There is a subculture of the RVing community made up of the vendors and seminar presenters who make our living by speaking at RV rallies, and selling our products to the people who attend those rallies. Most of us are fulltime working RVers. Some have a retirement income to help cover their expenses on the road, while others, like Terry and myself, earn all of our income from our speaking and publishing activities.
There was a time back when we started this gig almost ten years ago, when people were standing in line at RV rallies, begging for an opportunity to get up on stage and give a seminar. Many of those people were vendors hawking their products in what are known in the business as “buy me” seminars, while others were presenting educational seminars in the hope of making a name for themselves and eventually getting paid speaking opportunities at the larger RV events, or getting picked up for the Life on Wheels circuit.
Back then, fuel was inexpensive, and it was how you paid your dues. If you were a vendor offering educational seminars, and also selling products such as our books and subscriptions to the Gypsy Journal, you could offset some of the costs of traveling to a rally to speak.
Those days are in the past. It’s a new world, and the old rules have changed. But somebody forget to tell the folks putting on RV rallies.
These days it costs a lot more to travel to rallies, and just breaking even at a vendor booth can be a challenge. And as anyone who has taken Basic Business 101 can tell you, simply breaking even is not enough. To survive, a business must make a profit, be it a traditional fixed location business, or an on the road operation.
I bring this up because of two things. I talked to a seminar presenter yesterday, the acknowledged expert in his field, who left our rally in Casa Grande and drove all the way across the country to speak at a couple of RV rallies, only to discover upon arrival at one that they had decided that he could not sell his products at the rally. They were not paying him to speak, so to even cover his expenses, he needed those product sales.
Last year the FMCA asked me do a seminar at their Vermont rally. I’m a professional speaker. My seminars are my products, and I normally get paid for speaking. They said they could not afford to pay me, but we had not been to New England in several years, so I suggested that if they gave me a free vendor booth and free camping, I’d come and present two seminars. Their response was that they had never done that before, and could not afford it.
Huh? What does it cost to stick an extra table in the vending area and let me park in a corner of the fairgrounds? Needless to say, we did not go to Vermont.
Last week a nationwide RV club held a rally in Casa Grande right after ours, and I visited with some of their advance crew. The subject of me doing a seminar came up. But again, they could not afford it. Nor would they swap us a vendor booth for a seminar.
They did ask for a free story about the club’s upcoming 60th birthday, which will be in the new issue of the Gypsy Journal. They also proposed us trading an ad in our publication for an ad in their club magazine. Okay, what the heck, why not? However, in looking over their info packet, we have 2½ times the number of readers they do, and they expected me to pay a commercial member fee to qualify for the ad in their publication! Not to be rude, but why in the world would I want to do that? Even a straight trade would not be to my advantage, let alone me paying for the privilege. I told them I’ll pass.
This same group was bemoaning the fact that, like most RV clubs, their membership numbers are declining, and they can’t attract new blood, including new vendors. I pointed out to them that we charge vendors at our rallies less than half of what they charge, and we include free camping in that fee.
If we can do that as a business, and still make a profit, a non-profit club can do it too. I suggested that maybe if they were more reasonable to the vendors and seminar presenters, they’d have more of them, which would attract more rally attendees. Of course, that fell on deaf ears because “This is the way we’ve always done it.”
Thought For The Day – He who laughs last, thinks slowest.