This is part 1 of our Conventions organizing series of articles.
There are many sides to a convention, what makes a convention truly successful is when all those sides (or at least most) walk away satisfied. As a cosplayer, a patron and sometimes a vendor these are just a few of the keypoints I have found that make for a successful convention
Unfortunately the old adage about not being able to please all of the people all of the time is true but there are a lot of things a convention runner can do to make more people happy. If more than half of people walk away from your convention happy, then you can possibly consider yourself a success.
As a convention organizer you need to realize that the people at your convention can be divided into several groups and if you offend any of these groups as a whole, then your convention will fail. However, if you keep the majority of each group happy, then you’ve got a decent chance for a successful event.
In this multi-part series we will explore what you, as an organizer, need to keep in mind for your event.
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.
These are the attendees that are there to shop, meet a guest, view artwork, or see the cosplay. The patrons are your largest group and are the bread and butter of your convention. Without patrons you can not have a successful convention. Patrons come from all walks of life, have different abilities and different interests. Remember that this group also includes the vendors, artists, guests and cosplayers as many of them are also there to shop, people watch and see the guests.
The vendors have paid for space and are there to sell items and (hopefully) make a profit. If you don’t treat them nicely and make things easy and affordable for them, then they probably won’t return. Vendors talk to each other, if something goes wrong then the odds are pretty good that everyone will know. If your vendors find your event convenient, easy and profitable not only will they want to return next year, they will also recommend it to other vendors.
Remember that your vendors are also your patrons, many vendors run in shifts allowing their staff time off to view the floor, so everything you provide for patrons is also for them.
The artists are obvious, and you usually have them segregated over to artists alley. Some of them are well known and have a long history, others are fairly new and trying to make a name for themselves. They are all trying to sell their artwork. Most of the artists have paid for space and are there to sell their style. Much like vendors, if you don’t treat them nicely and make things easy and affordable for them, then they probably won’t return. Artists talk to each other and frequently have a fan following, if something goes wrong then the odds are pretty good that they will let the world know. However, if you keep your Artists happy, they will return.
At some events the artists can also be considered your patrons, but frequently the artists are too busy manning their tables to be patrons. Either way, it is a good idea to ensure everything you provide for patrons is also for them.
This is a fairly new category. Some think of crafters as vendors, others as artists. Traditionally artists alley is for two-dimensional art, but things have been changing and some artists are putting their art into less traditional mediums. As a convention organizer you need to decide what classification you want to put crafters under or are you going to keep them separate? No matter how you classify them, keep in mind that they can also be your patrons and like everyone else, they talk. They will promote your event before hand to get people to visit their booths/tables, but if they feel slighted at your event you can be sure they will let other know to avoid your shows.
These are frequently the ‘draw’ for your event. They are the names that you have chosen to invite to your convention. They can be anyone from sports figures to cosplayers. Guests can be artists, sports figures, voice actors, TV and movie stars, or even stars of social media. Guests can do a variety of things at your event including meet and greets, photo ops, panels, and event hosting.
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.
Cosplayers can fall into all categories. Most cosplayers will only be there as patrons however they can also be your guests and artists. Cosplayers that are there as patrons are a slightly different category than your average patron because if you provide a few simple accommodations for them, they add to the advertising and draw of your event. Happy cosplayers will talk about your event before it happens, share it on social media and encourage friends and followers to join them. They will also share stories and photos of the event afterwards, priming the pump for your next event.
Treat all cosplayers as your patrons, but a few extra accommodations like specific prop guidelines, trained security, cosplay focused panels, a cosplay area with photo ops, and maybe even a costume contest go a long to making them happy.
Without patrons you don’t have an event, but your staff can be the make or break of your event. A well-trained courteous staff may not be noticed, unless they go out of their way to help someone, but a poorly trained staff will definitely be noticed. Your staff can also be patrons, so treat them nice, even if you aren’t paying them at least compensate them with food and water.
This is just a basic classification overview for some of the people with whom a convention organizer deals. As the series progresses, we will break each of these down further and attempt to explore their requirements.
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.