Executing at Gen Con and Other Conventions

July 23rd, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

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As we are only a week away from Gen Con as I write this, I want to touch on one aspect of convention planning that made a big difference in stress levels and accuracy: the Execution Document.

“Damn Adam, what happened to calling something a ‘Plan’? That’s harsh!”

And that’s the point. The execution document is blunt, because it’s vital stuff that needs to get done, and it needs to get done in a timely manner. Forgetting or delaying items on it may inconvenience other people (your staff, your volunteers, etc.) and they may have adverse effects on your business (having to spend more money because you missed an early re-booking deadline, for example.)

In brief, I’m going to cover the important parts of the Execution Document, and then provide you a sample one, which is a mishmash of our Execution Document from 2014 and 2015 Gen Con.

Start Early and End Late

The document must include necessary items that occur before the convention “” such as taking money out of the bank and depositing it afterwards. By including those items, you create logical starting and stopping steps, and each item should prompt further questions that are answered in the document (such a question might be “At the end of each day, who takes the money?” By knowing who deposits it in the bank at the end of the convention, we can work backwards to the answers and make sure they are included in the document.

However, I do not include things like ordering convention displays, business cards, etc “” you can choose to do this if you like, but as I’m the only person at our business that does that kind of thing currently, it would just bog down the document for everyone else.

Location, Time, and Person

Every event in the Execution Document must have a specific location tagged to it, a specific time for it to happen, and have a person assigned to it. It’s possible to do this by creating a list of things that must happen in a certain location, but that list also must be broken down by time frames.

I am less strict about locations/times that pre-convention activities must be carried out (it doesn’t matter where we print the booth schedule, for example), but even those items should have two out of three fulfilled.

One person is The Show Manager: the boss.

Names and Numbers

The phone numbers or other contact info for anyone mentioned in the document should be included in it.

The Binder

The binder contains all sorts of documentation you may need at the show: receipts, booth maps, planograms, as well as sheets to record books that are given out as comp copies, inventory reports, all that sort of stuff.

Explicitness

The more people that will be referring to the document and the less familiar they are with your inner workings, the more explicit your instructions need to be. Remember that some things aren’t always obvious (for example, it’s usually the convention center that handles electricity-related requests, but a different outlet often deals with furniture rentals!).

Include contact numbers and the location of vendors you may need to deal with in the document.

Explicit instructions and information also help prevent mistakes: if the booth guide says that you’re expecting three packages to be shipped to your hotel, it means that someone probably won’t walk away with only two packages after being assigned “collect all our shipments from the hotel.”

Bonus true story: We had a pallet of books shipped to our hotel one year. In their haste to pick up their books, another publisher managed to snag our pallet and the hotel let them sign off with it! Thankfully it was a publisher who knew us and recognized the problem as soon as they got to their booth and started inventory. So they delivered the boxes to our booth, even before we arrived! But if they had known exactly how many pallets to pick up this would have not happened.

Include Travel Plans

Including travel plans keeps you aware of how many people you have around to do specific tasks, and how to organize those tasks.

Print the Document and Mark It Up

The show manager should have a printed copy of the document with them at all times, and they should physically mark off each item as it is completed. People assigned tasks on-the-fly should report back to the show manager when they have done so, and get another task.

Sample Execution Document

Here is a sample execution document: Sample Execution Document

Good luck with your convention setups, and I’ll see you at Gen Con!

Affordable Interlocking Convention Floor Mats

July 19th, 2012 § 3 comments § permalink

This is one of those posts that I started last year … but I’m buying more today, so I’m throwing this post up as-is!

I’ve been shopping for interlocking convention mats over the last few days. These mats are also used in playschools and martial arts studios and all sorts of places. They’re a couple feet wide, they link together to form a complete floor, they come in a variety of colors … and if you’re going to spend hours a day standing in a trade show booth, you’ll understand why they’re worth well more than their weight!

The companies that sell “convention” fixtures really like making money. If something is a “convention” supply, it automatically costs more than the exact same thing sold to a different market. They thrive on customers who need something yesterday and on those that have marketing budgets that must be spent in full.

And if you have to rent convention supplies, you’re basically boned. Rentals often cost more than buying the same thing.

Back, specifically, to tiles. I have a 10’x10′ booth; it needs 25 2’x2′ tiles to cover it completely. Over time, the tiles will become damaged due to the weight of tables or other displays on them, and of course, you may lose a couple, spill a drink on them, or otherwise need to replace them. So while I was tempted to simply buy 96 square feet of tiles (they are typically sold in increments of 24 square feet) and hide the “empty” square, I instead decided to buy a few more than I needed.

Looking at a typical convention supplies site, the price per tile is $6.56, or just under $200 for 30 of them. I nosed around a few sites, and the price is pretty close to the same. Some of them charge shipping, some offer free shipping. Depending on where you are in the country and how you transport them to and from your convention, this will of course add extra costs on a per-use basis. So keep that in mind.

After browsing the convention-specific sites, I checked out Amazon, and sure enough, there are tons of vendors selling basically the exact same product—just aimed at people who want them for their home gym or kid’s playroom. I had to compromise on the colors (I wanted black tiles and red tiles) and ended up buying 120 square feet of red tiles from this vendor, a pack of 24 and a pack of 6. For a total of $103, after shipping costs.

Shop around, and look for deals that you can get by buying things early—slower shipping instead of overnighting things to the hotel to pick up the day of convention setup can save you money and stress.

MechaCon V

July 30th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

I had an absolute blast at MechaCon V this past weekend! Thanks to everyone who came out to my panels, and to the MechaCon staff and volunteers for inviting me and treating me so well all weekend.

If you attended any of my panels and want to drop me a comment or an email, please do!

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