- The basics
- The Dreamteam
- The Motivation
- Making mistakes
- The Organisation
- The people
- All the other stuff
- Your ennemies
So you have always wanted to start your own event but you never really knew where to start from. You will see that it is not rocket science.
However it doesn’t mean that it will be easy, there are a lots of details to think about and it requires a lot of involvement.
Don’t be shy and surround yourself with experience and motivated people. They don’t have to know everything about how to run a convention. But they better have a good idea of what attendees are expecting and what they can’t find elsewhere (something as simple as proximity or more daring as lazer light effects all over the place).
Be ready to share frustration and stress with those people. Organising a big event requires a lot, especially if it is your first time. Never forget to be thankfull and respectful during your journey.
You better start with a lot of it because you are going to have a lot of ups and downs!
Mistakes are part of the learning proccess, aknowledge them. Have the habit of figuring out what went wrong, discuss about it with the others and find together a solution and how to avoid it for the next time.
Nobody should ever get blamed for having made a mistake.
This is probably an aspect that you are going to change and improve constantly. You and your team will have to work together, find the best way of communication and put trust.
Set up a team, don’t do everything by yourself and quickly learn how to delegate work and avoid micromanagement. How bigger your team becomes, how less micromanagement you will have to do. Try to have reliable
Make the roles clear
Everybody should know what is expected from them, what they can do and what the others do.
Bad communication is everyone’s enemy and is not so uncommon. Clearly fix the means of communication, remind people that nobody can read the other’s mind and that they shouldn’t worry too much to communicate on little things, unless it has been made clear that it was too much.
Unless you are using some working methods, here is is a basic setup for meetings. Don’t forget to plan the next meeting as soon as the current one is over.
Those should be short (30 minutes-45 minutes maximum), and involve only the key people. They should happend frequently. How frequent is frequent? That depends on how much is going on, but 1 time every weeks long before the convention, up to every week/every days when things are starting to heat up.
Each participant has to make a summary how the latest advancements, issues they encountered and the next thing they are going to work on.
They are very useful to let know the users what everyone is up to, motivate, and show that things are moving
Those might take some time, and should only involve the people necessary in the discussion. If you are going to have different topics discussed, try to plan the meetings seperatly with only the people needed. Remember, keep everyone motivated!
They should be organised every time something is coming up and needs to be discussed and has to involve different persons. If subjects have to be voted try to have a consensus
Conceive a budget. At the begining it will be really hard, especially if you are lacking experience in organizing a convention. Here are a few tips:
Start with how much you expect in incomes (from tickets sale, selling spots rental, sponsors, etc).
Take a safety margin (for exemple: you’re going to do only 70% of the planned incomes).
Cut the budget as best as you can in the different departments, start first with the most expensive and priorities (garbages are probably higher in priority than decoration) :
Taxes on incomes.
Venue and rooms rental.
Public relations (advertisement, website, flyers, commissions).
Before starting any spendings, try to have as much quotes for the biggest expenses as possible and refine constantly your budget. And be creative, look for sponsors, create VIP tickets, etc.
The budget is what is going you to prevent from dreaming to big. But it doesn’t mean you should throw away all ideas, keep them, and if your convention is successful apply them for later!
Try to align the price of your tickets to those of similare venues, it is likely that it is the price your attendees are willing to pay for. Be careful to not put the prices too low. Why? For these reasons:
Increasing the price will be more difficult to do. Peope are no going to be really happy about that, and there is a higher chance that you are going to increase the price if you start too low.
It’s more likely you are going to go off budget your you’re taking more risks of not reaching the planned budget. Bigger and more settle conventions usually have sponsors or better discounts on the equipment they have to buy or rent, allowing them to lower the price.
Have your PR team ready, if you want to offer a lot to your attendees for your first editions and your ticket prices are higher than for other conventions people might not get the reasons why. Comparing with other conventions is easy, but you probably have less leverage on negociating for lower prices, less chances to be sponsored by a company or with public funds… See with your PR team how they can have some nice answers to provide to that critiques.
Of course later as you are going to refine your budget, you should also reconsider the price of your tickets.
If you are used to run a business, that is something you are already doing (and it will make your tax declarations faster). Try to have a routine where you can quickly know how much of your budget you spent.
Put aside for the unexpected
A lot of details are often overlooked, luckely they are not the most espensive ones, but your convention should be able to spend money on last minute and still stay within budget.
In my experience it is the hardest point. It is where the most expenses go, and there are different factors beside price. That you going to play:
Accessibility: is public transport important for your convention? How hard is it going to be for your attendees to reach it. It might be in a very nice landscape but hard to reach. Maybe you should budget for a shuttle or see with the local transit system if they can have more buses passing by.
Size: is it big enough?
Facilities nearby: are there ATMs, fast foods (unless you have some on spot)… nearby? Try to keep as much people as possible in or close to your event.
Look and feel: does it look nice, will the decoration team have a lot of work to do?
Price: does it fit your budget. It might be perfect… but how much strain is it puting on your budget?
Local regulations and taxes: how much does it effect the different steps that you have to take?
Know your public. Chances are, you are part of the public, you already attend to other conventions of the same type as what you want to organize and you discuss about it with your friends.
Be open minded, ask people a bit outside of your close friends circles what will be the ideal convention for them, and describe your project.
Don’t attend other conventions only for fun, do it also for homework. Take notes of what works and what doesn’t, be ready to talk about your convention, how to get in reach with you and learn more about it.
The social medias: your friennemies
Social medias, especially for very social conventions like Cosplay, Geek or Furry conventions are a great way to get in touch with your public and advertise for little to not costs. But beware, from experience, numbers on the social network are not super reliable on the attendecy that you can expect. At best, in the beginning they will provide you a good hint of how many people are interested and might join.
Make good contact with your employees, volunteers, business partners and customers. Have communication loops (give an instruction and check later if it has been well understood).
All the other stuff
Have you and your team figuring out what all this other stuff is ;).
They are a few, never forget them:
Distrust: you probably never have worked liked that with the people in your team. Give them some love, trust in their motivation and skills. If something is not working as expected just have a polite discussion and give suggestions.
Micromanagement: while at the beginning as you will certainly have a small team, you will share different roles and you will end up micromanaging. Try to have a clear role set for everyone, and rather than taking someone’s job because you feel like you can do it better, directly and politely ask them to deal with something you would have done.
Lack of motivation.
Not doing meetings: because nobody will know what is going on.
Doing too much/too long meetings: meetings should be efficient, everybody joining the meeting should know what they are doing there and not have their time wasted. Let’s say you are discussing about the colour of the flyers while the person in charge of the safety is there. Is it something he has to be aware about? Is his input needed there? Don’t you think that he might get bored? The solution is quite simple: have regular update meetings, where each party involves has 5-10 minutes to share what has been done since the last meeting and can hear from the others what they are up too. The idea is that everybody can see that things are moving, and after a meeting have talk with people they want to give a feedback or exchange some ideas with.
Blaming: everybody makes mistakes. Especially when you are not at a profesionnal level. Chances are that everybody wants the best. Screwing things up will be inevitable and all the team should be onboard to find a solution.
Not knowing the law and local regulations: be very careful with that has it might mean that you will have to take extra steps to avoid getting a fine.
Yourself: one of my worst experience was working with someone who got paranoid and thought I wanted to steal their project. Which was all the contrary, I thought it was awesome and I wanted to see them make it grow. Regardless to say, if you are struggling with confidence, it might hurt your project. people working with you.
In any case, be kind and thankfull!