This is part 6 of our Convention Organizing series of articles.
Your guests are frequently the ‘draw’ for your event. They are the names that you have chosen to invite to your convention. They can be sports figures, actors, voice actors, cosplayers, YouTube stars, artists, animators, or authors. In fact, they can be anyone you think people will pay to see.
Choose Appropriate Guests
You need to choose guests that will follow the theme of your convention. If you are a niche convention, such as anime or focused on a particular show, then it probably isn’t a good idea to bring in sports figures or wrestlers unless they are somehow tied to an anime or that show. However, wider-ranged events like comic conventions, entertainment expos, and cosplay events can bring in a much broader range of people. Guests are typically compensated in some form. Compensation depends on your contract, it can be as simple as a free booth or table, room and board, or for many others there are monetary requirements. What you provide to them varies based on their individual requirements and your contracts and agreements.
ALWAYS GET A SIGNED CONTRACT
Create a detailed contract, this can not be stressed enough. A signed contract protects both you and the guest. It also lays out in detail how certain things should be handled and what you provide. It should also provide timelines for when things such as flights and hotels will be arranged.
Use their Star Power
Once you have a guest confirmed, you want to utilize the star power of your guests so make sure you advertise them. Use their name as a key draw, but don’t forget that there is more to your event than just that person.
And NEVER advertise a guest until you have them locked in. Too many conventions have made promises that fall through. You are also setting yourself up for potential lawsuits if you start advertising people that don’t have contracts with you.
Don’t be a One-Pony Show
Make sure that people know there are other people and events going on at your convention. Don’t make your event a one-trick-pony.
Too many small shows have relied on the star power of one guest, and failed when that star couldn’t appear. There needs to be more to your event than just that guest. Advertise the vendors, the local artists, costume contests, panels and events. In general, create more than one draw. Patrons may be disappointed that your celeb didn’t show, but at least there are other reasons for them to be there.
Just because you managed to acquire an ‘A’ or ‘B’ list celeb, don’t focus your entire show around them. Life happens and your big name may have to drop out. Filming schedules change, people and family get sick, and flights get cancelled, they could even get a better offer and be willing to take the penalty.
There are also cases of double booking. Many celebrities work through multiple agents, and it is the agents that schedule the shows; sometimes two different agents will schedule shows for the same weekend. In those cases, the celeb needs to chose which one they will attend. This isn’t the celebrity’s fault, it’s the communication between agents.
Use, Don’t Abuse, Your Guests
You have a name, so be sure to spread them around a little bit. They can do a variety of things at your event including meet and greets, photo ops, panels, and event hosting.
Whatever you want your guests to do, ensure that it is laid out in the contract and provide them a schedule. However, make sure they have some breathing room in the schedule. Not only do scheduled events never go as planned, but your guest also wants time to hit the bathroom, grab some food, or just relax and get away from the public eye.
You also don’t want to schedule back-to-back events, unless they are next to each other, as your guest needs to get from point A to point B.
Some guests bring an entourage that they expect to be their handlers, but you still need to assign at least one person who can act as a guide and reminder for the event schedule.
If the guest has a guarantee, then your assigned person needs to be the one handling the money. You need someone that can confirm how much money the celebrity brought in to the table. This makes settling accounts at the end of the event much easier.
The person you assign to your guest must not be starstruck, they need to be a level-headed individual with some math skills. Someone that can control the flow of money and keep things flowing smoothly. Frequently, they are also responsible for keeping track of the schedule and getting your guest to the right place on time.
It’s Hard to Write Generic Rules for Guests
From here, it’s an open book. How you treat your guest, what you do for them, and what they do for you is wide open. Different guests have different requirements. A YouTube celeb is not going to have the same requirements as a cosplay guest or a TV show guest. Crafters, authors, artists, and wrestling names are different, which is why it all needs to be hashed out in a contract early on.
From here, all I can say is…good luck.
This is just a basic overview of some of the things a convention organizer needs to consider for their crafters. Not everything applies to every convention, they all have their own unique set of circumstances.
To find out more about setting up a convention, check out our handy page on Convention Running 101.
And just to reiterate our point – These are in no way the definitive be-all and end-all rules for a convention. They are only a guideline…a place to start.
They don’t apply to all conventions, and not every convention is big enough or capable of dealing with some of the things we discuss, but it doesn’t hurt to keep some of them in mind.
If you have your own additions to this, please put them in the comments.
I do not run conventions, I have not run conventions, and I have no plans to run a convention. I’ve seen how much work they are.
These articles are based off my own experience, those of vendors, agents, artists, volunteers, and several convention organizers I have spoken to over the last several years.