Username Post: Guest Etiquette        (Topic#2972)
NyanCon 
Attendee

Loc: Kirtland Ohio
Reg: 09-19-13

09-19-13 05:12 AM - Post#12847    

This is a second year question, but next year will be our first year getting guests who will be requiring reimbursement for travel expenses. This year we were lucky enough to find local industry guests who were willing to come pro-bono, but next year we plan to get some bigger names as the convention grows.

I'm just wondering if there are certain do's and dont's for recruiting guests and maintaining a good relationship. When the guest arrives at the airport, do we get them a rental or taxi them to the hotel? Is it appropriate to write a binding contract to insure our expenses? Any advice would be greatly, wonderfully appreciated!

Thank you so much! ^_^

- Caitie

 
Gale 
Sacrificial White Mage
Gale
Loc: New England
Reg: 03-08-09

09-19-13 09:00 AM - Post#12848    
    In response to NyanCon

Never ever EVER offer something you can't guarantee to follow through on. I've seen cons do that, and it's horrible PR.

Also, never announce a guest before they confirm 100% they agree to attend. That said, you do want to announce them as soon as possible in order to let your attendees know. While you can't count on guests being a major draw, there are attendees who may be on the tense and a certain guest might tip them into the "ok, I'm going!" column.

To your question on transportation, it's a good idea to have someone at the airport waiting for the guest. If you can afford a hired car that can be a huge help, but you may still need to send your own staff to greet them at the baggage claim. It's perfectly acceptable though to have a driver from among your staff as long as their car is clean and at least a mid-size, and of course they should be a good driver.

It's also appropriate to have a contract, but be prepared that some guests may want to negotiate it. Down the road, others may have their own contracts they'll prefer to use. Make sure you have the contracts on hand, electronic or hard copies, at the convention in case any questions come up.

Patrick may have some better advice for guest relations specifically for small cons. The one I work at was already around 8,000 attendees when I joined staff.
AnimeCons.com contributor

ConnectiCon Director of Guest Relations


 
PatrickD 
Executive Producer
PatrickD
Loc: California
Reg: 12-07-06

09-19-13 01:41 PM - Post#12849    
    In response to NyanCon

After you've confirmed a guest will attend, here are the steps I'd follow...

1) Get their photo and bio and send that to your con's PR folks. They should post it on the web site first and THEN post it to social media. If they know how to write a press release, they should do so and send it out to Anime News Network and any other relevant sites. (For example, if it's a DBZ guest, look for some DBZ news sites.) Submit their appearance as an update on AnimeCons.com so they're listed here too.

2) Work out what panels, events, and how many autograph sessions and for how long they will be doing. Get all their obligations set early...like if they're participating in a game show or judging a contest. When your con's schedule is confirmed, e-mail a copy to the guest and specifically list any of those panels or events that they're involved with and when their autographs are. If there are any issues, you'll want to get this sorted before the con and before the schedule goes to print.

3) Book their travel 3 months before the con. You can do 2 months too, but once you get down to 1 month or 3 weeks, airline rates generally increase exponentially. Give them several flight options that work for the schedule and your budget. Coach is usually fine for most. Before you book, you will need to know their date of birth and phone number (which all airlines ask for) and it's good to ask their aisle/window preference too. Hopefully they respond with their favorite option within a day...or else the option they picked may no longer be available.

4) Don't forget to make sure they have a hotel room available too. It should be available to check in as soon as they arrive and hopefully they can get late checkout if their return flight is not until later. Make sure your con's facilities person (whomever handles the hotel rooms) communicates to the hotel that these rooms are for your guests of honor, so they should get highest priority...even over your own staff. (If staff have to wait to check in, no biggie...but you want your guest to be able to freshen up or sleep when they arrive.)

5) A couple days before they fly, send an e-mail saying how excited you are to have them and see if there's anything else they need before you go on site for the convention. This also serves as a reminder that, "Hey, you're still coming to our convention, right? Don't forget you have that flight coming up!"

6) Put together a gift basket. I don't know about other cons, but Anime Boston and PortConMaine put together little gift baskets to give to the guests once they've arrived on site. (Don't make them carry it at the airport since they already have luggage.) They usually contain a couple bottles of water (which they should have MORE of available all weekend), hand sanitizer, mints, a book about something local (local legends, local comedy, or something else interesting about your area) that they can flip through if they're bored, and some locally made snacks or novelties. PortConMaine has been known to give little lobster plushies, lobster-shaped gummies, "moose" candy, and other Maine-themed things. Finally, add in a card to thank them for attending and have your guest staff sign it ahead of time. Print up their schedules and emergency contact info for you and your staff and include that as well. If you can get their badge and a program guide early, it's good to put those in too.

7) If you're picking guests up at the airport, you don't need to hire a car service. Having staff pick them up is fine...but make sure the person picking them up meets certain requirements: a) a good driver, b) non-smoking, c) has a reliable, clean car, d) will be on time, e) can handle him/herself in a crisis without panic.

7a) Good driver is essential. You don't want someone to give your guests a heart attack on their way to the con!

7b) Non-smoking and no body odor. This person is their first impression of the con. They should be dressed neatly too. A con T-shirt is fine, but if they're wearing ripped jeans or have not washed their hair in a week, that's not good.

7c) You don't want the guest moving McDonald's wrappers when they get in the car. It should be 100% cleaned out and fully gassed up. Remove ALL junk from inside and get a car wash (expense it to the con). Make sure the trunk is also presentable and ready for luggage.

7d) This person should be familiar with the route between the con and airport (even if they have to practice it in advance) and know what the traffic will be like. They should arrive on time, park, and go into the terminal to meet the guest. Bring a sign that says the name of your con since sometimes the guests don't look like the photos on your site. (Hey, it's been a long travel day!)

7e) Being able to handle themselves in a crisis is essential. When the guest hasn't arrived and is nowhere to be found...or when there's a car accident en route...or when the guest arrives and is starving...you need someone who can be calm. They also need to remember that the guest is just a regular person and they shouldn't go all fanboy/fangirl on them. Then again, that kind of goes for ALL the staff in general.

8) When the guest arrives, drop them off at the door to the hotel and have someone to greet them. This will free up your driver to go back to the airport or park the car. Get the guest checked in and stay with them to make sure everything is okay. Offer to carry their luggage for them, but if they just want to go back to their room and are sending, "stop following me" signals, let them go on their own. If you carry up the luggage, you can put it in the room by the door, but don't stay and linger. Guest staff should NEVER be inside the guest's room unless invited.

9) This is a good time to give the gift basket and their appearance fee and/or stipend for the weekend. (If it's a stipend of $200 or less, I generally prefer to give cash OR a Visa gift card which can be used like a credit card. Then they'll be able to actually use the money for food over the weekend. Appearance fees can be paid by check since nobody wants to carry $500+ in cash.) By presenting the fee/stipend up front, they won't be wondering all weekend when they'll get it or IF they'll get it.

10) Point out their schedule and emergency contact numbers are in the gift basket. Let them know the lay of the land...where's the green room (if you have one), where is the con (in the hotel? next door? across the street?), and where they can find some food. When you leave, remind them when their first event is. "Okay! We'll see you tomorrow at 10am for opening ceremonies!" (...or whatever.)

11) The con happens. Stuff.

12) When the guest leaves, it's the same thing in reverse. Take their luggage to the car and drive them to the airport. I know some cons will drop off the guest and leave, but I prefer to park and walk them to the ticket counter to make sure there are no issues. I help them find security and then say goodbye.

13) After the con, send an e-mail thanking them for attending. Avoid potentially awkward moments by NOT saying anything like, "I hope you can come back sometime!" which they may interpret as an invite. Just talk about how great they were, how much the staff and attendees loved having them, how funny ____ event was, and apologize for that unfortunate ____ incident...whatever is appropriate depending on how the weekend went.

Anyway, that's how I do things and I've probably forgotten a bunch. I know there are other ways to handle things and I welcome those suggestions.
-PatrickD
AnimeCons.com Executive Producer
Co-Founder: Anime Boston and Providence Anime Conference
Host of The Chibi Project & Anime Unscripted™


 
Gale 
Sacrificial White Mage
Gale
Loc: New England
Reg: 03-08-09

09-19-13 03:57 PM - Post#12850    
    In response to PatrickD

  • PatrickD Said:

13) After the con, send an e-mail thanking them for attending. Avoid potentially awkward moments by NOT saying anything like, "I hope you can come back sometime!" which they may interpret as an invite. Just talk about how great they were, how much the staff and attendees loved having them, how funny ____ event was, and apologize for that unfortunate ____ incident...whatever is appropriate depending on how the weekend went.



Something related to this point: think very carefully about whether or not you ever want to have repeat guests year to year, and if you DO invite some of the same guests back multiple years in a row be prepared for other guests expecting the same treatment, or for feelings to be hurt when the year comes you finally don't invite them back. It is also not unusual for guest staff over time to become friends with guests, especially if they attend multiple years. It is important to keep your business interactions and your personal/friend interactions as separate as possible. If you are in charge of the department think carefully about if you even want to encourage such relationships at all. On some level you will always be in a position of power over them, and it can be difficult when every time you say "hey! What's up, I miss you!" To be greeted with "I hope I can come back next year!" because just because you're friends doesn't mean it's the right time to host a person as a guest.

It would be a wise idea to set a dress code for your department's staff (will you wear the general con staff shirt? A department shirt? Business attire like suits and blouses?) and be open to changing this as your convention grows. Set a code of conduct for your staff too. Consider that guests go out for dinner or to a bar with guest staff in tow. Do you want to allow your of-age staff to responsibly nurse a drink in order to be sociable, or have a strict no alcohol policy? Do you want guests to be escorted at all times on the con floor or just to and from appearances? It's a good idea to advise your staff against soliciting the guests for any reason ("hey mr voice actor, will you record dialog for my web series?"). Decide if you are going to allow them to request autographs or photos and then how to handle that (should they go through you? Do it during the guest's scheduled autograph block? Have a special signing block for staff?).

Will pop back in with more as i think of it.
AnimeCons.com contributor

ConnectiCon Director of Guest Relations


 
EllyStar 
New England Con Whore
EllyStar
Loc: Massachusetts
Reg: 06-24-07

09-20-13 09:41 AM - Post#12852    
    In response to PatrickD

  • PatrickD Said:
3) Book their travel 3 months before the con. You can do 2 months too, but once you get down to 1 month or 3 weeks, airline rates generally increase exponentially. Give them several flight options that work for the schedule and your budget. Coach is usually fine for most. Before you book, you will need to know their date of birth and phone number (which all airlines ask for) and it's good to ask their aisle/window preference too. Hopefully they respond with their favorite option within a day...or else the option they picked may no longer be available.



In addition to their date of birth and phone number, make sure you have their legal name as it appears on their ID (drivers license and/or passport). The ticket much match this name or they're going to run into a lot of problems at the airport. Even if you find out about the mistake before the flight, it's next to impossible to change.
Elizabeth: Website and Podcast Writer
My Conventions


 
PatrickD 
Executive Producer
PatrickD
Loc: California
Reg: 12-07-06

09-20-13 12:46 PM - Post#12853    
    In response to EllyStar

  • EllyStar Said:
In addition to their date of birth and phone number, make sure you have their legal name as it appears on their ID (drivers license and/or passport).


Aah, yes! I forgot to mention that one. I've had to book tickets under different names for actors who use an alias for their work or just for actresses who have gotten married and legally changed their name, but still go by their maiden name professionally.
-PatrickD
AnimeCons.com Executive Producer
Co-Founder: Anime Boston and Providence Anime Conference
Host of The Chibi Project & Anime Unscripted™


 
NyanCon 
Attendee

Loc: Kirtland Ohio
Reg: 09-19-13

09-20-13 10:34 PM - Post#12854    
    In response to NyanCon

Oh holy cow, you guys are awesome! I never would have thought of some of those things! And I can use some of the tips for our existing guests.

Thank you so much, this is an invaluable resource! I'll be sure to bring more questions to you guys ^_^

Thank you!

-Caitie

 
A.C.A. 
Attendee

Reg: 09-18-09

09-29-13 01:18 AM - Post#12877    
    In response to PatrickD

Speaking as a guest, from a guest perspective. You should ask the guest ahead of time about dietary needs, dietary restrictions, personal needs, allergies or medical restrictions. While I'm pretty easy about eating anything personally, I know lots of my fellow guests are vegetarian, vegan, have a gluten, peanut allergy, diabetes or other medical condition that may preclude them from eating something you might be offering.

I've cringed when a fellow guest is starving and waiting for lunch in the green room to be served, when they bring out chicken, steak and turkey sandwiches, not realizing that the guest is a vegetarian, or has a gluten intolerance (and making them wait or starve before going to their next panel). Depending on the venue for the convention it can be incredibly difficult to resolve when things aren't prepared in advance. Good Hotels can usually resolve the situation quickly in their kitchens, but convention centers are usually horrid when these situations rise up, because their catering is rather limited to concession stands (unless you planned in advance with their catering). A starving guest is an unhappy guest.

It's also useful to know if you have welcome dinners. I know you might want to take all the guests to the best steakhouse in town, but make sure your guests like steak or that the restaurant has a gluten-free menu if someone has an intolerance.

 
Jefferson Eng 
Attendee

Loc: Suburban Philadelphia Are...
Reg: 04-04-13

09-30-13 12:17 PM - Post#12881    
    In response to PatrickD

Holy! Patrick!

That's a lot to keep guests happy, content, engaged, and entertaining all at the same time. I guess I need all the pointers I can get at being a guest relations staffer because it looks like I'm slated to be doing this sort of thing for the very first time as a con staffer at Nekocon next month.

Well, I know I'm old hat at working and running all over cons, but yeah, this is very useful. :-)

(I wonder if we can get Mr. L. Furry over here for his own insight...)

Edited by Jefferson Eng on 09-30-13 12:18 PM. Reason for edit: No reason given.

 
Fuzzy 
Con Regular
Fuzzy
Loc: Orlando
Reg: 12-07-07

10-10-13 04:40 PM - Post#12922    
    In response to Jefferson Eng

Lol! Name dropping me eh?

Well, just skimmed through this and LOTS of good pointers/tips. Most of what I would have to say has already been covered. I'll try and go over this in depth and see if I have anything more to add. Something I will say that pops into my head is:

Be sure to let the guests know if they'll need to bring any certain type of clothes. Ie: if your opening ceremonies is a formal/semi formal dinner with the guests, make sure they know in advance otherwise don't be surprised if they show up to it in jeans and a t-shirt.
True wisdom comes from knowing that you know nothing
-Socrates

Thats US DUDE!!
-Ted 'Theodore' Logan


 
A.C.A. 
Attendee

Reg: 09-18-09

10-22-13 12:29 PM - Post#12976    
    In response to PatrickD

  • PatrickD Said:


9) ...Appearance fees can be paid by check since nobody wants to carry $500+ in cash....





Except in Vegas. The Blackjack tables do not accept convention checks

 
K2theninja 
Attendee
K2theninja
Loc: Helena MT
Reg: 01-19-11

05-25-14 03:35 AM - Post#13850    
    In response to A.C.A.

I'd just add one little thing here, when in doubt; email the Voice Actor/Actress'agent, if they have one, the Agent of said guest(s) will generally be able to answer most basic FAQ's regarding the appearance as a guest for their client. (At least the few I've had the privilege emailing have), that way you and the Con staff will have a solid foundation of what to expect when negotiating for requesting the actor/actress as a guest.

 
MinamiKaome 
Attendee
MinamiKaome
Loc: Minnesota
Reg: 05-27-14

05-27-14 05:35 AM - Post#13857    
    In response to NyanCon

So many great points have been mentioned, I will add one important thing. Do not over schedule! Your guests are not performing monkeys, they need to eat and have down time. I volunteered to handle a very popular VA at a 1st year con that didn't have any experience with guests and the poor thing had 5 events scheduled right in a row. He was so starved and exhausted, he flat out refused to do more until he got to eat. By that point I was ready to quit too and could have strangled the con director for over-scheduling his guest.

 
A.C.A. 
Attendee

Reg: 09-18-09

07-19-14 10:27 PM - Post#13942    
    In response to MinamiKaome

I always request no more than 4 panels a day (autograph sessions, opening ceremonies count!). And at least a 1-2 hour break between panels only if you scheduled 2 consecutive panels back to back. If you scatter them throughout the day with 1-2 hour breaks in-between, then it should be fine with your guests. Having a guest do up to 12 events over the course of 3 days is pretty fair. it gives them enough time to be seen and participate in multiple events, but it doesn't overwork them to the point that they get exhausted.

Oh, if you really want to show you care for your guest, never schedule a panel with them on Sunday morning at 10AM. Sunday 10AM is a low interest low turnout time slot. It only makes them unhappy when they have to wake up early to come to a panel with 5-10 people in it. Your guest (and probably many of your attendees) may have been "celebrating" the night before, so he/she probably won't want to get out of bed earlier than 10AM. They need time to get ready and have a decent breakfast. After 11AM Sunday is better, 12PM is very considerate.

Edited by A.C.A. on 07-19-14 10:28 PM. Reason for edit: No reason given.

 
PatrickD 
Executive Producer
PatrickD
Loc: California
Reg: 12-07-06

07-20-14 02:33 PM - Post#13943    
    In response to A.C.A.

  • A.C.A. Said:
Oh, if you really want to show you care for your guest, never schedule a panel with them on Sunday morning at 10AM. Sunday 10AM is a low interest low turnout time slot. It only makes them unhappy when they have to wake up early to come to a panel with 5-10 people in it. Your guest (and probably many of your attendees) may have been "celebrating" the night before, so he/she probably won't want to get out of bed earlier than 10AM. They need time to get ready and have a decent breakfast. After 11AM Sunday is better, 12PM is very considerate.


Also, if this guest is leaving Sunday, remember that they need time to pack up and check out...and if they've got a 10am or 11am panel, they probably don't want to have to wake up even earlier to get packed up.
-PatrickD
AnimeCons.com Executive Producer
Co-Founder: Anime Boston and Providence Anime Conference
Host of The Chibi Project & Anime Unscripted™


 
Wissall 
Newbie
Wissall
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Reg: 07-26-14

07-27-14 05:26 AM - Post#13953    
    In response to A.C.A.

Definitely have to agree with spacing out the consecutive panels with 1-2 hour intervals. I've seen chaos ensue after panels with fans pushing and shoving random attendees while having to relocate to get in line for autographs. (Although this is what I've experienced exclusively working with Japanese guests).

I would add that every bit of hospitality, no matter how simple, always reflects really well with guests and their entourage. Guests become just as exhausted as any staff person would with having to run around and make appearances. Therefore, even if it's only asking if they need anything such as water, it makes a world of a difference and has a better likelihood that the guest will be spreading the good word about the con to their fellow industry folk that may be future prospective guests.

 
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