How To Start Your Own Convention – Manual Online

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Introduction

This manual is intended for those whom are serious about organizing their own fandom convention. People who would like serious insight into the organization and running a fandom convention may also benefit from this manual. Running a fandom convention is extremely difficult, money consuming, and time absorbing with and without experience. The reader of this manual should be familiar with some of the common convention language along with some business sense. This manual will not cover how to create or run a business or non-profit organization for the convention.

This manual is meant to provide readers with the most basic knowledge needed to start their own successful fandom convention. Fandom can be loosely defined as a group of followers or enthusiasts for a certain media (television shows, movies, literature, collectibles, etc.) or culture/nationality. Fandom conventions will vary greatly from one another, so this manual is very general and open-ended. The reader should know that this is only a foundation in which they can build their ideas. They should have a firm idea in their minds and use this manual to help them carry it out.

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Chapter 1: Assessing the Convention

The first chapter will help to answer some of the early questions in creating a convention.

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Choosing a Convention

The very first question that must be answered when you are confident in putting together your own fandom convention is what kind of convention it will be. There are three kinds of fandom conventions:

The 1-day Convention

The 1-day convention is most commonly held on a Saturday because of the availability of attendees. This type of convention starts early in the morning and can run late into the night (if wanted). The 1-day convention is the best for people that are new to running a business and want to test how running a convention works. It is highly recommended to put together a 1-day convention before attempting to organize a larger convention (2 or 3-day). A typical 1-day convention will take 2-3 months of planning.

The 2-day Convention

This type of convention is commonly from Saturday-Sunday. With the Saturday-Sunday convention, it is recommended to start the morning on Saturday and can run until the evening on Sunday. A typical 2-day convention will take 4-6 months of planning.

The 3-day Convention

The 3-day convention is the most common type of fandom convention. These conventions are also known as weekend conventions because they run from Friday morning up until late afternoon or early evening on Sunday. The 3-day convention takes the most planning, work, and money so it is only recommended for people with experience. A typical 3-day convention can take up to 18 months but can be planned and setup in only 12 months.

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Catering to Fandom

Once the type of convention is decided on, the fandom or target audience must be established. A fandom convention is planned with the intention to attract and entertain the fandom it caters. It is only when you clearly state what your fandom is that you may proceed through the rest of these steps. The fandom chosen will determine most decisions and details made later on in the planning and organizing process.

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Researching the Area

Before going through with a convention, the surrounding area must be examined. With the fandom in mind, you must check to make sure your convention will not conflict with others that are closely related to it. You must be very careful to make sure that your new convention does not conflict with any similar pre-existing conventions in the area. The goal in this section is to try to distance the new convention from other fandom conventions similar to it. You want to distance your convention not only physically, but also by date. Most established conventions will try to keep their convention on a certain weekend of the year. It is best to stay away from established convention weekends and the surrounding weekends so not to start animosity with other conventions.

State & Nationwide Evaluation

The place to start researching is state or nationwide (depending on fandom). With some searching on the internet, finding lists of fandom conventions that are held state and nation-wide are easy. In the case that you are trying to start a convention in a relatively small state, you may need to research the bordering states as well. You do not need to account for every fandom convention. You only need to make note of fandom conventions that closely or directly relate to the fandom convention being created. Take note of the location and date of the conventions that are already established and keep track of any new conventions that may spring up as well.

Regional/City Evaluation

In cases where there are multiple fandom conventions in one state and the population of a state is large enough to support multiple fandom conventions it is time to start evaluating at the county or city level. It is ideal to start a convention in an area where no conventions of its kind are being held already. Although some cities do have multiple conventions that occur in them throughout the year, starting a fandom convention in a city that already has two or more would be unwise. You should try to be creative with your choice in location. Trying out cities that do not already have fandom conventions hosted in them is a risk but it is better than coming into a city that already has several well-established popular conventions.

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Determining Size

Once you know where you want to start your fandom convention then the last major question is determining the size. Size simply means how big or how small you would like your convention to be. The type of convention (1-day, 2-day, or 3-day) does not matter when it comes to choosing the size. Making a large 1-day convention or a small 3-day convention is completely possible. The main two problems encountered when trying to choose the size is financing and space.

Create a Budget

Before you can start thinking about how big or how small you want your convention to be, you first need to assess the business’ financial situation. Function space is typically the most expensive part of a fandom convention (with exception to some media fandoms). If you cannot afford a large function space then you will be forced to choose a smaller/cheaper place to hold your convention. You should always know how much you can spend before you take the plunge.

One major point to keep in mind when budgeting for function space is to know that with hotels and convention centers you will be expected to pay for everything before the first day of the convention. There are a few ways around this which will not be covered, but just be prepared to pay for the majority of function space and guest hotel rooms before the convention even starts.

Finding Function Space

After you have your budget then you can look for the function space you want. Function space includes hotels, convention centers, universities, and even high schools. If a student club wants to put a convention together then their best interest is to try to hold their convention at their own high school or university. Holding a convention at universities or high schools most likely means function space will be free (there may be differences depending on the university or high school). Outside of this, there are plenty of hotels equip for small-scale conventions. If you want to try for the large-scale fandom convention, you may run into problems finding space as big as you want in the city they have chosen. If this problem occurs, the only option is to look in the general area for space as large as you desire. You still need to keep in mind similar pre-existing conventions if this does happen.

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Chapter 2: Securing the Basic Necessities of a Convention

Once you evaluate your convention fully and know where you would like to hold your convention, you may move into the next phase: Gathering the basic necessities a fandom convention needs. This chapter covers the bare minimum and there will be more that you should secure before moving on to chapter 3 depending on your kind of convention. Regardless of size and fandom, there are still three main concerns that all convention organizers should focus on in the pre-signed contract phase: Financing, Securing Function Space, and Staff Organization.

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Financing

Besides the finances needed for function space, you still need to have a sizeable budget for other parts of the convention. The size of the convention decided upon earlier will greatly affect how large or how small of a budget you need for the rest of the convention. A small 1-day convention will generally need less financing than a large 3-day convention and so on. Generally speaking, when trying to create a budget for a fandom convention you should try to set aside money for things such as:

  • Audio/Visual Equipment (renting or buying)
  • Supplies (perishable and non-perishable)
  • Guests (where applicable)
  • Insurance (Event and Liability)
  • Promotion (banners, fliers, etc.)

The list of items may vary, but these are some of the more basic items that should be considered in the first draft of your final budget for the convention. The items listed are vague but that is because the differentiation between the types, size, and fandom per convention will affect what falls into these categories. You need to take these categories and find what you need from them to make your convention work by your own judgment.

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Securing Function Space

This next section mainly concerns people that want to hold their convention at a hotel or convention center. For those that are having their convention at a university or high school, this part of the process in running a fandom convention will differ greatly from hotels and convention centers. If a group is looking to host a convention at their school, they should already have an idea on the procedures in acquiring the necessary function space at their school.

Besides universities and high schools, you may have discovered the perfect location for your convention, but the real issue comes when you try to talk with the venue’s sales department. When you start to talk to the location’s sales representative, you will often find what you want is not available. A venue can be unavailable due to date conflicts or space acquisition due to prior booking events. The next issue may be cost prohibitive in acquiring space, meaning that the space you want is out of your budget and you do not feel you can generate enough revenue to pay for it.

Contracts & Negotiations

If the date and function space availability is suitable for your convention then negotiations begin. The sales department may hold on-going negotiations of terms for the contract with you. Every hotel and convention center will require a written and signed contract before the finalization of your desired date for your convention.

Hotels

When working with a hotel, the subject of room block will be negotiated before the final contract is signed. Room block is a signed guarantee that the convention will fill a certain percentage of rooms that the host hotel has in exchange for reduced cost of allocated function space. Usually, the higher a room block a person picks up, the lower the cost and higher availability of the function space. You should be realistic when choosing a room block. While the more rooms you pick up will give you benefits, if the rooms you pick up are not fulfilled then you will be hit with substantial penalty clauses.

Hotels will typically attempt to negotiate Food and Beverage commitments into the contract. Hotels want to ensure that nothing you have being sold at your convention will cut into their profit margins because they usually vend their own food and beverage in certain locations (banquets, restaurants, bars, etc.).

Convention Centers

Convention centers are handled differently. Function space is acquired by available square footage. There are typically no negotiable terms when dealing with convention centers, as the pricing is straight forward unlike hotels. There are some exceptions if you will be renting out all of the space a convention center has available (which is highly unlikely for a first year convention).

Convention centers are handled by the city. When choosing a convention center, you will have to abide by certain rules put forth by the city. This may include additional budget costs. Most commonly, a convention center may require on-site fire marshals and off-duty police officers to ensure the safety of the convention. Depending on the state, a person may be required to use union labor services and catering. Other budget costs may arise depending on individual situations.

Having multiple opinions on the contract before it is signed is highly recommended whether working with a hotel or a convention center. Terms and clauses will be laden throughout a contract and should be examined closely. You should consider having a lawyer on retainer for instances like proofreading a contract.

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Organizing Staff

After function space is secured and contracts are signed but before any other preparations can start, you need to find the correct people for various positions within the convention. The positions of power will once again vary greatly from convention to convention. Most commonly in fandom conventions a skilled person will be needed to fill the following positions:

  • Chairperson & Vice-Chairperson: These are the people in charge of the convention and will most likely be you. Like the president and vice-president of a business. There may or may not be a vice-chairman.
  • Pre-Registration/Registration: This person or persons will register people for the convention, handle money, and distribute admission to the convention. Pre-Registration and Registration may be divided into two separate positions if desired.
  • Dealers/Artists: This person or persons will be in charge of the dealers and artists space and tables. Dealers and Artists are most commonly divided into two separate positions.
  • Safety/Security: This is one of the most important and universal positions. This person is in charge of keeping the convention safe for the attendees and enforces any rules put forth by the convention and the function space.
  • Operations: This person works behind the scenes of the convention to ensure convention is prepared and performing correctly.
  • Guest Relations: This position may or may not exist depending on whether or not a convention has guests. This person will be in charge of coordinating the guests and ensuring their attendance.
  • Events: This person will be in charge of organizing and making sure events happen in a timely and safe manner.
  • General Volunteer Coordinator: This person will coordinate the general volunteer populous. Unless a convention is very small, volunteers will need to be present to help carry out work all over a convention, and this person needs to organize them.

These positions should be assigned to a trusted person with some applicable skills in the area. Some people will be tempted to have their friends help them in some of the harder work, but this is most unwise. Extra care should be put into making sure people in power know what their job is and can carry it out fully. Two particular positions should be very carefully assigned: Chairperson and Safety.

The Chairperson needs to be able to keep the convention together and get work done. You will most likely be the Chairperson, but someone may be assigned the position.

Safety is an especially difficult position. You will want someone that can enforce rules and keep attendees safe without completely pushing them away from the convention itself. The person in charge of safety can make or break a convention on the day of the event simply by being too lenient or too strict. If they are too lenient, things could get out of hand and the whole convention can fall apart ending with venue or police intervention. Adversely, if they are too strict, they could scare away attendees or kick out anyone that does even the smallest offence (line cutting for example) resulting in a decline in the convention’s reputation.

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Chapter 3: Preparing for the Convention

You should start preparing for your convention only after a contract has been signed. Without a finalized contract with the function space, everything planned can change. It would be unwise to announce and prepare for the convention before you are sure it will happen.

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Working with the Venue

Even after the contract has been signed, you should be in constant contact with the venue especially the closer it is to the convention date. You will need to submit a tentative schedule in advanced to the venue so they may prepare the appropriate chairs and tables needed. Setup arrangements will also be discussed during this time, such as where and how many tables and chairs you want in certain areas along with setup floor plans. Closer to the date of the convention, you should also reserve adequate rooms for staff, volunteers and guests that will be coming out to the convention. Typically two-four weeks until the convention you will have regular meetings with the venue to answer questions from different departments.

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Promoting

Once the convention is finalized, you should almost immediately start to promote your convention. Proper promotion is crucial especially early on so the word can spread. None of the work you do will matter if no one knows about the convention.

Promoting a convention is a large task. Distributing printed media or websites, unlike other tasks, is not very difficult. Many people can help with promoting if they are given the right materials. The more people a convention has helping to promote usually means it receives more exposure, which is the goal. Some conventions later on will have teams of people help them to promote. At first, try to get anyone that is willing to help promote.

While promoting, you should always keep in mind your target audience. A target audience is simple to figure out; they will be the fandom decided on earlier. Finding where people of the fandom gather or what people of the fandom do is important so that they may be targeted with the advertising. Some people may think that buying television or radio advertisement would be the quickest sure-fire way to gain exposure. Television and radio advertisements are quite expensive and ineffective when it comes to fandom conventions, as they do not usually reach the correct target audience. Since they are generally ineffective it is better to take the money that would have been spent on those ads and use them in the convention budget.

Here are a few recommended ways to promote a fandom convention:

  • Website: Obtaining a domain name and setting up a website for a convention is fairly easy. A website is almost required as a promotion tool because it allows you to keep attendees and potential attendees informed even if they are not in the town the convention is held. Your website should be visually appealing with easily accessible information. If a website is started, make sure to keep it updated with current information so it never becomes out of date.
  • Fliers, posters, post cards, or other printed media: Printed media is the best way to promote locally. With printed media, you can leave stacks of post cards or fliers in areas where there fandom occurs (such as a comic book store for comic book conventions, etc.). If you ask, you may also be able to hang posters or fliers in establishment’s windows or on their walls. Maximum exposure is the goal, so you should try to get creative when distributing printed media while not being wasteful.
  • Online networking (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.): Since online networking sites hold the potential to target millions of people, it would be best to try to create pages wherever you think you will gain the most attention. Some of the best examples would be to start a Facebook event or even a Facebook fan page, along with a MySpace page, and a Twitter to keep followers updated with news.
  • Promoting at similar conventions: After all other forms of promotion, you should look into attending other local conventions of similar fandom nearby to promote. If the budget is tight, it would be best to attend the largest convention closest to your convention to achieve maximum exposure. In addition, if the budget permits, purchasing a table at the established conventions to promote is best. With a table, you can self promote, answer any questions people may have, and receive pre-registrations if you are taking them at this time.
  • Promotional Events: If you are trying to start a convention in an area where it is out of the way to travel to other similar conventions or if you possess the extra budget, it is wise to host a promotional event of your own. A promotional event will also need promotion of its own to attract an audience, but not nearly as much as the convention itself. With enough of a following, a simple internet update should inform people and inspire them to attend. Promotional events should be something small, local, and simple to generate a positive reputation and get people excited about the new convention. A promotional event should be held somewhere that a group of people can meet for free or very cheap, such as a park or a restaurant. Then a promotional event should have some activities or attractions, such as free food and games for people to enjoy. With a promotional event, the idea is to be creative. Coming up with a theme or games that cater to the fandom that your convention will be is the goal.

Not included in the list but also to be remembered is simple word-of-mouth. This is where your friends can help them. By one person simply telling all of their friends about your convention, someone will likely pass the word onto another person that likes the fandom and they might come out to visit your convention.

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Gathering Supplies

Another task that should be started almost immediately after the contract for a convention has been signed is gathering supplies. The supply list needed to put together any convention of any type will be very long. Start gathering or securing supplies earlier on so you are not trying to get many supplies at the last minute. A convention will need countless smaller, inexpensive, and perishable items such as office supplies, food, etc.

A convention should make a comprehensive supply list of everything you could possibly need in advanced so when the convention begins it will be adequately prepared. After all non-perishable items are acquired, an inventory should be created of all these items in which to keep track of them throughout the convention. The inventory should be checked regularly for damages or loss. The inventory will mainly be used before and after the convention.

This section will focus mainly on larger expensive items such as audio/visual equipment, screens, etc.

Large expensive items a fandom convention will most likely need include but are not limited to:

  • Projectors
  • Screens
  • Speakers
  • Microphones and Microphone Stands
  • Sound Boards
  • Lighting
  • Sound Engineer/Technician (to work complicated equipment)

For most of the audio/visual equipment a convention needs, you should have someone on your team that can operate and fix complex audio/visual setups. You can also hire a Sound Engineer/Technician to operate the equipment over the duration of the convention.

Purchasing vs. Renting

When it comes to acquiring large expensive equipment there are two options: Purchasing the equipment or renting the equipment. If you have the adequate budget and plans to continue your convention for years to come, your best interest is to purchase your own equipment. Purchasing equipment is a large investment. Buying equipment is more expensive, but it means that you will have that equipment as long as you need it (if it is well maintained).

On the other hand, if you do not think you will be long term, renting is the best option. Renting equipment is cheaper and usually an option is given to hire an in-house Sound Engineer/Technician. No investment is made when renting equipment since after the convention is over the equipment is returned. The decision of purchasing or renting equipment is completely up to your situation.

The recommendation is if you have the money and plan to continue your convention past the first one, take the investment, and purchase the equipment. The longer the convention runs with bought equipment, the more money is saved in proxy. If you do not have the funds or do not know if your convention will prosper beyond your first convention then it would be safest to rent.

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Inviting Guests

Fandom conventions are known for bringing out certain relevant guests that pertain to the fandom. Guests include artists, actors, industry, along with other people that have contributed to a fandom and are recognized for their work. Not all fandom conventions need guests to be successful. In some fandoms, a convention is almost required to bring out guests to attract attendees. To determine if your particular fandom convention warrants inviting some guests, other like-conventions should be observed to see how many and what kind of guests they are bringing, if any.

After it has been determined what guests a convention should seek, the convention budget should be analyzed. Only after obtaining crucial materials and function space for the convention should you look into budgeting for guests. While guests are important in certain cases, you should focus on creating a firm base for your convention before budgeting for guests.

Guests can be quite expensive but there are guests out there that can be invited even on a meager budget. The goal is to invite guests that are popular to convention attendees within the conventions budget. The decision on which guests to invite will be on a purely individual basis, and it will be up to you to decide for yourself the best guests for your convention.

After obtaining the budget for a guest, inviting them can still be very difficult. Guests may decline invitations for many reasons even if you have the money to bring them out. Inviting guests as early as possible is best so that they can schedule to attend the convention. This is especially true for very popular or highly requested guests since a guest may go to dozens of conventions in a year while still working full-time. Guests are people as well, so they have their own personal schedules that may conflict with conventions.

The method of inviting guests to a convention will vary depending on the situation. Commonly, guests will have a manager or industry that you speak through to contact them and ask for their attendance. Directly talking with some guests is possible but uncommon. This process varies highly on the individual situations so you should be prepared to speak with someone other than the guest like a manager or a company.

There are countless reasons why guests may decline coming to a convention even if the convention has the finances. When a guest declines, end the discussion as politely as possible and move on to other possible guests. Further probing guests that have declined invitation will not gain their attendance and may actually result in a convention permanently losing their business. If you plan to have a continuing convention, you may try to invite that guest again for the next convention.

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Dividing Space

Once function space is acquired, dividing the space accordingly to fit the basic needs a fandom convention is important. Certain spaces that fandom conventions will have are:

  • Registration: This is where people purchase and pick up admission to the convention.
  • Vendors: This area is where sales are performed. The majority of attendees come to a convention to spend money in the vendor’s area. Vendors sell unique products that pertain to the fandom or related fandoms for profit.
  • Main Events: Typically the largest space a convention has will be allotted for main events. Main events will hold the most popular events a convention has. The most expensive audio/visual equipment will be used here.
  • Panel Rooms: The other smaller spaces that also hold events besides main events are called panel rooms. Audio/visual equipment will also be needed in each panel room.
  • Convention Operations: Not accessible to the public, conventions operations room is a collective point of operation for the convention where staff and volunteers can convene.

Other areas fandom conventions may have are:

  • Artists: This is where people sell their own crafted products. Not required by convention standards but they are popular in certain convention circuits.
  • Video rooms: These rooms will be setup with the equipment needed to show visual media that pertains to the fandom of the convention. Video rooms can easily have continuous programming.

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Planning Events

After supplies are gathered and guests are confirmed, events that will happen during the convention may be planned. The specific events that happen at conventions will once again vary depending on fandom.

Types of events include but are not limited to:

  • Topic Discussion Panels: These panels are simply where a group of people with knowledge or expertise get together and discuss topics relevant to the fandom.
  • Question & Answer Panels: Commonly for guests or industry, these panels put the hosts in front of the attendees so they may answer any questions given to them by attendees.
  • Workshops: These events are meant to demonstrate a craft or skill that pertains to the fandom. Workshops are usually artistic craft or educational.
  • Games: In this context, games mean organized play by a group of individuals. Games organized will typically be themed towards or along with the fandom of the convention.

A big question to pose in this section is whether a convention will only be operating during certain hours or will it be 24-hour (if the venue allows it)? This will greatly affect the amount of events you will want to gather for your convention. Obviously a 24-hour convention will need more events to fill time. If a convention runs late or is 24-hours, your common sense should be used when scheduling. Popular events should not be in the middle of the night and you should make sure the people running an event are okay with the time assigned. People should not be made to run events all day long and then again in the middle of the night.

Guests and Industries in Events

The best place to start planning events is to base events around the guests confirmed. Since you will be paying for guests, the guests are required to contribute their services to the convention. Guests may hold panels or discussions of their own in which you could have at your convention. Most actor and voice-acting guests will be accustomed to doing autograph sessions as well.

Industries may approach you and offer to speak about products in a panel. Gaining association with certain industries can attract attendees.

Other Events

After guest-based event, a request can be sent out to see if people would like to run an event at the convention. People or groups may then approach the convention and offer to run a panel sometimes in exchange for a free pass to the convention.

The schedule should be drafted soon after enough proposed events have been gathered. Adequate programming should be put in each area to ensure you get full worth out of the space. While drafting a schedule, some proposed events may need to be cut. People should be informed as soon as possible if their event is cut from the schedule.

Once a schedule is drafted, it should be looked over by the staff organizers to balance and insure no conflict occurs within it. After the schedule is balanced, you must get in contact with event hosts to see if they have any special requirements for their events. Conventions are mostly responsible for supplying the materials an event host needs. Arrangements must be made with the host location for layout and distribution of tables and chairs for events.

Please note that in some circumstances venues will not provide or will not have the necessary amount of tables and chairs a convention needs. You might have to go to an outside provider that will rent tables and chairs to you for your convention. Renting tables and chairs for conventions is cheaper than buying tables in chairs simply because having to store large amounts of tables and chairs can become costly.

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Printing

The last thing you should do prior to your convention is printing. Enough time should be allotted to allow printing to be completed in time for the convention. Printing is commonly the last preparation before a convention. Almost all printed information and form of admission will be made available to attendees at the registration area.

Printing typically needed to be done for fandom conventions is:

  • Schedule: Schedules are universal in conventions. A schedule will tell attendees what happens where and when. Schedules can be a part of a program book if a convention desires.
  • Program book: These commonly contain information about guests and panels, and an outline of the schedule. A convention does not need to have a program book but they are common in media conventions.
  • Form of admission to the convention (badges, wristbands, etc.): Member badges are the most common form of admission to conventions because of their success to identify attendees from non-attendees. Wristbands can also be used. The aim for form of admission is that it needs to be viewable on a person.

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Chapter 4: Running the Convention

Your convention may run for only a few days but actually running the convention can take five or more days. Running a convention includes not only the convention itself but putting in over-time to help setting it up then tearing it down.

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Setting-Up

1-day conventions can sometimes get away with setting up the day of their convention if there is not much setup to be done. However, you should prepare to setup your convention the whole day before the first day of your convention. Adequate setup time is crucial to ensure everything has time to be done correctly. Furthermore, adequate setup time gives people the ability to take their time. Rushing leads to stress and fatigue and you need your team to have plenty of energy to make it through the actual convention. The overall recommendation is to have the day prior to the convention for setup. Always be in contact with the venue to ensure how much time the convention has to setup beforehand.

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Handling Attendees

Once everything has been setup, the convention can officially start. Registration should be equip and ready to receive money and operate cash registers/cash boxes. Besides receiving money and distributing the admission to the convention, registration should be setup to have people enter and exit as quickly as possible. Congestion in registration is a real problem many conventions have.

Besides running the convention, be prepared to receive many questions from attendees. These questions, no matter what they are, should be dealt with in the most professional manner possible and do the best to appease the attendee. Dealing with attendees in conventions is very similar to dealing with customers in retail. An attendee can leave at any time and never come back to a convention because of one bad experience. The key point to running a convention is to trying to ensure that as many attendees as possible are pleased and want to return. You should realize early on that it is nearly impossible to please every single attendee completely. Focus on the wants and needs of the largest majority in exchange for the loss of the smallest minority.

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Coordinating Volunteers

The majority of conventions will have a large volunteer group that will be present for the duration of the convention. The volunteer coordinator’s job is to make sure that the volunteers know what department they are assigned to for the convention and who they work for directly. Generally, once a volunteer coordinator assigns the volunteer to their position they then become the responsibility of the staff member they work under.

Volunteers will receive free admission based on the number of hours worked at the convention and even a place to sleep at or near the convention. You should arrange adequate sleeping rooms for volunteers to stay in prior to the convention along with rooms for the staff and guests. Volunteers need to be kept under watch during the whole convention to ensure they are performing their duties.

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Managing

No matter how much preparation is put into something, everything can go drastically wrong. The job of any chairperson or committee of a convention is to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible. A few of the duties a chairperson or committee should have is:

  • Visiting rooms frequently (especially main events): To ensure everything is staying as close to the schedule as possible. Visiting rooms will also give a person the opportunity to check the quality and sanctity of events.
  • Routinely checking with safety: Contact with safety is needed to ensure everything is operating as safely as possible. Always being in immediate contact with safety is important to keep track of anything major that can happen.
  • Resolving on-site issues: When a convention brings together a large group of people there are bound to be issues amongst attendees or possibly at the venue. Often it comes down to the decision of someone like the chairperson to have the final say and resolve issues involving anything within the convention.
  • Dealing with cancellations (if any): Anyone from guests to event hosts may cancel within a few days or even the day of a convention. If a guest cancels, changes in the schedule may need to be done and announcements should be made to inform attendees. The same must be carried out with events cancellation. When staff members are unable to attend extra help may be needed.
  • Keep check on supplies: Visiting around the convention, you will likely realize some departments have run out of or need some key supplies. This is when a supply-run is necessary. A supply-run involves someone from the convention going out and purchasing additional supplies necessary then bringing them back to the convention.
  • Checking in on operations: Staying in constant contact with all convention departments will keep everyone informed and prepared.

One thing that cannot be stressed enough during the convention is communication. If anyone on staff in the convention needs something or has an important question, they need to be received and assessed as quickly as possible. Adequate communication leads to the smoothest working conditions and as well informed staff as possible.

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Tearing-Down

Before the convention started, ensuring how much time a convention has to tear down is crucial. After the convention is over, tearing-down should start as soon as possible. Some venues will force a convention out of the function space the same day it ends; other venues give them an extra day to vacate. The situation in tearing-down will vary from convention to convention.

While tearing down, cleaning and straightening up the venue as much as possible is important. The goal is to try to leave the venue the way it was when you arrived. Cleaning and straightening up the function space as much as possible will lessen any cleaning fees the venue can/may levy on a convention. Having purchased liability insurance for any damages the venue may have sustained over the duration of the convention is recommended.

After all supplies are retrieved, you should refer back to the inventory list made previously to see what and how much (if anything) has been lost. Loss is common in smaller amounts for any convention. Lost property should be replaced if you are proceeding to a second convention.

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Chapter 5: Evaluating the Convention

Within a few days after a convention, you should have a post-convention evaluation. This manual will not cover any business procedures that should be done after a convention. The final chapter of this manual will be focusing on assessing the conventions status, post-reaction and proceeding to the next year (if wanted).

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Assessing the Convention

The point in assessing the convention is to determine whether a convention was an overall success or not. A successful convention will have either sustain a small profit-loss margin, break-even, or generate a profit. You should not expect your first convention to be profitable. Even with great knowledge and planning, first conventions will typically end with some profit-loss. Although, the potential to break even or possibly generate a small profit from a first convention is present.

A financially unsuccessful convention does not mean the end of a convention altogether. Conventions may have relatively unsuccessful years but still improve in subsequent years. An unsuccessful convention can mean that the convention has sustained a large amount of debt or loss. A situation like this will require methods to help raise funds for the convention.

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Gathering Post-Reaction

Whether you are planning to continue to a subsequent convention or not, you should try to learn from your experience. Gathering a post-reaction from anyone involved with the convention and the attendees will help to educate you. Post-reaction is crucial if planning a subsequent convention. The feedback received, no matter what it may be, can help you improve your convention. The overall goal to running a successful fandom convention is to put on a quality convention, appealing to the fandom.

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Proceeding to the Next Year

Some people may put together a fandom convention with the intention that the convention will just happen once. For those that would like to continue their convention, proceeding to the next year takes heavy consideration.

If the convention happened to be profitable or break-even in its first year, continuing to a subsequent convention if desired is recommended. On the other hand, if the convention was a loss then extra effort will be required to proceed to a subsequent convention.

Generally, after a person or group has done a convention once, it will be much easier to do it again. You simply need to build on what you have done to make it better for the next convention. When planning for the next convention, you can never start too early.

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The content below is for the 2014 Convention. The San Japan website will be fully updated by November 1st, 2014.
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