Where is it going to be?
General Venue Considerations
Swancons have long been held at hotels, but other options can be considered. Swancon 1, for example, was not at a hotel. There are plenty of camp conventions, like TerraCon and SecretCon.
- Location - city central, suburban, country
- Members would like - cheap food, convenient transport, parking!
- Venue - Number of rooms, facilities, accommodation, costs.
Things to think about
- How many function rooms do you need for the con you want to organise?
- Is it close to public transport - means that it is easier for day visitors to get there.
- Have you considered function facilities near to the hotel instead of within them?
- Being able to broadcast videos into the hotel rooms has been very popular, and you might consider this as an essential requirement for an hotel, or not.
- You need 24 hour access to the function rooms.
- Cheap and constant tea and coffee supply can conflict with the way the hotel wants to provide this facility.
- You need to be able to have access to 'cheap' supplies of food, either by close proximity to fast food places or providing it through the hotel or by the Swancon committee.
- How about the rooms being cheap enough for impoverished students to be able to afford?
- IT MUST BE A NON SMOKING VENUE. Look at the number of kids running around at this con. Smokers hold cigarettes at the right height to burn 5 year olds in the eyes. Look at the number of people trying to breathe in this place. And the air-conditioning just recycles the smoky air.
Hotels - Checklist of things to consider for the quote
- Cost of function rooms.
- Times of access of function rooms
- Security of rooms - all care given but no responsibility taken by the convention to the merchants
- Provision of chairs
- Provision of tables
- Provision of sound equipment
- Provision of audio visual aids
- Dance floor/ stage, dais, and any setup costs involved
- Catering- coffee, bars, coke machines, snack machines
- Sale of material by convention on site
- Set up access and time
- Closing up access and time
- Conditions of use of outside services
- Ensure that there is no access to convention facilities by the general public or other hotel patrons or guests.
- Ask about the availability of in-house TV.
- Get everything in writing.
- If the hotel has missed out some conditions, make the hotel write out the quote again.
- Make them include prices all times, all rooms, facilities.
- If they include any condition that you have not agreed to, send it back immediately.
- Negotiate special membership rate for members.
- Don't get involved in taking deposits! Organise the hotel to do it for you.
- Get a commitment from the hotel as to what hotel facilities will be open during the convention. Bars, restaurants, coffee lounges, the pool, etc.
- Don't make promises for things you have no intention of delivering, i.e. banquets.
- Hotels have NO idea of what is involved with the convention. They are used to weddings, and business functions, and have no idea of what we are going to do!
- If the hotel will not commit to accommodation prices, do not advertise accommodation, until they do.
- Hotels expect to make a profit from their function rooms, many do this by catering food! We do not do catered food; therefore, lots of places do not want to know us! Don't try to fool them, but do try to emphasise that if their on-site facilities are good, then they will get good turnover.
There are several aspects to price. The hotel may have a fixed price that they let the convention facilities out for; this may not be negotiable. But they may be able to negotiate in other areas. For example, they may be able to throw in free rooms for your guests, or do special deals for convention members at the hotel's restaurant. Another place rich for negotiation is the guest room rate. In the hotel industry, the standard rate given to people who walk in off the street is called the "rack rate". The next rate down is called the "corporate rate"; this is the rate given to business travellers, and is slightly cheaper. You should be able to persuade the hotel with no trouble at all to give you the corporate rate. With a little work, you may be able to get lower than this.
Other Hotel Things To Consider
- Check water provision
- Watch for 'the only access' to the pool, or whatever, if it is through your convention
- Conditions arranged by convention staff are not necessarily known by hotel staff, they are different groups. Make yourself aware of who the 'shift managers' are during the con. Learn their names; make sure they know who to talk to! These are the people who will provide water, and other things during the convention, or cause you problems. Generally speaking, the people who you have dealt with over the planning stages will not be there during the con.
- Do not accept staffed catering, if you are paying hourly charges.
- Coffee by the pot is expensive for the con to provide.
- Find out where smoking is not allowed in the hotel.
- Ensure 24-hour access to the outside world!
- Find out your insurance position Get public liability and theft. Damage costs too much! In previous years this has been arranged through Ralph Smith.
The hotel has to have enough convention rooms for your convention.
One of those has to be big enough to hold your largest events (typically opening and closing ceremony, next Swancon's launch, and the Masquerade). Many hotels achieve this by combining two or more smaller rooms into one larger room, using moveable walls.
You may require that some of these rooms are available to the convention 24 hours. Ensure that these rooms are sufficiently far from guest rooms (including vertically) that you will not annoy mundane hotel guests. You may require that some of your rooms to be secureable out-of-hours (e.g. the room you hold the Art Show in).
You will need audio/visual gear in at least one room, very likely two. One reason for this is that some AV presentations get a very large turn-out, and some are much smaller. If you have only one room kitted out for AV, then you have to put Great Nigerian TV SF Of 1953 in the same room you used for Neil Gaiman Shows Us Bits Of His New Mini-Series, which isn't ideal utilisation of space. If you have a multi-media stream, then you need two, very likely three rooms kitted out for AV. Dragging AV gear in and out of rooms really sucks.
Some hotels have all the convention rooms on the same floor, some not. Sometimes this is not a bug but a feature, e.g. if you wish to segregate panel items not suitable for minors away from the rest of programming. Sometimes you can use a hotel guest room with all the furniture removed as a convention room (e.g. for the Art Show).
Swancon is an unusual convention in that almost all the delegates are paying their own way. Occasionally, venues do not understand this. We use the convention rooms more hours per day than many other conventions; some venues do not understand that when we say "24 hour", that means that we are planning to be singing loudly at 3am in one of the convention rooms. Room parties can be a little rowdy; some hotels listen when you tell them to book all the Swancon rooms in a block physically segregated from guest rooms occupied by mundanes. And some do not. When we find a hotel on our wavelength, everybody is happy; when people go in with incompatible expectations, there is less happiness.
The content of this section is superseded by the Accessibility article, and is retained for historical purposes only.
There are usually one or two wheelchairs at Swancon. Check that all of the convention rooms, at least one set of toilets and at least two of the guest rooms are handicapped-accessible.
Most hotels will have a map of the convention facilities that you can take back to your committee to discuss. Height of ceilings, and size of doorways leading to rooms may be a factor for some program items, e.g. the Masquerade, so take a tape measure.
The hotel may have a logistics area that you can use -- almost all hotels have a place to store suitcases of travellers who checked out this morning but haven't yet caught the taxi to the airport, and this space may be big enough for you to store stuff in just before and/or after the convention.
It is traditional for lifts to fail during Swancons. One reason is that our conventions feature people frequently moving up and down floors to various programme items, and the lifts get a harder work-out than they are used to, and potentially overheat. Plan for the possibility.