Who will come to your Convention?
General Guest Information
Policy statement from Richard Scriven
Who your guest is and how much they cost directly affect the entire convention.
- A big guest has big costs and bigger expectations with potentially bigger revenue, but bigger risk!
- A big guest does not always guarantee more members! Most members will come from your traditional membership base whoever you have as a guest.
- The guest(s) should have a good track record as a performer at conventions. Steven Hawking, great guest, bad on panels!
Recent experience shows that a big name guest does not necessarily pull extra members, but a popular guest inside the current membership base will increase participation.
Other thoughts, from other people
- Overseas or Australian guests? For the cost of one overseas guest, you can get more than one Australian guest, maybe 4 or 5. When you have a number of guests, they will each have a good contribution to make to a few panels, and this can give you a huge starting point in your programming.
- One of the things you need to consider when choosing your guest is what you want from them.
- Do you REALLY want a BIG name to bring in the crowds and all those fat wads of cash? (And can you guarantee that anyway?) Or perhaps you want a guest who will be entertaining and good value for money?
- Do you want a guest who will be accessible to the general fan community or someone who will only turn up for scheduled events and then hang out at the bar, with the committee, for the duration of their stay?
- Obviously you want an entertaining guest who will be accessible to as many fans as possible, but how do you find out what an author is like beforehand? Ask. There are many people around who have contacts, and now anyone can use the internet! Ask previous guests! They have the best idea of what sort of con a Swancon is, and who would fit in!
- Another commercial consideration is the possibility of getting extra funding or publicity from the author's Australian publisher - unlikely if the author has no books in print in Australia at the time of the con (this can also make signing sessions nasty, brutish and short).
- An author who's also been an editor, or written for comics or TV or film, can be good value; they can bring in more media fans as well as book fans. Examples to come to mind are Nancy Collins, Garnder Dozois, Mike Resnick, Joe Landsdale, Alan Moore.
- Most other media guests - actors, directors, etc. - tend to be expensive and unreliable.
- Other suggestions: Jack Dann (author/editor, frequent collaborator, now lives in Melbourne, good as No.2 Guest) Dan Simmons, Tim Powers, Connie Willis, Pat Murphy
- Go to Specialist bookstores and find out whose books people are buying.
Cost of Guests
- Appearance fees
WA conventions have in the past offered the following conditions to overseas guests :-
- We pay return transport from place of residence to the convention by economy airfare
- accommodation for the duration of the con
- reasonable expenses
We have not paid appearance fees in the past and do not believe that it is affordable for WA conventions. Reasonable expenses cover the cost of meals. Can be anywhere from $50-$80 a day. Can be done by reimbursing their receipted expenses (awkward) or by making an agreed upfront cash payment - easy to manage, but may cost you more or less, depending on guest expenses. Reasonable expenses do NOT include overseas phone calls, room service, alcohol (other than with meals), drugs and other pleasures, etc...
Airfares are the best deal that the con can make with the agreement of the guest. Always budget on a good to excellent airline for your cost! Always look for cheap airfares/specials with the same. Majority of guests prefer to have the money and make their own arrangements. But only to the amount of the best airfare you would really fly them on!
All guests need a liaison, even if only a part time person. 'Fans' are not necessarily good for guest liaison. Knowledge of their work may be an asset, but is not necessary. Liaison does not mean you have to be with the guest at all times. You are the contact point for the guest, and if you spend too much time with them, it may reduce your effectiveness as a contact between the guest and the rest of WA. Guest liaison is not a single person job. It requires assistants.
Provide maps of area for any guests who are not from WA.
1.Before the convention. Before the guest arrives! Responsible for corresponding with the guest. This is where it should be made clear that WA conventions are different, in that they really are happy to have the guest on whatever panels they would like to be on. Guest liaison needs to find out what the guest wants to do in WA besides convention. If they haven't been to Australia, they will want to see - bush and animals. So if they are not in WA before or after the con, make this one trip! The guest liaison should act as liaison between the guest and their publisher in WA in dealing with publicity.
2.Duties at the convention
- Make sure the guests get to all their items on time.
- Make sure the guests are not hassled by people.
- Make sure the guests are aware of all the things they are involved in.
- Make sure they get fed and rested.
- Make sure the guest knows who is a responsible person at the convention.
- Ensure that members know who you are, and that you can organise the guests to go out with them, if they organise a time and place. That you will know what the guests are doing and when.
- Make sure the guests have someone to go with them to things they want to go to - panels, meals, parties.
3.Responsibilities at the convention
- Make sure the guests are introduced to people.
- Make sure they don't get trapped.
- Don't let them get bored.
4.Outside the convention, while they are in WA
- Before and after the con, depending on how long they're in Perth, and how much they want to do, a local representative can be useful.
- Dinner with the committee before the convention can be useful, if the committee can find the time, but after might be fun too.
- Other people wanting to entertain the guests, publicity activities, and tourist activities are best done before and after.
- If requested, find suitable accommodation. But you are the contact position for the guest.
- During the convention, it is important that the guests get plenty of time to relax, remember the guests can either be on a holiday or actually attending the convention as a work commitment. These two different attitudes radically effect how the guests will attend the convention.
- Organising social events for the guest if they want it.
Services to Members
- Tea coffee - members 'expect' free tea and coffee, but find out the cost. Try negotiating a discount at the hotel coffee lounge.
- Computer room. If you can provide someone to provide computers, and set them up, and look after them, do it, otherwise don't. Network games is what they want. Internet access?
- Gaming room. If you don't have a gaming room, 'they' will play in corridors, at the back of programming rooms, in the lifts, anywhere 'they' can find a space, so you might as well give them a room.
- Fan lounge - location, not used as fan lounge unless its centrally accessed, seating should be comfortable as possible, noise levels kept low by having - no gamers, no computers, no TV.
- Hucksters - Not justified if you cannot afford the space, as it probably will not pay for itself. Can only be justified as a service.
- Drinks/eats - should be on-site somewhere. Hotel coke machines, restaurants, coffee shops, newsagents, kiosks. Alternatively con can provide them if the hotel agrees.
- Souvenirs, such as t-shirts.
Advertising and Publicity
Progress reports. How many, what do you want to report in each?
Below is a good guide, but, advertising is what you PAY for, publicity is what you DON'T pay for. This is worth ten times advertising space, or time.
Promotion for the next convention starts the day one ends. This means the public relations officers of both conventions work together that last (first) day to close off the one and start the other. e.g. On Easter Monday a 100-word media release is prepared. This says something along the lines of: "The 20th Swancon, WA's Science-Fiction Convention ended on Monday after attracting a record 300 people from all over WA. Eastern State visitors and American guest writers and speakers. Held over five days of Easter it ran for 24 hours a day taking up seven rooms at the Sheraton Hotel. The programme was so intensive there were often 3 or four events running at the same time. Eight computers were continually in use for all types of games, as well as panel discussions, games, theatre sports. The Guest of Honour was American science-fiction writer Pat Cadigan the author of ................ She said............. "I am not a woman science-fiction writer, I am a science-fiction writer........." She then said she had started writing from about age six and by age 16 was already selling stories her mother called "Weird"
Next year's Swancon will be the State's 21st annual science-fiction convention and will be the ......... National Convention held in WA . Its title is.......... Festival of the Imagination and the Guest of Honour will be...................author of ............................... Issued by ........... Contact........................... Phone.......................... THIS TYPE OF COPY SHOULD BE SENT BY PHONE ON HOTEL FAX ON MONDAY AS SOON AS THE SWANCON FINISHES.
In particular souvenir programmes should be sent to John Young of 'THE SUNDAY TIMES' as a matter of priority.
In addition, on Sunday the commercial TV stations should be phoned and told about the crazy wind-up on Monday starting at 3PM (if you tell them 15-00 hrs they'll get here at 5pm, or say it's past their deadline.)
Remember promotion of Swancons is ajoint effort and WASFF should aim for continuity of Swancons, the PRO's should work together and overlap for the ending and starting.
DON'T NEGLECT THIS PROFESSIONAL ADVICE. DO IT NOW !!!!!!!!!!!!
What free advertising do you know about?
- A lot of radio stations have a free service in a 'what's on' type of program.
- Community newspapers will often print an article if you supply it.
- Libraries can be contacted through the Alexander Library.
- Late night off-peak advertising on TV is within the bounds of possibility. Especially if there is a late night SF film on. Remember that most people will tape it, so you perhaps need to have the ad very clear for fast forwarding watchers.