What can you expect from presenting your Linux wares at a mall kiosk:
Mac users showing little interest. Not because OS X is better per se, rather Mac users are generally already quite content with their own operating system. Short of putting off a new equipment purchase, I would not expect a lot of success here.
Windows users expressing concern about support for this OS and the ability to compute as they always have. Will their printer work, how does one go about getting new software installed and so on. These are important items of interest for many Windows users looking to switch.
Who supports the interested individual when they find themselves in a bind? This one is key if youre not willing to support the OS in this venue, do not bother promote it.
Trade Shows: Yielding more Windows-to-Linux conversions.
Despite the ongoing success youll see with a mall kiosk as a point of contact/sale, it is safe to say that a booth at a trade fair might be preferred overall. This is especially true if the end goal is aimed at Linux advocacy and possible OS conversion for those you speak with. There is something about a trade show audience that provides you with a captive mindset not seen with the typical mall crowd.
Yet regardless of the venue you choose, presenting your Linux advocacy efforts as a business providing solutions will demonstrate more results than the typical non-profit doing little more than simply passing out Linux CDs and talking about how great their favorite distribution happens to be.
Here is why:
Users want a means of computing safely, not a new software religion. So the usual "software freedom" routine is not going to convert most people where as demonstrated value will.
Support without compromise. End users do not want to be handed a CD from some event, told how wonderful it is and then find themselves unable to reconnect to the Internet after some mysterious update. These individuals need local, in-home assistance. Provide it or forget it.
Mainstream motive. The fact remains that most people identify more with the business trying to make a sale than a group of hackers looking to change the world. All this means is that sometimes it helps to nudge the hackers out of the public relations/sales department. We need those hackers to keep cooking up the code, but they also need some front people to help get the word out in a less geeky fashion.
Install 'fests are fun, but...
As previously stated , Linux install fests are a lot of fun for all involved. However if adoption is the end goal for those passionate about the Linux community at large, then more focus needs to be put on follow-thru solutions that meet the needs of the casual computer user. Support, ease of use and availability.
My perspective on this remains with a smarter venue for distribution and a stronger support system than the local Linux user group. Because it is not just the enterprise user looking for world class support from their operating system, its also the casual user looking to find the best value possible for the best possible price.