The Insider’s Guide to Having An Effective Display Table

Having a display table set up for speaking engagements can be an effective tool for communicating with people about your ministry.

For the sake of absolute clarity, here’s the type of scenario I’m describing:

(1) Missionary speaks for 5 minutes at a church service. (2) Missionary has a table or area set up in the foyer of the church. (3) After the service (sometimes before too) missionary uses the table / area to connect with members of the congregation.

As many of you know from observation display tables can be very effective to opening up conversations. They can also fall very, very flat if done incorrectly.

So what are some practical things you can do to make your table the best ever? Or at the very least – a more interesting place to start a conversation? Is it worth it to invest time and finances into a great display table? Below are some of my thoughts:

Thought #1: Is it worth it to invest resources into a display table?

Yes, it is worth it, but it should have the following components to make it worth it:

(1) You must have created a reason to stop by your table. At the very least, you should mention during your time that you have a table in the back. Convey that you would love to meet the congregation and connect more.

(2) Your table is not sloppy. Make your table inviting, not boring. Create a space that people want to stop by. Have some astectic appeal. No excuses — you can find someone to help you if you aren’t good at this.

(3) Make your table visible. People have to be able to find you to connect with you. Don’t put yourself in a corner. Don’t put yourself right at the entrance to the bathroom either. Your table must be in a place that isn’t awkward for people to stop and chat at.


Thought #2: Get Creative! Have something interactive on your table to spark conversation. Here are a couple of great ideas from successful missionaries:

“We put the alphabet of the country we were going to on the tabl, then asked guests to try and spell their names out in the foreign alphabet. It broke the ice. Once we did this we saw a huge difference in table interaction!”

“We made up a coloring page for kids with crayons to pass out. It was fun for our girls to give to the kids, and the kids liked it. I saw another missionary do it and thought it was a cute idea. Tables are a great way to engage in conversation with someone who otherwise may be too shy to just strike up a conversation. We try to keep our costs low by using Walmart posters and homemade stuff!” 

“When I first went out I actually had a double paned “10/40″ window with a net and fishing lures between the two pieces of glass. I used it to talk about fishing the 10/40 window. I equated the 10/40 window to a store front window, in which one can see in but can’t get to the things inside easily. I also equated it to ice fishing and how in the 10/40 window countries the fish are there, yet you have to drill holes in the ice (over time/prayer). Also one can’t use nets like other places in the world.”

“I sold coffee at my table from Eurasia Cafe and it sparked a lot of great conversation!” 

“We created a “progress map” that represented how far along we were with raising our support. Every time our support grew, we moved a toy plane closer to Georgia from the US. A little cheesy, but it was a big conversation piece and helped people visualize us at 100%.” 10953955_10204211576868236_1918223454239609490_n


Thought #3: Have a video playing. Does your ministry have a high quality video? If so, use it! If you don’t know if your ministry has a video, simply ask your mentor to find out. If they don’t, why not make your own? Adobe Voice is an app for iPads and is great place to start. There are also a lot of great companies or freelancers that make affordable videos. Find out if your ministry has a vendor list to see if they know of anyone able to help you create a video. Throw the video on a tablet and play it continuously at your table.


Thought #4: Put together all of your printed resources. You probably know this one, but just in case you don’t, make sure you have printed resources on your table. Add to them by creating a resume/packet type binder or book that combines statistics from your ministry, facts about you, your area, etc.


Thought #5: If you are going overseas, put out a map of the world so that your visitors can find the country you are going to.


Thought #6: Always smile. 


Thought #7: The most important thing you could have on your display table is a sign-in sheet. People want to get continuos information about your ministry. If you provide those that stopped by only with printed resources, you may never hear from them again.  Ask everyone you connect with to fill out your sign-in sheet. Doing this allows you to get their contact information, so that you can take the responsibility of following up with them. Here’s an example of some good sign-up sheet fields (make yours fancier):

sign up sheet

Keep in mind, you will absolutely want the permission of the host/pastor to put this sign-in sheet out.

If you do get permission, everyone you connect with signs this sheet! Tell them you would like to remember them and keep them updated on your ministry.

After the event, make a phone call to those that signed in (also make sure this is okay with the pastor/host). When you call, share the following:

(1) Ask if they are interested in joining some aspect of your partnership team – whether by prayer or finances.

(2) Thank them for connecting with you and tell them you appreciate their church/group and interest.

(3) Ask them if they have any questions.

(4) If appropriate ask if they would like to meet face-to-face. Tell them you would like to find out more about them, build relationship, and find out if joining some aspect of your team is a good fit for them.

(5) Tell them you are adding them to your newsletter list.


I hope these thoughts help you develop great display tables and communication with the people you meet as you travel. Do you have any thoughts to add?

(plane photo cred goes to the missionaries that created the “progress map” thank you! // check out http://www.faithhousedesigngroup.org/ for really great graphic design resources)

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Author: Jenn Fortner

Jenn Fortner is a seasoned fundraising coach with over 10 years of experience. Currently Jenn serves Eurasia Assembly of God World Missionaries and provides guided training and coaching to over 100 missionaries. Right out of college Jenn began to raise her own funds for ministry assignments and quickly realized a heart for not only ministry, but for the people who served as her financial and spiritual team throughout years of ministry. Jenn began a journey of coaching others called to ministry to develop a relational approach to raising their funds, and has coached over 300 missionaries throughout their journey of fundraising.

2 thoughts on “The Insider’s Guide to Having An Effective Display Table”

  1. Thinking about the interactive component I was reminded of something I try to do at my table each time I get the chance—give something away that keeps them interacting.

    I kind of stumbled upon this at the ladies’ tea I shared at back in October. I didn’t get a lot of traffic at my table before hand, even though there was no way to miss it. I shared about how vital prayer is to missionaries, showed them the Live|Dead prayer beads from World Missions Summit 2012 and simply invited them to come talk to me afterwards. I also mentioned that I only had literally 15 prayer beads left, so “first come, first serve”.

    My table was swarmed before I got back there, and almost everyone asked about the beads! Be generous and give your partners something to connect with!

    Liked by 1 person

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