How About Hosting A LOTS Meet?
LOTS train meets promote and provide broad exposure to the enjoyment of operating Lionel and compatible trains and accessories, the fundamental purpose for which our club was organized. Hosting a train meet is LOTS of fun - an opportunity to get together and run the trains, meet and build positive relationships among fellow LOTS members, share operating and maintenance tips, and recruit new members. The following information may help you to decide to become a LOTS meet host. Thank you for your interest - we're counting on you!
LOTS Meet Guidelines
1. General Information: All LOTS-sponsored meets are coordinated by the club Vice-President. With his assistance, prospective meet hosts prepare a meet plan and budget, to assess and balance projected income and expenses. LOTS will advance you enough money to cover your projected expenses. The club also provides a liability insurance binder to cover your meet. LOTS meets are always open to the public, ensuring broad public exposure to the trains!
2. Keys To A Successful Meet: Begin planning your meet at least 6 months prior to the date of the meet. Choose a date (Saturdays are best) which doesn't conflict with other nearby swap meets or toy train shows. Or with other more distant major meets such as TCA-York or TTOS-Cal-Stewart. These will attract numbers of your potential table-buyers. Avoid summer meets if you can. Be sure your location is convenient to major travel routes and has plenty of parking. Get plenty of help to plan and organize the show. Don't try to do everything yourself - and don't be too ambitious for your first meet!
3. Meet Hall: A single larger meet hall is far preferable to two or more smaller rooms. Allow 60-65 square feet of floor space for each 8' x 30" table (includes generous aisles). Be sure to include sufficient trading hall space for layouts, with 6-8' aisles around them! Meet halls are common in hotels/motels, but generally will be expensive. Many churches, schools, community centers and social clubs (VFW, etc) have halls, gyms or other rooms for rent at much more reasonable rates. But generally you will have to set up tables and clean up the hall following your meet. You may also have to rent tables ($5-8 each, per day) and perhaps chairs. Budget your meet accordingly. Schools will give first priority to their own functions. Since schools may not finalize all their functions until the fall, you may not be able to schedule your LOTS meet in a school gym until the spring - to allow for the required 6-month lead time for meet advertising in CTT and OGR, etc.
4. Meet Hours: Meet hours should be flexible. The host needs to allow time for setup before and tear-down following the meet. Some table-holders may require considerable time for this. Typically, trading could be scheduled to start at 10 or 11 a.m. and go through 4 or 5 p.m. Avoid scheduling meets longer than 6 hours. Be sure to note the opening and closing times of your meet in all publicity! In the event you have a good number of local LOTS members willing to attend, you may designate the first hour of the meet as "open to LOTS members only", if you choose.
5. Registration & Admissions: Set up of the larger layouts, displays, and tables may need to start as early as 7 a.m. The primary setup time would start after 8 a.m. All sellers must check in, receive their table assignments, and unpack their trains during this time. Every person must register before entering the meet hall. Typical admissions for LOTS members may range from $3-5 and $4-6 for non-members. Children Age 12 and under are generally admitted free. Some veteran LOTS meet hosts have also offered special incentives (such as free admission) for members of the police and armed forces. People who apply to the club at the door are admitted at the LOTS rate. Keep club application forms handy. The usual process is to give consecutively-numbered tickets to each registrant at the door, to be used for door prizes. This also keeps a good count of how many people have paid to get in. It is important (for tax purposes) for the meet host or registration official to keep count of how many people attend, and how many of those are non-members.
6. Security: Meet hosts are responsible for security. Appoint one or more assistants to serve as Sergeants-At-Arms. They are responsible for resolving disputes at your meet, ensuring that no trading occurs prior to the designated meet hours, and that no unauthorized people gain admittance to the trading hall. A hand stamp usually works best for people who plan to exit and re-enter the hall multiple times.
7. Tables and Table Fees: Other than the admissions, the table fees will usually be the principal source of your income at the meet. A minimum of 35-40 tables will ensure your invited public will find a decent selection of trains, and thus help ensure they will want to return the following year, if you choose to do the meet again! Arrange tables such that dealers sit behind their tables. Keep a drawing of the table arrangements, both for your reference and to assist attendees in locating a particular vendor. Table fees vary considerably at swap meets around the country, and have generally edged up over the past five years as the popularity of train meets has expanded. For smaller markets, or for a first meet, a fee of $10-15 might be reasonable, per table per day, while in major toy train areas $25-30 is not uncommon. You might try to "underprice" the competition if this is a first-time LOTS meet.
8. Table Sellers: Try to attract toy train distributors, hobby shop owners and parts dealers to have a good cross-section of sellers at your tables, in addition to the private hobbyists. Don't restrict yourself to the O-gauge market. Your meet will attract much more interest from buyers and sellers if it covers all the major scales - Standard, G, S, HO and N, as well as O and O27. LOTS meet tables are available to both members and non-members, of course. Be sure to advise your non-member table holders of the advantages of joining LOTS. There are two major rules for the table holders at a LOTS swap meet: No selling or trading of trains is permitted until the official opening of the meet (sellers or buyers who abuse this privilege will be asked to leave). Table holders are required to stay until the end of the meet.
9. Grading & Pricing: All train items for sale must be clearly priced and graded in accordance with LOTS Grading Standards (see the Grading Standards page under the "Articles-Acquiring" heading on the website, or Article III, Section 4A of the Constitution). Trains for display only must be so marked. Restored items must be marked as such. Only model trains and directly-related material should be permitted in your swap meet.
10. Layouts: Operating train layouts provide a wonderful exposure to the train hobby to everyone who attends the show. So meet hosts should make every effort to secure at least one large, and preferably other, operating layouts. In most locales in the country, or within a decent traveling distance, there are modular groups who may be willing to set up at your show. Not all have to be Lionel O gauge - other layouts provide variety, and should interest all train buffs. Layouts can also serve as test tracks. As an inducement to the groups or individuals you contact, you can waive the admission fee, or offer to assist in defraying their expenses (assuming you budget accordingly). Get to know, or join, the groups in your area - they are invariably great people!
11. Special Attractions: If you have available adjoining areas, you can consider running toy train videos projected on a large screen TV. These are great for kids of all ages and give your tired meet-goers a chance to re-charge. LOTS has an extensive supply of train-related videos available for use by hosts. See our Video Library section of the web site. A photo collage of member layouts might be of interest. Modeling contests or clinics are crowd favorites, if you have some specialists in your area who can conduct them.
12. Door Prizes: Door prizes are universally popular, and are almost expected at train meets now. Try to get donations from local hobby shops featuring Lionel trains and from fellow LOTS members. Most shops will donate items, or a gift certificate, in exchange for publicity at your show. Cash certificates - usually toward immediate purchases at a seller's table - can be paid for by LOTS and reimbursed from your advance. You will use your admission tickets to select winners through the day. To simplify recordkeeping, it is generally required that winners be present to win.
13. Refreshments: LOTS generally discourages its host from becoming involved in the sale of food or drinks - it requires much extra work for only a minimal profit. But the host may want to consider the location of fast-food outlets and restaurants in relation to the location of the meet hall.
14. LOTS Applications: Make many copies of the LOTS Application (and History, which is on the reverse) and put your name on the "How did you hear about LOTS?" line. Have an ample supply available and talk to everyone who may have a sincere interest in joining the club. Current applications may be photocopied from Switcher or Track Changes, or you can obtain one from The Business Office or any of the LOTS officers. People may also join on-line through this web site of course, but be sure they give LOTS your name as the referring party!
15. Publicity: Publicity is always critical to the success of your meet!
LOTS' Vice-President will assist you in advertising your meet in LOTS' Switcher, Classic Toy Trains, O Gauge Railroading, and other train magazines. Please note that the national train magazines now require a 6-month lead time to publish meet notices. Locally, you will want to send meet flyers, a brief press release (PSA-type) and perhaps a photo suitable for publication to local newspapers (don't forget neighborhood weeklies and Pennysaver!), radio and TV stations. Include a pair of complementary admissions in case the TV station wishes to send a reporter. The more publicity the better! Canvass the local hobby shops and other stores in your area, distributing flyers, and be sure the flyer is available at any train meets leading up to yours. Don't forget to mail the meet info to all the LOTS members in your target zone (the LOTS Business Office will supply zip-code-sorted mailing labels to you for this purpose). A good rule of thumb is people will drive up to 2 hours or 100 miles to attend a meet.
16. Post-Meet: The idea is for you to have a good show, of course. Also for LOTS to make a small profit, if possible! After the show is over, prepare a meet report for the Treasurer, including all receipts for your expenses, as well as a check for the meet income. This should be done within 30 days. Membership applications and checks received at the meet should be forwarded to the LOTS Business Office. Be sure to keep any funds received for memberships separate from the meet receipts, and to include an accounting of the number of non-members who attended. Never send the Business Office cash - convert it to a check or money order.
LOTS' Vice President is ready to assist you in planning any aspects of your LOTS meet. He will provide you with guidelines, help you budget, send you any needed forms, and help you with a wealth of ideas based on past successful LOTS meets and Conventions around the country. Hosting a meet is easier than you might think! Why not give it a try?
For more information, please contact:
E-mail: vp @ lots-trains.org