The Con Con
I love conventions!! You guys read about my outdoor woes and I said indoor shows from here on out. I love them, I love people, I love seeing crazy costumes and hearing awesome music and seeing all sorts of things you can't see anywhere else. I will blog about my con experiences as they happen this year and have tips and what have you but today I want to talk about the cautionary whale if you will.
I want to talk about conventions that are bullshit. All good shows are illusions but you need to sort out the glitter from the glass. Today I want to talk about the ones that lie about their numbers to attract unsuspecting vendors, they charge patrons, vendors and everyone WAY too much based on their numbers. Its the Con con. People who do a lot of shows have stumbled across this once or twice and people who have only done one show may not have even know it happened to them! Some people do one show, do really terribly and never try again. Sometimes it is your fault, sometimes its the shows.
Sometimes a show just isn't good. Sometimes its a fluke, a weather event or a scheduling conflict can impact the show. First time shows have a lot of growing pains but the good ones will LEARN from experiences, take CRITICISM constructively and adapt to their audience and vendors needs. Some shows out and out refuse to succumb to anything that isn't their vision. They will waste time, money and make excuses. Its your money they are spending so who cares right?? Vendors help finance a show, ticket sales do too. A successful show has a minimum of a 40% returning vendor ratio. Pay attention to that if you are considering a show. See if people keep coming back. GO to the show first if you can. Ask people vending there how long they have been doing the show. Crappy shows will generally have a revolving door of newbies who don't know any better. They see other artists there get sucked in and the cycle goes on and on. Most people give a unknown show a three strike rule meaning they will try it three times before completely writing a show off. I only recommend this under the right circumstances of course. People responding year three or higher consistently is promising. Ask the show what their reported numbers are, use common sense to see if they are lying. I did a show two years ago where the vendor next to me was told the attendance was 20,000 people!! The reality was three thousand was generous. They were from out of state so it was easy for them to take the shows word for it. In fact that gross over estimation in writing could have been construed as fraud and I personally would have pursued it but the vendor let it slide. This HAPPENS ALL THE TIME. You let it slide and someone else gets taken for a ride.
Lets talk about how they can lie without lying. Some shows count attendees as one person per ticket held. So if you have a four day pass you are four people. If you have event tickets to an after hours show sometimes that counts as another person. Staff counted as people. Volunteers people, Vendors and all the spaces they are permitted to occupy (like if your booth comes with 4 passes that is four people at the show even if you bring two) This is why I recommend going to the show yourself. Or look at photos. Look closely. Are the SAME people in all the damn shots?? Guess what its poorly attended. Use common sense when sussing out attendance for yourself. Also places all have occupancy maximums. Ask the hotel or what have you what that is. Any staff member can get that information for you, it takes a three min phone call. If the numbers don't match the VENUE won't allow overages so chances are they con is lying. That venue that boasted 20,000?? That hotel couldn't house that in a ballroom. A simple call to that hotel would have saved them a cross country trip. Don't ask show STAFFS opinion they are paid to be there and to tell you its great and could get fired if they say otherwise.
Also become aware of what other shows are charging for the same space. You wouldn't buy a car without research and you shouldn't invest your businesses money without due diligence. Rates will vary by region, show size and venue but having something to compare it to is a good starting point.
Consider WHY you want to do that particular show. Is it because your favorite famous artist is there? Is it because it looks like ever so much fun? PLEASE separate FEELINGS from FINANCE. Sure you want to have a good time but don't let the glitter get in your eyes. A fair bit of shows PAY for the artists/entertainers/authors to BE there to draw people in, including you. Think don't feel. It is so easy to get all fangirly because OMG she's here!! Don't!
If you are at a show look at the people. Be aware of the mood. Are vendors smiling and happy or do they look exasperated and sullen. For vendors money is a social lubricant, the more they are making the happier and more outgoing they generally are. Are they all reading books, needle pointing, sketching. All of them?? Guess what that means its slow. Slow means no sales.
The last big fat old red flag that a show is bad news: They voraciously defend themselves and threaten people who criticize the event. They are there with every comment saying something sunny, threatening to sue or refuting the claim. They will delete all negative comments and ban any "trouble makers" ANYONE who feels the need to constantly keep doing that has something to hide. I have had personal experience with this myself. I had done a show two days after my grandmother died. I had fans coming in from the UK, Canada and out of state to see me so I could NOT cancel. It was a tough show. After the fact I thanked everyone publicly taking special note to the volunteers who did so much for nothing. Like they weren't given a bottle of water or a sandwich.. And the show head had to butt in on my PERSONAL Facebook page to have a go at me. That is unprofessional and anyone that obsessed with controlling spin is bad news. Google the show after the fact and read some blog posts and see what people have to say and what is really going on. Look for real blogs, not the shows Facebook page or something they can control or edit.
As a whole I would say about 95% of my convention experiences have been AMAZING. 100% of them have TAUGHT ME something! Failing is a positive thing if you learn from it. If you get duped don't beat yourself up. Live, Learn and have a magical experience. You can do this!!