to a successful con...an
By Bob Hubbard
the last few years I've had many occasions to look at various positions
at TT, and ask myself if I could do better...or if I even wanted to
try. It always came back to time.
From my position, it looks easy. Book a hotel,
call up some guests, print some flyers and have some no-lifers wander
around pasting em on lamp poles. How hard can it really be?
Alot harder than you think.
Lets look at this piece meal.
Steps to a successful con.
1: Book a location
2: Book some guests
3: Rent Needed equipment
Step 1 – Location.
Everyone talks about “location location location”. Well,
where to have your event is important. Easy access to highways and major
transport hubs such as airports, train and bus stations is a must. There
is a reason why so many conventions are held in major downtown or by
the airport locations.
Once you have an idea of where you would like
to book, you now need to find a location that will provide you what
you need at a price you can pay. Hotel negotiations can break down over
insurance issues, deposits, facility usage, room blocks, food, expected
traffic and more. Events in the past have run into major problems centering
on such trivial issues as who can plug in pcs (hotel was a union shop,
required all electronics plugged in by a union electrician. Those who
didn’t follow the requirement were hit with penalties in the hundreds
of dollars), failing to meet room blocks (reserved rooms for event guests.
Hotel is guaranteed a minimum amount, and if guests don’t meet
that, the con must pay the difference), food (no outside food), noise
(room parties, even just hanging out in the lobby were problems) and
A location that will work with you is a key point
in having a successful event. Too often, events are handicapped by facilities
which limit what they can do, or simply rent space, not service.
Step 2 – Book some Guests.
Most people mistakenly assume that booking a guest is simply making
a phone call and agreeing on a fee. It’s rarely that simple.
When contacting a potential guest, you must be
aware of what you can and cannot provide.
You must know what your budget and potential
manpower will be.
You must know if you will be able to provide
a pickup from the airport for example.
You must have your event date set. Hard to book
when your dates not known.
You need to contact the right person. Many celebrities
are represented by multiple agents. You need to talk to the right one.
I know of at least 2 events that got stung by this issue.
How are they getting to the event, and who is
paying? Local guests will often drive themselves. Out of towners will
often require airfare, plus a ride to and from the airport. Some will
require a ride at both airports.
Where are they staying? Local talent will often
stay at home, but out of town guests will require at least 1 room. Some
will require more.
Who pays for their food? How about their entourage?
Ok, so I talked to the right person, have my
date set, made an offer and they accepted it.
We’ve worked out transportation, lodging, food and tag-a-longs.
I’m set right?
Now you start playing contract tag. Even though
you have a verbal, it must all be placed in writing so that all parties
are clear on what is agreed upon. This stage can drag on for a while,
and the lawyers can add clauses that break the deal.
Sometimes, your offer is used to up their fee
to a competitor. “So n So will pay me $5,000 and buy me flowers.
Can you pay me $7,000 and include a pony?”
Ok…..so you have all the details worked
out, contract is signed and everythings a go right?
Almost every contract includes a clause that
allows the guest to cancel based on “professional obligations”.
What this means is they can bail on you, often right up to the day of
your event. While this doesn’t happen often, it does happen, and
happens enough to be a concern.
Step 3: Gear
Many locations will be able to provide you with tables, chairs, and
some electronics as a nominal fee. There will often be items though
that they do not have that you will need to find. This often costs money.
Sound systems, lighting, projectors, tv’s, vcrs, microphones,
etc. All are key to an event, and all must often be found at additional
Step 4: Advertise
A successful advertising campaign is a key point to a successful event.
While word of mouth is the best and most affordable, other advertising
must be done. Even if it is only the basic ‘flyer crawl’;
(where people with time go around and pass out, post up or drop off
flyers) there are usually printing costs involved. Even at a nominal
3cent per page cost, a 10,000 page batch will run into the hundreds
of dollars. Add to it any postage, shipping, etc, and it ads up fast.
Failing to get the word out is often a key reason why events fail.
You can advertise in publications, newspapers,
collages, community billboards. Public bill boards by highways, mass
mailings, radio and tv spots, as well as websites all also cost both
time and money.
Advertising correctly is important to maximize
your budget. Spending 85% of it on a billboard or avoiding local concentrations
of your primary target customer are both potentially fatal moves.
Step 5: Misc.
This is all the stuff you didn’t do in 1-4. What is it? Well,
that is hard to say. Making sure you have enough prereg customers to
cover expenses. Having enough staff on hand to pick up guests and get
them set up. Having enough people on hand to handle onsite registrations.
Just having someone to watch your spot while you hit the toilet or grab
some food. All this and more is part of the “misc.” section.
Small events can often be done by a small club in their spare time.
Larger events require an exponential increase in time and money. This
article barely touches on what it really takes to pull off a successful
event. Many veterans may read it and call it naïve. They are encouraged
to add their experience to it. It takes a lot of work, effort, money
and most of all love to bring an event off successfully today. Dealing
with the issues (like discovering a soccer tournament is also booked
at the hotel the same week as your anime con, or your featured guest
cancels the day of the event) can be a challenge.
never as easy as you think.
also known on various on-line forums as "Silent" Bob, and
just "Kaith", is a long time sci-fi fan. Currently head of
the I.K.V. Devisior,
an independant science fiction, anime and fantasy fan club, he has held
positions with numerous other groups. He has organized activities at
Media Play and Barnes & Nobel, worked con security, participated
in club challenges for charities, and participated in masquerades, art
shows and model shows at several Toronto conventions.
You can reach Bob at his website, http://rustaz.com