Username Post: Red Flags for First Year Conventions        (Topic#3339)
PatrickD 
Executive Producer
PatrickD
Loc: California
Reg: 12-07-06

07-14-14 01:29 PM - Post#13924    

Sometime in the next few months, I'm going to do an episode on AnimeCons TV telling people the red flags they should look out for when deciding to go to a first year convention. Yes, more often than not there are great first year conventions out there that turn out to be a success and continue for years and years. ...but every so often there's an unmitigated disaster that takes place and begs attendees for money, kicks everyone out, or gets cancelled at the last minute.

There are always warning signs that people could have caught to avoid being a victim of these conventions. What warning signs would you look for? (Please avoid naming any specific conventions.)

Here's some red flags that would make me weary:
* Taking pre-registration money with no location or dates announced yet.

* No actual web page, only a Facebook or Tumblr page.

* There's a web site, but it doesn't look professional.

* Pre-registration is handled by submitting your information in Paypal. Paypal payments are valid...but if you're asked to send in ALL your registration data through the comments field, stop right there.

* Unrealistic attendance expectations. This may vary depending on location, but 500 is fairly reasonable anywhere...but expecting thousands in some tiny midwest town that's not near a big city is not.

* Big promises, no delivery. Watch out for cons promising big name guests they likely can't afford or big popular events that their facility can't handle. (For example, cosplay chess in a hotel without a room large enough to handle it.)

* Phrasing on the web site that makes it seem like the convention was created out of spite against another local con. Stuff like "a convention actually planned by fans" or "finally the convention that YOU want". Spite cons are rarely a success and often don't last.

* No updates. If they haven't updated their site in months or their social media is ONLY posting non-convention updates, they're likely not spending any time planning it.

* If the chair is under 18, that's a HUGE red flag! Never give money to any convention with a chair who is a minor. (Who exactly is supposed to sign those contracts if the chair is a minor?!)

* Inexperience. If the senior staff has no prior staffing experience, then they have no idea what they're in for. This invites disaster.

* Math doesn't add up. Sometimes first year cons are very forthcoming with what function space costs...which sometimes makes it clear that nobody has done math. If they're expecting 500 people at $40 each, that's $20,000. ...so if they say the facility also costs $20,000, then how will they pay for anything else?

* Fill rates don't add up. Likewise, if they need to fill 100 hotel rooms and are expecting 500 people, that will never happen. If (at least) half of the first year con attendees commute from home and the remaining 250 all share rooms (which are often packed like sardines), you'll never fill those hotel rooms.

* Non-local guests cancel shortly before the convention. The con may be vague on why they cancelled and guests can drop for legitimate reasons, but if multiple guests are dropping out then there may be bigger issues at play. Maybe the con realized they couldn't afford to pay a flight or appearance fee?

* They've announced a guest who says he or she is not actually going. I've seen this several times where a con will announce a guest they never got a confirmation from. The guest then says, "I'm not actually going." This is a sure sign of disorganization at best, dishonesty at worst.

* Lack of contact information. If you want to ask them a question, is there actually a way to contact them privately...or do you have to post in public on Facebook or Twitter?

I'd love to hear other people's red flags. ...and remember, if you have doubts, contact them and ask questions.
-PatrickD
AnimeCons.com Executive Producer
Co-Founder: Anime Boston and Providence Anime Conference
Host of The Chibi Project & Anime Unscripted™


 
Nigoki 
Obsessed with robots
Nigoki
Reg: 02-25-09

07-14-14 03:18 PM - Post#13926    
    In response to PatrickD

I would add website content blatantly incorrect, or worse, copied from another convention's website.

I remember a convention (that failed to even get off the ground) that "borrowed" event descriptions, by copy-pasting from other convention's websites without their consent. It was so bad that in some cases they even forgot to change the name.

Like this.
  • In reply to:
"Finalists of ABC Con's Music video concert will be shown Friday night at XYZ Con"

-Doug Wilder
Resident Mecha fanboy of AnimeCons TV!


 
mrgetalife 
Attendee

Reg: 06-09-08

11-11-14 06:35 PM - Post#14141    
    In response to PatrickD

- One Flag that is hard to notice from the outside. When more than half the guests are friends or people not industry as in producing anime/manga.

And speaking of red flags.

In your opinion. Do you think conventions should raise enough money to at least get location contract before they should even asking for pre-registration dollars. First year's tough.

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

11-11-14 07:08 PM - Post#14143    
    In response to mrgetalife

  • mrgetalife Said:
In your opinion. Do you think conventions should raise enough money to at least get location contract before they should even asking for pre-registration dollars. First year's tough.


Yes!

Hotels don't require all the money up front if you're booking far enough in advance. A few friends pooling money should be able to put the down payment on hotel space so that the convention has a confirmed venue. This gives the convention a lot more legitimacy and gives people some idea of what the convention might be like.

You can't set dates without having a venue booked, so why would someone give money if they aren't even sure when the convention will be and if it is on dates that work for them? If you're setting dates before booking a venue, you're doing it wrong and may eliminate potential venues that are already booked OR may happen to pick dates that the venue might charge more for because of holidays, seasonal demand, etc.

Personally speaking, if I saw a convention opening pre-registration or begging for money through crowdfunding that didn't have a confirmed venue and dates set, I would not give any money. I need to know where and when before I'd consider registering. I would expect the organizing staff to have already committed their own time and money to get a venue before looking for additional funds from attendees.

Nobody ever said that starting a convention is cheap or easy. It's going to take a lot of time and money to be done right.
-PatrickD
AnimeCons.com Executive Producer
Co-Founder: Anime Boston and Providence Anime Conference
Host of The Chibi Project & Anime Unscripted™


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

11-21-14 10:31 AM - Post#14156    
    In response to PatrickD

I'm wondering if a good way for a convention to get started is to have a mini event first. A one day, 10am-6pm mini-con to test the waters. Have a small artists alley/dealers room and a main events room at a minimum, then maybe a smaller panel room and a gaming room (table top/CCG and/or video games) if you can swing it.

It would take less money to start out, and if there is a profit that can be used as seed money to start a two or three day convention.
Elizabeth: Website and Podcast Writer
My Conventions


 
titanslayer000 
Newbie

Loc: Amherst, NY
Reg: 12-26-14

01-25-15 12:27 AM - Post#14272    
    In response to PatrickD

* Taking pre-registration money with no location or dates announced yet.
Crowd funding/Kickstarter is a good way to get anything started, I don't see why it can't work for conventions.

* No actual web page, only a Facebook or Tumblr page.
Having a website costs money. Using a free base like tumblr or Google Sites shouldn't be looked down upon for first years because they need all the money they can get.

* Big promises, no delivery. Watch out for cons promising big name guests they likely can't afford or big popular events that their facility can't handle. (For example, cosplay chess in a hotel without a room large enough to handle it.)
People have connections, and if the guest has been confirmed already, why not?

* Phrasing on the web site that makes it seem like the convention was created out of spite against another local con. Stuff like "a convention actually planned by fans" or "finally the convention that YOU want". Spite cons are rarely a success and often don't last.
If someone wants to make a one-day cosplay-event-thing because another con sucked, wouldn't it be a good thing? Something to pick everyone back up after the disappointment.

* No updates. If they haven't updated their site in months or their social media is ONLY posting non-convention updates, they're likely not spending any time planning it.
I know a convention that's in its 26th year that still does this. There's really not too much to be said until 4-5 months before the convention. We don't really NEED to hear anything 11 months ahead of time unless it's something huge like Otakon or NYCC.

 
AlbertaCons 
Newbie

Loc: Alberta
Reg: 05-20-16

05-20-16 05:19 PM - Post#15021    
    In response to titanslayer000

I'm always leery of any first time convention that is longer than one day and is held at hotels.

First time conventions, unless they have a financial backer who has no problem with losing money on their investment (and sometimes a lot of it!), don't have the financials or reputation in order to support more expensive spaces or programming that goes longer than 1 day. Too many first timers try to aim way too high.

Also, if their fees are over $20 and it's still the first year, I'm hesistant. There's very rarely new cons that have enough substance to make $20 worth it. Maybe that's the poor grad student talking though.

 
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