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!

Gen Con Highlight

August 22nd, 2013 § 2 comments § permalink

On Friday morning, a woman walked up to our booth. She said: “You guys look like you know what you’re doing. Do you have a bandaid?”

And I replied: “Yes, let me get our first aid kit.”

As it happened, I had needed a bandaid myself earlier that morning and had opened the brand-new kit, thinking to myself “Good thing, because if there was an actual emergency, I sure wouldn’t want to be pulling the plastic off in a rush.”

This wasn’t an emergency either, but it felt good to a) be recognized as a place where we would have the necessary supplies, and b) to actually have them, know exactly where they are, and be able to quickly offer a variety of bandage choices to the con-goer—who, like many, had given herself a blister walking the show floor!

Making a TODO list for your next convention? Whether you’re an attendee or an exhibitor or a special guest or anyone else: get a small first aid kit. Hopefully you’ll never need it!

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.

Gen Con 2011

August 12th, 2011 § 3 comments § permalink

My company, Posthuman Studios, will have a Gen Con 2011 report soon. We went, we made money, we drank, we had meetings, we played games.

I kissed a troll.

Gen Con 2011

My Best Four Days in Gaming

August 9th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Gen Con started badly for me. I flew out from DC on Wednesday morning; my girlfriend Kristen on a direct flight and me with a connection through Chicago. Some bad weather meant my flight from DC left late, and my flight—and the flight before it—to Indianapolis were cancelled. There was no chance of going standby on a later flight, so after I figured out that my bags would continue to Indianapolis without me, my cries to the twitterverse were answered and my rock-star designer friend Tiara zoomed by the airport to pick me up on her way to the convention. This turned out to be a fun little car trip, although I was sad that I missed spending a half-day in Indianapolis with Kristen.

ENNies

Gobsmacked. In a year where Paizo’s stack of ENnies needed a hand-cart to take them back to the booth, winning the Silver ENnie for Best Product may as well been Gold for us. A gold for Best Writing and a silver for Best Cover Art rounded out Eclipse Phase ENnies. In the Best Production category, Shadowrun 20th Anniversary Edition caught Silver. I can’t deny that I voted for Eclipse Phase in that category, but I joined Randall from Catalyst onstage and, since he was already wearing the ENnie’s medal, I yoinked the certificate. I had no idea I was going to be up there until I had started walking. Shadowrun 20th Anniversary is an awesome book and I am proud as all hell of it.

Eclipse Phase

Sunward was released, the GM Screen was available, and we had ample stock of them and the core book to satisfy our fans. We also had some miniposters, t-shirts, and some plush monsters from OhNo!Doom, a Chicago art collective, to round out our swag. Our booth was busy, sales were good, and our games were very well attended. Our gamemasters kicked ass in accommodating tons of players per game. We gave all the players feedback forms, and from the sampling I’ve read so far our GMs are very well loved!

This Just In … From Gen Con 2010

I appeared on This Just In .. From Gen Con on Saturday at 5PM. Fifteen minutes earlier, I was walking to our hotel room with Kristen saying “I’m feeling the need for some introvert time. Are you cool with just hanging out by yourself for awhile?” Of course, she was … and she got to. I didn’t, because I remembered at the last minute that I needed to be podcasting—not an introverted activity—in another hotel. So I dashed over, and thankfully I was paired with the awesome E Foley of Geek’s Dream Girl, who carried the show. I mostly talked about the ENnies, Creative Commons-licensing stuff, and how twitter functions as the “water cooler” for those of us that work from home but need feedback/stimulation from colleagues.

Friends

I hugged my friends extra tightly this year.

Magic: the Gathering and other Acquisitions

I didn’t manage to play any MTG at the show, but with my trusty iPad and some good timing, I was able to score a copy of the From the Vault: Relics set. Beyond picking up my comp copies of Sunward and the GM Screen, Sixth World Almanac, and the Dresden Files, I didn’t buy anything at the show. I bought a lot of games over the last year that haven’t been played much, so I didn’t want to add to the unread/unplayed piles.

Playtesting

We pitched game concepts and playtested things that will become Posthuman Studios’ next games. We have some cool stuff brewing! Refinement starts … tomorrow.

Gen Con Attendance Tips

July 24th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

I haven’t updated my Gen Con tips this year; I intended to, but it simply hasn’t happened. Last year’s tips should still be useful, though:

See you at the show!

ENnies Award Voting 2010

July 16th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

Voting for the 2010 ENnie Awards is now open.

I can’t deny that this year’s ENNie Award nominations aren’t a little bittersweet after the events of earlier this year. Projects that I worked on are well-represented, and the great number of worthy entrants in every categories indicate something that has been true for a long time: gamers are spoiled for choice!

Shadowrun: Seattle 2072 received an honorable mention nod in the Best Setting category. Steve Kenson did a bang-up job with this title, melding Shadowrun’s past to the present and setting groundwork for the future.

Eclipse Phase in the following categories:

  • Best Cover Art: Stephan Martiniere’s gorgeous cover art will launch thousands of campaigns.
  • Best Writing: Developer Rob Boyle has had his hand in many great gaming books, and for Eclipse Phase he may have assembled the best writing staff he’s had to date: Lars Blumenstein, Brian Cross, Jack Graham, John Snead; with additional writing from Bruce Baugh, Randall N. Bills, Davidson Cole, Tobias Wolter, with Jason Hardy and Michelle Lyons on editing.
  • Best Production: This is the best-looking book I have ever made, with cool visuals that don’t overwhelm the art, and a huge thrust towards making the 400-pages very navigable, most notably the two-page spreads that open each chapter and point you to important information.
  • Product of the Year: With nominations in three of the “pillar” categories, plus the intangibles of Creative Commons-licensing, our trend-setting low price point for the electronic version, and of course a great game to play in a setting that has unlimited potential … I think a nomination in this category is well-earned.

Shadowrun 20th Anniversary Edition got nods in these categories:

  • Best Interior Art: Art Director Mike Vaillancourt and myself butted heads a lot on this project, but in the end, the artwork in this project is really strong and takes Shadowrun in a new direction.
  • Best Production Values: Apparently I build good-looking well-organized books consistently! The giant index that covers not only itself but all the other SR4 rulebooks is so freaking cool.
  • Best Game: Personally, I’d love to see “Best Game” and “Best New Edition” categories. But games don’t get produced for 20 years if they don’t see actual play, and Shadowrun has always erred on the side of being a game that should be played, not just read.
  • Product of the Year: A punched-up and improved version of one of the most successful RPGs ever certainly qualifies.

In every category we are up against other amazing titles: Paizo’s Pathfinder juggernaut, Green Ronin’s Dragon Age Boxed Set, FFG’s Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Boxed Set (which looks gorgeous … I have to make the time to read through my copy!), and others too numerous to mention.

To spread briefly about category’s I’m not in: Jess Hartley’s One Geek To Another deserves props in the blog category for doing something different by offering advice about gamer etiquette, something sorely needed. For Best Setting, you can’t accuse the guys at HERO of not taking a chance with something different in Lucha Libre Hero

… and Best Publisher could just be Posthuman Studios.

Things Not to Say …

August 15th, 2009 § 3 comments § permalink

“You would think the women would demo the good games.”

We’ve been demoing our upcoming card game, Paparazzi! at GenCon this week. Someone actually said the above quote to one of our demo team people, when he asked her about the game and she described it as “the game of trash-celebrity culture” [the game’s standard tagline] to him.

Would a simple “Hey, that doesn’t sound like my thing.” not have worked just as well, and not pre-judged something that he had yet to play?

Gen Con has been awesome this year, but some interactions really leave me wondering what people hope to gain from them.

This Just In From GenCon Appearance

August 11th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

I’ll be appearing once on the twice-daily This Just In…From GenCon! podcast this week. My episode records Thursday afternoon just before the exhibitor’s hall closes for the first day. If you want to keep up with what a bunch of podcasters and industry people think this year’s GenCon, TJIFG is one of the best way to get a quick fix that isn’t less than 140 characters.

Gen Con iPhone / iPod touch app available

August 8th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Gen Con and VaViaz have whipped up a cool and free Gen Con app (link takes you to iTunes store) for the iPhone and iPod touch. It has maps of the local area and hotels, plus all sorts of searchable events information. It downloads the info and stores it locally, so you can use it even if you have data turned off on your iPhone. There are a bunch of interactive features as well, as it hooks into Twitter and Facebook. I’ve only spent about 10 minutes goofing around with it, but it looks pretty cool. Just having the maps at hand all the time will be nice!

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