Saturday, November 20, 2010

On the Powwow Trail


Spiritual Leader Winston Mason teaches powwow volunteers
When our kids were younger, we used to go to a lot of powwows so they could dance.  They don't seem to have time for dancing anymore, so we only manage to get to a few powwows each year.  My favorite is the one at Utah Valley University (UVU).  It is the school my husband and I both got our degrees from and it is a powwow with a great community feel to it.

In case you're wondering what a powwow is, for Native Americans it is a social gathering of sorts that includes singing and dancing.  Some of them have dance competitions which are judged. There are a variety of dances for each category of dancer and social dances that allow people to chat and mingle.  Where we live in Utah, Boy Scouts is popular and they hold merit badge powwows - completely different type of event. People often get confused between the two.

At the UVU powwow, I am in charge of registration and tabulating.  I have developed my own program for adding up all the points and determining the winners and I have loved the challenge (except for the year when an electrical problem cleared out everything I had entered and I had to start over just 15 minutes before winners were to be announced). 

This year has been a bigger challenge since we also nave a table set up in the vendor area.  My husband is watching the table most of the time and it has made for a very different powwow experience for us.  It has been fun watching him chat with people and explain his creations.  Sales are the best we've had yet and this is what we've noticed about success in this area:
  • Talk to people as they walk by your table.  They are more likely to stop and look.
  • Talk to people as they look at your items.  It can be very intimidating to the customer if they feel like you are just silently watching them and waiting for you to buy. Make them feel welcome at your "store."
  • Don't be afraid to start showing off your items as the customer is looking. Some people are more likely to buy something if they know the story/history behind it, understand how it works, etc. Help them understand how much they need what you have for sale.
  • Be open to other options.  If they can't decide which of two items to buy, offer them a deal for both. Let them know about possible custom options you may be able to offer.


    Another interesting thing that sometimes happens at powwows is a giveaway.  In the Native American community, people are expected to give back when they have been honored or have a big event in their lives. The son of one of my dearest friends was chosen to be the Head Man at this powwow and  their family gave gifts to people who had helped their son achieve this honor. The gifts ranged from handmade items to blankets, gift baskets, and food items.  The gift I was given was a beaded buckskin doll with horse hair braids.  It was the most amazing gift I have ever received! The giveaway is one of my favorite traditions because it encourages generosity and gratitude.

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