Jan. 28th, 2014

shatteredshards: stop wasting that coffee, Clint (hawk pour)
I will be the first to admit that my CON runs a tight ship. This year is our 16th convention, and the mother convention that ours split off from is celebrating its 49th convention this year. Needless to say, the people involved know what they're doing and do it well.

Some people find it hard to believe that we start planning over a year in advance. The theme for the following year is voted on and decided in time for it to be announced in the printed materials (the souvenir book) each year. Two to three weeks after the convention ends the Convention Committee meets to discuss what we did and how we can do it better for the next year. The following month, some departments are already holding their individual meetings. Budgets are finalized and given a couple months later, almost 9 months before the convention.

When you're operating a fan-run, non-profit, 7,000-member annual convention, you have to run a tight ship.

Coming from that environment, I try to be aware of how I criticize other conventions. I understand that not everyone can do it the same and that our model, while it works amazingly for us, won't necessarily work for others. However, I firmly believe there are a list of iron-clad absolute musts that need to be followed, no matter how big, or small, your convention is.

  1. If you are selling admission/memberships/badges to your convention, you must have a working website for people to buy them through. Whether you use a third-party setup or put your own site on a webhost, it is completely unacceptable for your website to go down or be missing in action for a week or more at a time. Webhosts can have boo-boos and sometimes your page can go down for a day or two, we all get that. But missing multiple deadlines for having your site working, repeatedly telling people that it will be up the following week, and claiming that you're migrating the site? NO. Bag dog, no cookie.

  2. On a similar note, you need to have a working website where people can find information about your convention. It can be as simple as a free Blogspot blog or a Facebook page, but you need to have it up and working. Again, a supposed server migration that's been taking over a month is a great excuse for people to dismiss your convention as a Bad Idea.

  3. You need to pick a date and stick to it. Research what other conventions may be happening around that timeframe, to make sure that a big draw isn't going to be happening one state over that same weekend. The more you change the date, the more people will decide against attending.

  4. Your budget needs to be figured out and set in stone at least a few months before your convention. Plan everything out. Plan for emergencies and have backup funds. At no point should you be so concerned about your budget that you're on social media (or telling other people to get on social media), begging people to come get a day pass so that you can actually pay the hotel, guests of honor, et cetera. This is doubly so if you're doing it while the convention is in progress. If you can't set a budget and stick to it, if you're liable to blow the cash in your pocket instead of setting it aside for the expenses, get someone who you trust and is good with money to hold on to it for you. And let them hit you every time you ask to borrow money out of it.

  5. I've said this before, but if you're doing it just to make money (e.g. so that you don't have to get a "real job"), you're doing it for the wrong reasons. People will eventually see through you and get your ulterior motive. Besides that, you're probably not going to make a profit your first few years; only established conventions are profitable.

  6. You need to get other people involved, and they need to be people whom you trust and can handle the job. You cannot do the whole thing by yourself. You're just going to spend the whole time stressing, running around like a chicken with your head cut off, and not really have any fun. On the flip side, it's great that you want to dole out titles and positions to your friends, but unless your friends are experienced and can handle the job(s) you're giving them, you're gonna be the one crapping bricks when things hit the fan.

  7. Sleep is important. I know we all like to think we can survive on coffee alone, but nobody wants to deal with your grouchy and/or stupid self when you haven't had enough rest. Make sure you have a private place to sleep, away from the room(s) your convention is being run out of, and make sure people know that you will be sleeping from X time to Y time and not to disturb you unless your venue is burning down. Make sure the people helping you run your convention, like department heads, have the same. Make sure things can be appropriately taken care of while people sleep.

  8. Last, and perhaps the most important, is to plan. Plan for everything short of an apocalypse. Your Head of Registration gets sick? Have a plan. Your Dealers Room turns out to be too small? Have a plan. If you stay calm and in control, your people stay calm and in control, and your convention keeps going.


shatteredshards: a large cappuccino cup with a skein of multicolored yarn in it (Default)

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