help observing the types of people on the vendor floor. Between FPEA 2021 and Great Homeschool Conventions, I’ve come up with seven general categories of convention shoppers.
Stay out of these parents’ way. Shopping times are tightly scheduled between speakers. No time for chit chat. They walk down the middle of the aisle looking neither right nor left, lest they make eye contact with an exhibitor. With the convention catalog clutched tightly under one arm and curriculum reviews swirling in their heads, they march to their preferred vendors. They make their purchases and dash off to the next session.
These convention goers don’t have a particular agenda. They wander the aisles, eyes fixed on the booth banners. When a name or description strikes their fancy, they stop and usually ask something like, “What do you do?” They listen with interest to the vendor’s pitch, asking probing questions. Sometimes they buy. More often they don’t, choosing instead to wander on until a product strikes a chord with their inner homeschooler.
I admit freely that this is my category when I’m at a convention. We shoppers are a blend of the two types above. Shoppers don’t have the drive of the Mission-Oriented, but we do have a system. We wander the aisles gathering information and never buy on the first day. The first and, usually, second days are for reconnaissance. Only after each and every exhibit booth has been visited and every product has been assessed will purchasing happen.
These convention goers are there for the experience. They thrive on the like-minded people and the atmosphere. Good conversations rank above curriculum and speaking sessions. When they scope a booth, they’re not looking at the products. They’re looking for a friendly face and an open smile. However, a good vendor shouldn’t discount a Chatter. They usually end up purchasing and becoming a huge supporter of the product, bringing friends back to the booth.
Swag-gatherers travel in packs and are usually under the age of twelve. Their goal is to obtain as many free goods as they can. Packs maintain an information network that rivals SHEILD. Within an hour, every pack knows where to find the best candy and the Alpha and Omega blow-up globes.
Ah, the Shepherd–the true unsung hero of homeschool conventions. Whether a parent or an older sibling, Shepherds corral young children throughout the exhibit hall, keeping them entertained and out of trouble while the homeschool parent searches for curriculum. They never stand still, but turn in slow circles trying to keep an eye on busy preschoolers attracted to every shiny object they see. Multi-tasking is the Shepherd superpower. They can jerk little Bobby out from under the vendor table and block Susie’s grab for more chocolate in a single motion. If Edna Mode condoned capes, she’d say Shepherds deserve them.
Every sub-culture has its celebrities, and the homeschool world is no different. At each convention, Sorella and I observed homeschool heroes. The response to them was no different than seeing a celebrity on the streets of LA. There were shrieks, “I grew up watching you!” There was excited babbling and, of course, requests for pictures. I may or may not have had such a reaction when Steve Demme of Math-U-See walked by.
Which type of convention goer are you? Let me know in the comments 🙂
Sorella is officially joining the six5mom.com page. She will posting the first Friday of every month on literature, homeschool, and homeschooling special needs. Keep an eye out for her first post next week.
Carole Jean Flodin graduated from Florida State University with a degree in English, emphasis in Shakespearean Literature and Creative Writing. After graduation, she helped pioneer instructional design at AT&T. She left the corporate world for homeschooling more than twenty years ago. Using her English skills, she’s guided many high school homeschoolers through American and British Literature. Carole resides in St. John’s, FL with her family.