Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Building a Great Convention Part Three

Building a Great Convention Part 3

So in parts one and two I talked about the need for the absolute basics of any convention, the people who are going to run it with you and the data with which to ensure that going forwards you’re working on fact, not supposition.  Now comes the point where you need to look at what will get the rest of the world to the convention and get them there every year...

This is where it becomes necessary to consider the reason why people go to conventions in the first place.

People go to conventions to find things they can’t find at home, to find things that they can’t find at their local games store.  People won’t make the additional journey to get to the convention if you’re only offering them things they can already do within a short hop of where they are.

At Expo we consider this every year, as strange as it sounds, it’s not enough to simply be the biggest games show in England, that’ll get some, but not all, not even most... Last year we ran a Laser Tag event, the year before that we were so preoccupied with making the move to the new, larger premises, that we didn’t have time to do anything else (but we moved the convention to the biggest hotel in the area, only a stones throw from the NEC), and the years previous to those, we’ve run Living Munchkin and had live action groups running demonstrations for people.  Before then, before we knew about having to do new things, we just provided loads of games for people to play. 

And here’s the other problem with making conventions better...

Once you’ve started doing it, you can’t stop, not even if you wanted to, you’ve set a precedent and that precedent is now what leads you forwards, your public will demand nothing less...

Cheerfully we have no issue with any of this, we just get on with it and keep finding new things, but there’s something that works in our favour when it comes to these things.  When a lot of people say they’re going to do something, they talk, but they never do.

We Do...

And because We Do, others will take our lead on this, when we ask for people to do things, we ask because we know it’s going to be something good and they know that we’re good for our end of things.  For any convention to succeed, that’s where the work has to go in, when you say you’re going to do something, you have to deliver it, so it’s doubly important to make sure that no one says anything till the deal is already done, I can tell you about a million things that we’re planning to do at Expo, but until we’ve actually got them secured, sealed and delivered, I won’t be saying a thing because that would get peoples hopes up, and while we’re probably going to deliver on the promise, we’ve built this on being sure that the promise has already been delivered when we tell people. 

So what does that have to do with coming up with new things...?

It’s difficult to keep coming up with new things, so when you ask people what they want, listen to every suggestion, no matter how far out of the park it is, no matter how unlikely it is that you’re going to do it, listen to it because it might give you an idea for something that works...

Three years ago, a good friend of mine won the Cthulhu Masters Tournament over at Gencon and when he came home, he asked me why we don’t do something similar.  I had to agree, and on the first year that we went to the Hilton, we held the first UK Cthulhu Masters tournament.  In the aftermath, a lot of other people interested in cthulhu took note and the following year we had everyone from long term GM’s to line developers from the Cthulhu lines asking to be involved. We improved the prizes, got things that most people didn’t think we could, and we held it again, and this year, I handed the final over to someone else, because no matter how much I wanted to do it myself, I know that there’s a million things that I need  to be doing, and so I gave it to someone else, and the trust I showed there paid dividends when they came up with scenarios, plans, props (full and accurate replica of the Indiana Jones Grail Diary anyone...?) and a game that was just as good if not better than the one I would have run...

Last year we ran the first D&D Battle Royale that has ever been run outside of the US, we had the people in place, they got the support, and we got the event...

Next year...?

Well, I haven’t got the promise yet, so I can’t say, but it’s going to get bigger and better, there’s going to be other tournaments and games that you can’t play anywhere else, and we’re going to keep finding ways to improve things, to making Expo a place that you can do the things you can’t do anywhere else, and we’re still listening...


So keep talking...

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