The Worlds of Terri Pray

The highs and lows of chasing a writing dream. From fantasy to erotica and beyond as seen through the eyes of Terri Pray.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Con Report

Well I have to say unless things dramatically change this will be the last year we attend Valleycon. I’ve never seen a convention so badly organized and I can’t say it was the fault of the majority of the convention volunteers. They simply weren’t given the information needed to answer questions nor was the brochure laid out in such a manner that the information was to hand.

Now please keep in mind that attending conventions has become common place for me, so I’m well aware of just how the details of a convention should be dealt with in order to keep things running smoothly.

Firstly- No one knew for certain just what the hours of the dealers room actually where. Not even senior members of the convention staff as the person in charge had not seen fit to make that information public. Now considering that the dealers hall is often a vital part of a con this is not something you just forget to have written up. The dealers NEED to know what time it opens, closes, what the set up time is, when we have to be booked in by and where our tables are before we arrive. This is why it’s normal for a convention to send out packs, or even just emails with the details in at least a week before the convention takes place.

However the excuses for why such information didn’t go out ranged from blaming the group in Minnesota who were handling the forms originally, to a computer crash, to a simple ‘opps’ we thought ‘he’ (a gentleman I won’t name here but he has been in charge of the convention for some time) had sorted all of this out.

Secondly- Left hand- Right Hand. This was a convention where, typically, the left hand had NO clue what the right hand was doing. I applaud the convention volunteers for the way they tried to pull things together, but throughout the weekend I continuously heard ‘well he was supposed to take care of that’ or ‘he has the details about that and I’m not sure where he is now’ . Excuse me but you DON’T leave your staff hanging like that. They are on the front line and they end up dealing with the fallout. It’s just not fair to the guys on the front desk. This is how conventions end up with a bad name. One prime example of this was a panel I was a part of on the Saturday. Myself and two other authors were to be on the panel and it was listed as starting at 4pm. However the other two were busy doing a signing at Barnes and Noble and could not be there for the start of the panel.
Yet no one bothered to inform those wanting to watch the panel, or myself, so I was sat there looking like a moron trying to cover for the other two authors. This fubar could have been prevented by a simple note on the door of the panel room and letting me know. Even the staff (or some of them) DIDN”T know this was going on.
Yet when I spoke to the other authors they’d made it clear they could not be there at 4pm.

Three- Turn out. Maybe TWO tables in the hall did better than break even, that’s how bad the turn out was and it was nothing like the conventions of the past. More than a few attendees of the convention weren’t even aware there was a bloody dealers room in the first place as it wasn’t mentioned properly in the brochure! Hello! Don’t you think trying to draw traffic to the dealers room and keep the dealers interested in coming back would be oh I don’t know – a good idea? If you think I’m joking about attendees not knowing about the hall one of the con volunteers asked one lady right in front of me if she knew about the dealers hall and that attendee said ‘what’s that?’

Four- The appearance of Bait and Switch. Apparently it had been known for some time (ranging between from the very day Shatner was announced as attending the convention, to two months plus before the convention date- depending on who you were talking to – that Mr. Shatner was either NOT attending, or his ability to attend was unlikely.) At no time did he commit fully to the convention to the knowledge of several members of the con committee. If a guest has NOT confirmed then a convention puts PENDING on the pages, they don’t turn around and try to act as if it’s all in the bag. Then when it was announced that he wasn’t coming then the dealers and those who had already paid for badges, should have been informed and given the chance to be refunded for the cost of their tickets.
Because many will have paid JUST because of that guest.
And because pending was not put on the site at the time it makes it appear as though the convention was a con job. A way to get money from joe public without any plan of following through on the promises associated with the ticket. Now the convention cannot claim that they had no contact with the vendors because several of them spoke to staff members prior to attending the con, but at that point had already committed to coming. At no point, to my knowledge, were any refunds offered to vendors.
Now I am not accusing the convention of actually setting up a bait and switch, I am trying to make it clear that this gives the APPEARANCE of such.

This doesn’t even go into some of my other concerns about the convention, such as whispers of companies apparently slated to attend in the dealers room next year. Considering the cost of attending a convention as a dealer I cannot see why any large company would pay out the thousands of dollars in costs for manning a booth when the convention can only bring in 800 people through the door. I mean do the math people! When traveling to set up for a convention there is the initial cost of the booth, plus extra badges, we all know that one. But then there are the other costs that obviously the person behind this little rumor DIDN’T think about-
Room cost.- The company not the staff pay for this.
Travel cost – The company, not the staff pay for this.
Food- A fair amount of the food and liquids needed are paid for by- yes you guessed it- the COMPANY.

So for a small company a single table with travel, food, hotel etc can be around $1000 for a larger company with multiple tables, and staff members, plus food, travel, insurance if there are any electronics involved, could run to between $3000 and $5000 for a small convention like this one.

Ah but a large company can do that in sales.

Sure they can. However to cover costs they have to do DOUBLE that as the inventory is not free! So say they have to take $6000 just to break even. How in hells name are they going to do that on an attendance of 800 people?
And if said company are pulling out of bigger conventions, ones that pull 5000-10000 people through the door each year because it’s doesn’t make financial sense to do that con…

You see my problem here?

And that was just one of the rumors that traced back to this one particular person.

Now on the positive side of the convention. Yes there was one, two actually. The two main guests, pulled the con out of the fire entertainment wise. They were sharp, witty, quick on the ball and treated those attending the convention with a rare show. I can say meeting Claudia and Dean was an honor. The improv’ night was a blast and I cannot recall when I laughed that hard. Both are talented performers and wonderful human beings.

The SCA also did their damn best to pull the con up by the bootstraps. It was very clear if it had not been for the work by the local SCA there wouldn’t have been half the events taking place. But even they could only do so much.

Valleycon owes a debt of gratitude to their wonderful guests and to the SCA for their hard work. Without both the con staff might have had to deal with many a very angry attendee and as it was I saw, first hand, more than a few attendees were both disappointed and outright furious at how badly the convention had deteriorated over the last few years. What had once been a fantastic gaming convention, that had learned how to balance media, larps, rpgs and literary related events had turned into a convention where the gaming rooms were virtually empty, the only literary panel nearly fell apart (though myself and the other two authors when they were able to arrive did our best to fill the void) and the dealers were treated poorly.

Things can be turned around and I wish the con committee all the best in attempting to fix the problems. But they have a long, hard road ahead of them.


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