Thinking of Starting A Convention? 10 Things You Need to Know

 

Before I was a convention Frett Board  organizer, I was probably similar to you – a fan who lamented there wasn’t an opportunity to attend an event to celebrate my precise flavor of fandom, or possibly as a person who appeared around at every other poorly-run con and idea to themselves, “I can do higher than this.” Heck, perhaps you even study that conference organizers have become wealthy taking domestic trash luggage full of cash (spoiler alert: most aren’t). Regardless of your desire, the fact that you’re even contemplating starting a conference is inspiring. The largest roadblock to achievement is always inactiveness, that is why I’m sharing what I recognize to optimistically help you get off the floor.

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Now, you will be wondering who I am to offer information approximately convention organizing. I don’t plan activities for a living, and earlier than I organized my first con, I became just a fan. That said, I have four years below my belt going for walks a success, growing convention in a primary metropolitan place. I might not be the excellent supply of information, but I am A source of information, so experience loose to take what I actually have to say with a grain of salt.

I, together with of my buddies, prepare an annual gaming conference called the Southern-Fried Gameroom Expo in Atlanta, GA. It’s no longer a spectacularly huge occasion like a Heroes Convention or a Mega Con, but we’re not your nearby comic con within the again of a Holiday Inn Express either. A few weeks in the past, we hosted over three,000 attendees and occupied over 60,000 square feet of showcase area over the direction of our three-day expo. In the four years we’ve been preserving events we’ve outgrown our allocated space each year and are now larger than some of the opposite local geek cons who seemed large whilst we first started out. We’ve been featured in several courses including Killscreen, Paste, Southwest: The Magazine, Creative Loafing, or even name-dropped within the Wall Street Journal. Not too shabby for a true fan convention.

If you’re contemplating starting a convention, then you could already recognize some of these items, but there wasn’t a reachable manual in vicinity once I started, so I’m sharing what I know. There’s lots extra information to analyze, but those fundamentals should assist answer as a minimum a number of your questions:

1. Do your research

If you’re on the path to starting a conference, the best recommendation I can come up with is to visit other conventions – lots of them. See what they do properly and the world in which they fail. Be sure to look mainly at events that can be just like yours in one of the kind elements of u . S .. Also, take a look at different conventions for your geographic vicinity to get a taste for the neighborhood flair of what works and what doesn’t. You’ll additionally need to start an occasion calendar so you can see when there may be a gap between events so you’re not competing with any other regional con that can scouse borrow away your audience. And, of direction, to ensure there isn’t an event much like the one you want to maintain already in existence.

Living in Atlanta, I even have the advantage of attending Dragon Con for the past 15 consecutive years. Let me be clear, I love Dragon Con. While it’s far a massive convention of 80K+ fanatics and really exceptional from the conference I run, I became nonetheless able to take note of some key matters I did and didn’t want at my own conference. One small factor I witnessed numerous times at Dragon Con became a featured guest arriving for his/her panel without a moderator and no clue approximately what become purported to transpire. The negative visitor might then just say something to the impact of “Uhh…so I wager you could just ask me some questions.” For my convention, I’ve made positive that each panel has a vetted moderator with clean commands on how the panel ought to go with the flow and a sheet of backup questions to ask in case the well has run dry.

Other practicalities of studies have to do not only with checking comparative pricing, visitors, and possible dates, but approximately the value of different venues, any municipal regulations, and business requirements. But extra on a number of those later.

Tabletop Gaming at Southern-Fried Gameroom Expo
Photo copyright Juan Jusino.
2. Build on an existing community & be a nice character

My convention is greater specific than most in that it truly couldn’t take place without network guide. We rely on nearby collectors to lug over two hundred large arcade and pinball machines out in their basement every yr. That stated, even without the bodily guide, SFGE wouldn’t have been capable of getting off the ground without tapping into an current network of fans. Sure, you can hedge your bets at the “if you construct it, they’ll come mentality,” however with out a rabid community to plug into right out of the gate, your convention is possibly dead inside the water.

Being plugged right into a network permits you to recognize the desires of that community in terms of what may be preferred in beginning a convention, plus it approaches you have already got a bevy of human beings you can name directly to assist as volunteers, track directors, and attendees. That is, in case you’re a pleasant character. Plugging right into a community doesn’t simply mean exploiting something for personal advantage. No, it manner contributing something worthwhile, taking part in activities, and making long-lasting pals all centered around comparable hobbies. Plus, in case you’re a jerk, word receives around.

I’ve met friends from all walks of life through our shared love of a hobby, folks with all way of professions, backgrounds, and reviews. But none of this will have been viable, had I now not been gracious to the ones I met in the course of meetups and if my interactions were not altruistic. Had I attempted to carry an upstart conference to the scene with out each person within the community to vouch for me, I in no way might are becoming the beast off the ground. New audiences may also find out about your convention down the road, but your current community of buddies and buddies will be your first audience and your strongest supporters.

3. Refine your advertising

Starting a conference is one element, but attracting an target audience is an entirely unique beast. Making positive your website and advertising materials are top-notch is fundamental. If you don’t occur to be a photograph dressmaker, or have a chum who’s one, this will be a few brought cost you weren’t anticipating. I can’t let you know how often I even have handiest learned approximately a convention because of word of mouth, and after I move to check out the occasion internet site, it’s miles out-of-date and designed so poorly it makes me question the professionalism of the con.

WordPress templates are abundant and cheap, and so long as you are making a factor to commit the electricity to developing and updating your website, it could move a long way to set up an unknown entity as legitimate and engaging to attendees. However, you have to do more than simply have a robust online presence.

Most conventions offer what is referred to as “fan tables” for present groups or even other conventions to put it up for sale to their audience free of charge. Since it’s far mutually beneficial to increase participation around a selected fandom, most conventions will help you sell your event at theirs in go back for a niche at your very own conference. So e mail different convention organizers and ask round. It doesn’t hurt to invite, exposes you to how other conventions are operated, helps you to meet different organizers who’re regularly willing to proportion lessons found out the tough manner, and offers you publicity to a big institution of individuals who are already on board with the concept of attending a con. Just remember to reciprocate the choose by means of permitting your host con the threat to showcase when you begin your personal convention.

Atlanta Renaissance Waverly Hotel & Convention Center
Photo copyright Juan Jusino.
Four. Location. Location. Location.

One of, if not the largest cost you’ll incur in beginning a convention is securing the venue. Everyone is aware of that region for any business is key, however, if you’re new to the convention area, then you can no longer realize how most of these venues operate.

Convention centers, for the maximum component, the fee a flat, per-day apartment fee. That fee is typically bare bones, that means you’re handiest deciding to buy the distance and now not electric connections, tables, chairs, etc, which might be extra and luxurious. Often, those locations require you to apply their event group of workers for load-in/load-out, safety, and other offerings. All these character fees can add up quickly, and if you don’t have a built-in audience to assure a go back, this may be price-prohibitive.

Hotels contracts are all different, however, provide a little greater flexibility than many expo halls and conference facilities. Like expo halls, you could in reality pay a flat rate for space, however, you may shop cash in case you take a look at other, extra bendy, alternatives. Many motels will let you e book area based totally on an assured range of room nights. Meaning, for example, in case you need to apply the main motel ballroom, you may want to guarantee that you may appeal to X-range of room reservations. Most venues will provide you an unique cut price pricing to entice guests to live on the con. Many times, you may contract with the venue to provide a number of loose room nights through meeting positive reservation milestones or have a reduction applied in the direction of your final invoice for reservations above and past your agreement necessities.

There’s no shame in beginning small. You’re not going to be San Diego Comic Con proper out of the gate, and unless space has already been booked, maximum venues will assist you to add an area in your settlement as you cross. Remember to book early, as some weekend dates have already been secured up to three years in advance. As an unproven entity, reserving a venue to your first con can be tough out of the gate, but if you’re successful the primary yr, you’ve got more bargaining power every consecutive yr.